Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood at their mesmerising best as British duo tie for the lead at halfway stage of Players Championship
- Rory McIlroy rallied to tie for the lead at the Players Championship at Sawgrass
- McIlroy carded an impressive 65 while Fleetwood posted a 67 to tie at -12
- Fleetwood leads for the second weekend in a row on the PGA tour
- Tiger Woods had a day to forget as he hit a quadruple bogey at the 17th
Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy were both at their mesmerising best on Friday and consequently are tied for the lead, three shots clear of everyone else at the halfway stage of a compelling Players Championship.
On a day when one of the most famous holes in golf claimed its most famous victim in Tiger Woods, the charismatic pair plotted their way expertly around this course fraught with danger with wonderful rounds of 67 and 65 respectively to give the leaderboard a heavyweight look.
The UK challenge is not confined to this pedigree pair, either, as Ian Poulter, back at the course where he resurrected his career with a resolute runner-up showing two years ago, shot 66 to lie tied third.
Rory McIlroy carded an impressive 65 as he pulled back from two shots behind to tie the lead
He joins Tommy Fleetwood at the top who leads on the PGA Tour for second weekend in a row
While Fleetwood started out like a train – he holed a bunker shot to eagle the second, and sandwiched it with birdies at the 1st and 3rd – McIlroy played the last 11 holes with a style all his own, birdieing seven of them and still missing two putts inside 8ft. Once he starts winning again, he might never stop.
Similarly, Fleetwood has still to taste victory in America, but for how much longer given his formidable gifts? This is the second weekend in a row he has led at halfway on the PGA Tour.
It wasn’t easy last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, as he subsided to a third round 76 before eventually finishing tied third and it clearly won’t be easy this time, either.
Another British golfer, Ian Poulter, is also in the hunt and is only three shots back off the led
It was clear with soft breezes but that didn’t stop the famous 17th claiming a famous victim
‘It’s obviously difficult to win here given the standard, but hopefully it will happen soon,’ he said.
Woods would have been within touching distance but for a quadruple bogey at the fabled 17th – his first such score in 1,229 holes at Sawgrass. Now we know: even the mighty Tiger feels the heat at this iconic island green par three.
On a postcard Florida morning filled with soft breezes, Woods stood on this tee at three under for his round. He was in the top ten and the excitement was palpable.
It was a relatively easy shot. A solidly-struck wedge was all that was required. The massed hordes were thinking birdie, not oblivion.
He pulled it – the one thing you couldn’t do. The ball flew a few yards further than he wanted, meaning it rolled into the water. The collective groan was deafening.
Tiger Woods’ hopes at the Players Championship came to a standstill with a quadruple bogey
He moved forward to the drop area. This shot from 80 yards might be harder, because of the awkward length. Tiger pulled that one, too – badly. It ended up in the hazard as well after one bounce.
A man who had only put four balls in the water on this hole in 69 previous rounds had added two more. In 15 minutes, he fell from tied 8th to tied 57th.
The positive thing was, he played nicely before and after. Bigger picture, and he looks in good shape for the Masters, with his putting improving and no obvious physical issues. But he’ll start today a distant nine strokes off the lead, instead of a more manageable five.
That’s the diabolical 17th, for you.
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