Jason Day has 3-shot lead in suspended Players Championship
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLA. >> Jason Day finished with two big birdies as the sky darkened Friday to reach 14 under and stay in firm control of The Players Championship.
Day rolled in a 40-foot putt down the slope on the par-3 13th, and then hit a 5-iron into 2 feet on the next hole to stretch his lead to three shots over Shane Lowry on another day of low scoring at the TPC Sawgrass.
Greg Norman set the 36-hole record at The Players at 14-under 130 in 1994, the year the Shark made only one bogey the entire week. Day looks just as good and has yet to drop a shot over the 32 holes he has played.
A two-hour storm delay meant the second round could not be finished.
"I'm at 14-under par, I've got a good lead going on, I just can't sit back," Day said. "I need to keep pushing forward. And the moment that I lose a little bit of focus and make a few mental errors and mistakes, that's when I let the field back in. And I just can't afford to do that."
Lowry had a 68 and was at 11-under 133, a solid round that only got going when he hit a wedge so badly that it didn't each reach the island green at the par-3 17th. He managed to escape with bogey, and then holed a wedge from about 180 yards on the 18th hole for eagle.
Two tough pars at the end of his round meant he was likely to be in the final group with Day.
Jordan Spieth was just hopeful of a Saturday tee time, as was Phil Mickelson.
Spieth, looking frustrated as ever, got to the projected cut of 2 under with back-to-back birdies to start the back nine, only to catch a bad break when a rake kept his ball from rolling into the bunker and stayed on the steep slope leading to the sand. The best he could do was chip over the green and he made bogey, and his tee shot was wild to the right on the 15th when they stopped because of darkness. Spieth was at 1 under.
Mickelson had to make an 8-foot par putt on the par-5 16th to stay at 1 under. He was to return at 9:15 a.m. to play the 17th and 18th, likely needing a birdie on one of them to make the cut.
Defending champion Rickie Fowler shot 71 and was at 1-under 143. He needed help to make the cut.
Alex Cejka and Jonas Blixt each shot 67 and were at 10-under 134, along with Cameron Tringale (69).
Another day of calm and soft greens in the morning led to more record-tying performances, and a few irritated golfers who could have gone even lower. Colt Knost made a 15-foot birdie putt on the 17th to reach 10 under, only to three-putt the 18th and have to settle for a course record-tying 63.
"I was a little nervous over the second one," Knost said about his 5-footer for par and a 62. "I knew what it was for. But I didn't hit a bad putt. I hit it on the left lip and it just stayed there. So a little disappointing, but still, I would have taken 9 under before I started today."
Then came Rory McIlroy, 7 under through seven holes when he made a 50-foot eagle putt from just off the 16th green. His momentum slowed, but he still came to the par-5 ninth needing a birdie to become the first player to shoot 62 on the Stadium Course at Sawgrass.
McIlroy opted to lay up from 271 yards because going for the green historically has not worked out well for him on No. 9. Laying up wasn't much better. He chunked a wedge, chunked a chip and made bogey for a 64.
"I wanted to make birdie and shoot 62," he said. "So yeah, I'm disappointed, but there's still two more days to go. That's the nice thing. I'm in good position heading into the weekend. ... Hopefully, I'm not too far behind."
Day was making it feel hopeless for several players.
He had to scramble for a pair of pars early — on Thursday, no par putt was longer than 30 inches — but he added enough birdies to move back into the lead. Day caught a huge break on the ninth when his ball rolled over the back of the green and settled in a sprinkler hole, and the club length of free relief got him in position to putt.
Day labored for two pars until it all changed on the last two holes he finished.
The 13th green, with a pin below the ridge, was still slow. Day was able to pick up on this by watching Branden Grace and Spieth hit their putts before him. His rolled true into the cup. And on the 14th, with the strongest wind all day in his face, he hit 5-iron onto the green and could barely see it roll out to 2 feet.
Even with a storm delay, there was no shortage of excitement.
The biggest thrill belonged to Will Wilcox, who hit pitching wedge for a hole-in-one on the island-green 17th. It was the first ace on that hole in 14 years.
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