Friday 20 July 2018

Misery for McIlroy but Simpson soars at Sawgrass

With the cut line hovering between one and two under all afternoon, there was a nervous wait for Lowry, who drove into water at the 18th but then hit a 180-yard approach to nine inches to save par and card a super 68 that left him alongside Woods, who shot 71, on one-under. Photo: Getty
With the cut line hovering between one and two under all afternoon, there was a nervous wait for Lowry, who drove into water at the 18th but then hit a 180-yard approach to nine inches to save par and card a super 68 that left him alongside Woods, who shot 71, on one-under. Photo: Getty

Brian Keogh

Webb Simpson opened up the biggest 36-hole lead in the history of The Players when he blasted a course record-equalling 63 to head the field by five shots at TPC Sawgrass.

As Rory McIlroy missed the cut for the PGA Tour's $11m flagship event first time since 2012, Shane Lowry dramatically scraped in for the weekend alongside Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth thanks to a miraculous closing par.

But the real drama came from Simpson, who made an eagle and three birdies in an outward 31 before rattling in a tournament record six birdies in a row from the 11th to go 11-under for his round

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.

A closing par still gave the 2012 US Open champion a 63 and a five-shot lead over Charl Schwartzel (66), Patrick Cantlay (68) and Danny Lee (66) on 15-under par with Chesson Hadley (69), Charles Howell III (67) and Alex Noren (69) six behind on nine-under

"Seventeen was a bummer," admitted Simpson, who holed an otherworldly 143-feet of putts in a 23-putt round, eight of them between 11 and 34 feet. "I probably should have hit one more club but all in all it was a great confidence builder for me."

With the cut line hovering between one and two under all afternoon, there was a nervous wait for Lowry, who drove into water at the 18th but then hit a 180-yard approach to nine inches to save par and card a super 68 that left him alongside Woods, who shot 71, on one-under.

McIlroy was struggling at two-over for the day with five to play, but after getting back to one-under for the round and the tournament with birdies at the 14th and 16th.

But he screwed his wedge at the 17th back into the lake and made a costly double-bogey five to shoot 74 and miss out by two shots on one-over.

Jason Day (67) is in a group seven behind on eight under with world No 1 Dustin Johnson a shot further back after a 71.

Meanwhile, West Waterford's Gary Hurley is tied for second at halfway in the Challenge Tour's Open de Portugal at Morgado Golf Resort.

He shot a three-under 69 to lie just a shot behind Spain's Adri Arnaus on five-under-par with Ballymena's Dermot McElroy seven behind after a 75.

Late birdies saw Stuart Grehan shoot 71 and Chris Selfridge a 73 to make the two-over cut on the mark but Cormac Sharvin followed his opening 69 with a 78 to miss out by one stroke as Jonny Caldwell (5-over), Conor O'Rourke (9-over) and Jack Hume (10-over) also came up short.

On the European Tour, Denmark's Lucas Bjerregaard shot 68 and Julien Guerrier a 65 to lead the Rocco Forte Sicilian Open at a wild and windy Verdura Golf Club.

They top the leaderboard by a shot on nine-under from English duo Steven Brown and Ryan Evans but while Derry's Ruaidhri McGee followed his opening 77 with a level par 71, he missed the three-over cut by three strokes.

It was also wild and windy in the Irish Women's Open Strokeplay at Co Louth, where Lisburn's Paula Grant and Delgany's Lauren Murray lead by a shot from South Africa's Chloe Royston and Wales' Jordan Ryan after they defied heavy rain and winds gusting up to 40mph to open with five-over 79s.

On the Symetra Tour, Jordanstown's Stephanie Meadow added a 71 to her opening 73 to lie just three shots off the clubhouse lead on level par in the Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women's Health Classic in South Carolina.

The Players Championship
Live, Sky Sports, 7.0pm

The Rocco Forte Open
Live, Sky Sports, 1.0pm

Irish Independent

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