by Jeff Skinner
What a difference a day makes, especially at The Players Championship. There were some amazing turnarounds at Sawgrass as plenty of golfers got down to business, played some good golf and fought to make the cut.
With the leaders at eight under par and the cut falling at even par no one is out of this tournament. Most disappointing has to be the play of world number one Rory McIlroy. Rory shot 72-76 to miss his third consecutive cut at The Players Championship. He says he stills needs to learn this course and that he “finds this course pretty difficult off the tee.” No kidding. The last number one to miss the cut was Greg Norman in 1996.
However many of the marquee names battled back against Pete Dye’s monster to make the weekend and there should be plenty of fireworks with names like Woods, Mickelson, Donald, Westwood and Fowler all in the hunt.
The collective hearts of NBC and The PGA Tour were racing as Tiger flirted with missing the cut. After his first round 74 he needed to step it up to get to the weekend and he did just that. He hit more fairways and more greens on his way to a 68 that moved him to -2 and jumped him up 70 slots where he is T30. The boys on the Golf Channel, Noblio and Chamblee credit Tiger’s improved posture as the reason for his improved play.
Great moves up the leaderboard were made by rookies John Huh and Brian Harman. Huh opened with a 75 but bounced back with a stellar 66 today to move up 97 places on the leaderboard. Harman, who got in when D.A. Points withdrew and the tour wisely allowed him in made good on the move as he followed his 73 with a 68 to play the weekend and move up 61 spots.
Ian Poulter made a move in the opposite direction as the first day leader went from 65 to 76 and fell into a tie for seventeenth. Sawgrass can be a fickle mistress: there were six players that shot in the 60’s that felt the wrath of Dye’s layout and missed the cut.
Hunter Mahan, the FedEx Cup points leader and two time winner in 2012 shoots 74-76? Some days you have it and some days you don’t.
It appeared that the players had trouble reading the greens, especially on shorter putts. There were plenty of bombs falling but at the same time many short putts drifted by the holes and it looked like poor reads by a number of golfers. Tiger said he “misread a few putts” and it showed throughout the field.
Cheers to Kevin Na, not only for his excellent 69, but for owning up to his slow play problem and being open about this issue. He said afterwards that he knows he has a problem ‘pulling the trigger’ and has been working on it. He talked to his fellow professionals about it and seems to be in contact with his rules officials during his rounds. It’s refreshing to hear someone actually acknowledge the issue and even better hearing that he’s addressing it.
What is it with all these withdrawals this week? We haven’t seen this many guys cash out since the days before the fall of Lehman Brothers. Six official withdrawals, not including a ‘Did Not Start’ by D.A. Points. Most of the players cited injury but Angel Cabrera claimed ‘personal reasons.’ Yea, he personally put three balls in the water on 17 for a 9 on his way to a 78. Come on, Angel. Give some credit to guys like Jerry Kelly and Tom Pernice Jr. who shot 82 and 80, respectively in the first round but toughed it out today with little chance of making the cut. And D.J. Trahan gets DQ’d for signing an incorrect scorecard. Come on guys he shot 80-64. That’s just adding insult to injury.