• Simpson surges clear as Charl lies in wait

    Webb Simpson
    Webb Simpson

    Webb Simpson equalled the TPC Sawgrass course record to move into a dominant five-shot lead at the Players Championship at the halfway mark of the tournament.

    A nine-under 63 saw Simpson create the biggest halfway lead in the tournament’s history and put the American on course for his first PGA Tour win in five years with a 15-under total of 129.

    South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel went out in the morning and added a second round 66 to his opening 68, which left him in a tie for second on 134. Rory Sabbatini posted a 71 to tag onto his opening 67 for 138.

    Branden Grace also made the weekend cut, in a tie for 34th after a 71 left him on 140, and Tyrone van Aswegen’s 68 for 142 also saw him dip under the cut. However, Louis Oosthuizen, who was going well but dropped shots coming home (78, 71), to finish on 149 and missed the cut.

    Simpson was on track to shoot the outright course record after an eagle on the 2nd and three birdies on the front nine were followed by six successive birdies on the home straight.

    But on the par-three 17th, the 32-year-old found the water with his wedge and ended up with a double bogey, which proved to be the only black mark on his card.

    ‘Everything is going in,’ he said.

    ‘You feel like no matter what, you’re going to make it, and I grew up on an easy golf course so it reminded me of being back home, shooting low numbers.

    ‘But at the same time, you’re at the TPC Sawgrass, so you know that trouble is everywhere, as you guys saw with me on 17.’

    After becoming the seventh player to shoot 63 on the course, Simpson moved to 15 under overall and boasts a handsome advantage from the trio of Schwartzel, Patrick Cantlay and Danny Lee in second. Schwartzel and Lee both shot 66.

    Tiger Woods just managed to make the cut after a 71, but Rory McIlroy wasn’t so fortunate after a double bogey on 17 saw him crash out. Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler were also eliminated after the latter recorded successive double bogeys on 15th and 16th.

    Only three players have taken a lead of three or more strokes into the weekend, and all have won: Lanny Wadkins (1979, at Sawgrass Country Club, three-shot lead); Greg Norman (1994, three shots); and Jason Day (2016, four shots).

    Others:

    Jordan Spieth: Bounced back with a 68 to get to one-under and make the cut. Spieth hadn’t made the cut here since 2014.
    Justin Thomas: Shot a two-under 70 to tie playing partner Spieth at one-under.
    Rory McIlroy: Double-bogeyed the 17th hole and shot 74 to finish one-over, missing the cut for the first time since 2012.
    Patrick Reed: Masters champion made the cut with room to spare with a bogey-free, four-under 68.
    Tiger Woods: Faulted his lack of precision with the short irons, and didn’t putt particularly well, either. Still, he at least made the cut with a two-birdie, one-bogey 71 (one-under total).
    Phil Mickelson: He made six birdies, a vast improvement over day one. Unfortunately, he also made five bogeys and a double-bogey for a 73 to finish eight-over.
    Rickie Fowler: He’d just birdied three of his last four holes when it all went wrong. First Fowler hit his tee shot into a tree and double-bogeyed the sixth hole, and then he pulled his tee shot into the water and double-bogeyed the seventh. He shot 71 (one-over total) to miss the cut.

    Photo: Webb Simpson/Getty Images

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