On Friday at The Players Championship, Lee Westwood fired a bogey-free 6-under 66, and will enter the weekend at TPC Sawgrass with a one-shot lead over Matthew Fitzpatrick.
Starting his second round on No. 10, the 47-year old Englishman got off to a nice start with back-to-back birdies to quickly get to 5 under. After eight straight workmanlike pars, Westwood reeled off a hat trick of birdies on Nos. 2, 3, and 4 to grab the marquee spot atop the leaderboard. He added a sixth gain on the par-5 finishing hole to reach 9-under par 135.
“Very good,” said Westwood, when asked to assess his Friday round. “Hit it well off the tee. Hit quite a lot of fairways. My iron shots were good. I played away from flags when I needed to. Got suckered into a couple of pins, but short game bailed me out on those.
“Chipping and bunker play all felt good and rolled the ball well on the greens.
“I had fun out there. Felt calm and in control.”
Fitzpatrick was also in control on Friday. The 26-year old, who played his college golf at Northwestern, finished his second day at Sawgrass with six birdies, highlighted by a final-hole score to grab the halfway point’s silver medal on 8-under 136.
“Today was good, yeah, for me much better than yesterday. Just hit it bad tee-to-green really. First green I missed was 4 on the front nine and missed 5 and then missed 8,” said Fitzpatrick, who is second in strokes gained: total with 9.787.
“On the whole, three greens — missing three greens around here is a massive positive, in my opinion. If I can do that over the weekend, hopefully pour some putts in, I’ll have a chance.”
Fitzpatrick will be paired with his fellow countryman in Saturday’s final grouping.
“It’s obviously much easier for me to play with someone like Lee who I’ve played with multiple times than someone who I’ve obviously not played with as much out here,” Fitzpatrick said, when asked about the pairing of the two Brits.
“Particularly handy for Billy (his caddie), obviously knowing Lee so well, as well.
“Yeah, hopefully we’ll have a nice afternoon, a pair of 61s, and we’ll see each other again Sunday.”
Chris Kirk didn’t shoot a 61, but did produce the day’s low round – a 7-under 65 – to rocket 39 spots up the leaderboard, from T42 to T3.
Kirk’s low-round was headlined by a six-hole span of four birdies and a chip-in eagle.
“Yeah, I just kind of was treading water — yesterday especially late in the round was a little bit strange, you know, starting a round on a beautiful day and knowing that you’ve got no chance of getting done, just is what it is,” said Kirk, who leads the field in strokes gained: tee to green (9.852).
“And then I came out this morning and hit a few solid shots early on and felt like I was playing all right and had a few really good birdie chances that I didn’t make early on in the round.
“I knew I was hitting good shots, was hitting good putts, and then, yeah, all of a sudden I chipped that ball in on 15, and before I knew it I was 5-under, 6-under, whatever.”
Kirk added two more birdies down the stretch to reach 7 under, alongside overnight leader Sergio Garcia, who made birdie on his final hole to finish even-par 72.
Bryson DeChambeau fought back from a first-hole double bogey with 17 consecutive bogey-free holes, including five birdies, en route to a 3-under 69. The world No. 6 headlines a logjam of six players tied for fifth on 6-under par.
One of those players was Denny McCarthy who rode an ace on the par-3 3rd hole to a second-straight 69.
Sungjae Im (66), Doug Ghim (67), Charley Hoffman (68), and Brian Harman (71) were the others in the T5 group.
THE PLAYERS Championship
Pos-Player-To Par (Score)
1. Lee Westwood -9 (-6)
2. Matthew Fitzpatrick -8 (-4)
3. Chris Kirk -7 (-7)
3. Sergio Garcia -7 (E)
5. Sungjae Im -6 (-6)
5. Doug Ghim -6 (-5)
5. Charley Hoffman -6 (-4)
5. Bryson DeChambeau -6 (-3)
5. Denny McCarthy -6 (-3)
5. Brian Harman -6 (-1)
World Top-10 Ranked Players
Rank-Player-To Par (Pos)
1. Dustin Johnson -1 (T36)
2. Jon Rahm -4 (T14)
3. Justin Thomas -2 (T22)
4. Collin Morikawa E (T50)
5. Xander Schauffele +4 (T112)*
6. Bryson DeChambeau -6 (T5)
7. Tyrrell Hatton +1 (T72)*
8. Patrick Reed -2 (T22)
9. Patrick Cantlay +5 (T119)*
10. Webb Simpson +2 (T82)*
* Missed cut