Simpson ties course record, leads by five

USA GOLF THE PLAYERS

Former Players and Masters champion Sergio Garcia was seven-under with two holes to play, thanks in part to a run of five straight birdies from the eighth through the 12th.Garcia then undid his then bogey-free round in hitting the woodwork guarding the island green at the famed par-three 17th, his ball disappearing into the water.

The unbelievable effort of a second hole eagle, nine birdies and the 17th hole double-bogey handed the World No.41 a 15-under par total and still a commanding five-shot leading cushion over his rivals. His 15-under 129 score ties the tournament record through 36 holes and puts him in prime position for what would be the second biggest victory of his career.

Patrick Cantlay (68), South African Charl Schwartzel and New Zealander Danny Lee (both 66) were a distant second on 10-under, while Tiger Woods (71), at one-under 143, made the cut with nothing to spare, as did Jordan Spieth (68) and Justin Thomas (70).

A birdie-birdie finish would have given him a magical 59, but with the wind swirling, his tee-shot at the 147-yard 17th ricocheted off the front bulwark and through the green into the water, leading to a double bogey. Well, he thankfully finished with a par, to card a 63, which but for a terribly unlucky bounce, could so easily have been a 61 or better.

Simpson's round included an eagle and eight birdies, including six consecutive birdies at one point on the back nine. "So it reminded me of being back home, shooting low numbers". "I don't think any lead is safe".

Simpson righted himself to par the last and equal the 63 previously shot by Fred Couples, Greg Norman, Robert Castro, Martin Kaymer, Day and Colt Knost.

"At Augusta, I can feel like I really didn't play that great and I'm somewhere near the leaderboard", Spieth said.

There are always fireworks with the former world number one, yesterday that came when he drove the green at the 12th to pick up his second birdie of the day. After the round, Simpson reflected on the shot, saying it was the wrong club.

Woods at least fared better than four-times major champion Rory McIlroy (74), who found the water for a double-bogey at the 17th and missed the cut by two strokes.

"It was a lot of fun".

Woods made the cut on the number at The Players Championship, but only after getting a little help from two of the top players in the world. He hit only five of 14 fairways, twice having to chip out of the woods on par-five holes, and never did get much going. Matsuyama this time went to the drop area, hit to 30 feet and two-putted for an 8. Lee shot a 31 on the back nine with a double bogey on the 11th hole.

The demands of the finishing stretch at Sawgrass were demonstrated by the fate that befell Chesson Hadley, who led the tournament as he stood on the 17th tee.

It's the second time in as many years that the Stadium Course has been brought to its knees through two rounds, with the field combining for a subpar scoring average (71.647) that is more than a shot lower than last year's average.

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