Friday was a day made for scoring and there were low scores galore, topped off by the amazing eight-under par 64 that put 48-year-old Jim Furyk squarely in the hunt but it was two European Ryder Cup teammates who lead after 36 holes at The Players Championship.
Here’s how things played out at the Stadium Course:
Tommy Fleetwood (65-67): Tommy played late into the afternoon but that didn’t stop him from fashioning a five-under par 67. His day got off to an ultra-fast start with a birdie at first, an eagle at the par five second and another birdie at the third. A bogey at the ninth got him back to three under and he held on to shoot a couple under on the back to get to 12-under par. “I’m happy my game’s improving,” Fleetwood said. He’s looking forward to the challenge of changing weather conditions predicted for Saturday and his pairing with Rory McIlroy. “Late in the afternoon it gets tough. I haven’t won (in the U.S.) but hopefully that’s coming.”
Rory McIlroy (67-65): Rory used his power and precision to take apart the back nine late in the day. After turning two-under, he picked up birdies at 10 and 12 then hit a spectacular second into the par five 16th that stopped just nine feet from the hole and he made that eagle putt. At the scary 17th, Rory holed another from 21 feet to tie Fleetwood at 12-under. Rory capped off his round with an amazing second from the trees on the right of 18 and made easy par to finish his day. McIlroy, who couldn’t get it going last Sunday at Bay Hill, was pleased with his performance through the first two rounds here. “Just another good day on the course,” he said. “I did everything pretty much the way I wanted to, and yeah, look, I’m really happy with the way everything is. My attitude has been great all year, and that’s the one thing I’ve been trying to focus on the most.”
Ian Poulter (69-66): Poulter, another European Ryder Cupper, used a hot putter to put himself in contention on Friday. Poulter had an amazing stretch that saw him go seven-under par through eight holes with that running starting with eagle at the 16th, his seventh hole of the day. He then birdied one, two, four and five. His day ended on a bit of a sour note with a bogey at the par five ninth. “I regripped my putter on Wednesday, I needed a fresh feel and it has worked,” Poulter pointed out after his round. He had two pitch-ins, the first for the eagle at 16, the second for birdie at the 18th, which he referred to as “a cheeky lob wedge.”
Jim Furyk (71-64): Furyk had planned to take this week off. He wasn’t in the field until his finish at the Honda. “I’ve been playing well the last month or so since the season started,” Furyk said. “I feel good about my game, and I’ll be honest, when I went to Honda, I didn’t realize I had an opportunity to play my way into this field, so was kind of planning my schedule with this as an off week. And until I finished Honda and I finished ninth there and moved up the FedEx list, I honestly didn’t know that I had that opportunity. A couple players told me there in the locker room that I may get in the field, and I was excited, did my homework, and realized that there was a good chance. I prepared last week a lot like I was in, and thankful for that opportunity, was able to take advantage of it the last couple days.” Furyk became the oldest player to shoot 64 at the Stadium Course. He credited the fact that he hit most of the fairways and hit a lot of nice iron shots. He had eight birdies, four on the front, four coming home.
Jason Day (70-66): It’s obvious Day has recovered from the back problems that forced him out of the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week after just six holes. Day gave credit to the cortisone injections he received back in Jupiter. “Obviously I know how much it hurt last week, but then given the injections and the cortisone and all that stuff that went in there, I know that we have hit the spot because I can’t feel a thing, which is good. I don’t want to be out there playing golf and know that I — that it hurts. So I just needed to prep as well as I could, and I feel like taking that extra time off Friday through Sunday and then getting here on Sunday night and practicing Monday through Wednesday, I feel like I gave myself enough prep, and unfortunately it would have been nice to have been able to play Bay Hill, but I can’t force the issue because it is mid season.”
Dustin Johnson (69-68): An eagle-birdie-par finish by Johnson late Friday got him to seven under par, just five back going into the weekend and the world’s No. 1 still hasn’t made his share of putts. He could be a big factor come Sunday.
The weekend weather is expected to get cooler with more wind and that should send this down to the final three holes come Sunday afternoon.