PGA TOUR

Power three off the lead while Rory rues bad draw as wind causes chaos at Sawgrass

by Ronan MacNamara  

Seamus Power by Golffile

Seamus Power might have more than a spot at the Masters next month on his mind after moving to three-under through 16 holes of his second round at The Players Championship on what turned out to be an astonishing day at TPC Sawgrass.

The torrential rain and thunderstorms that saturated the course over the first two days gave way to low temperatures and brutal gale-force winds on Saturday as the first round finally resumed at 5pm Irish time.

Power and Rory McIlroy completed their last few holes and eventually signed for a 71 and 73 respectively as round one was concluded after a marathon 54 hours and 20 minutes.

After the pair had a quick turnaround, the carnage began. McIlroy managed to finish his second round before the hooter sounded to suspend play for darkness but he will face an anxious wait to see if he makes the cut with most of the afternoon wave yet to get their second rounds underway.

“I played okay. I played pretty good. For whatever it was, 21 holes that I played today, I was 1-over par, which I thought was pretty good in the conditions,” he said.

McIlroy’s round mirrored his current form, frustrating. After a steady opening in what must have felt like a hurricane at times, the Holywood native landed his first punch with a birdie at the par-5 16th despite missing a second eagle chance of the day on that hole from inside 15-feet.

The 32-year-old managed to par the treacherous 17th hole that saw players hitting as much as a six-iron from 136 yards while Scottie Scheffler (twice), Xander Schauffele and Brooks Koepka found water.

“I hit a pretty good 7-iron. It pitched 123,” said McIlroy.

A bogey on 18 saw McIlroy turn in 36 before he endured a thoroughly frustrating back nine.

The 20-time PGA Tour winner’s wedge play has been mediocre at best, often spinning out of control and it is no surprise to see him languishing in 118th in strokes gained approach. A chip-in birdie on the 6th spared his blushes after a careless wedge shot before he frustratingly chucked his momentum away with a pulled drive on the 7th.

After a visit to a watery grave, McIlroy made a double-bogey and was unable to find a closing birdie to leave him sweating on Sunday.

It has been a frustrating time for the players on his side of the draw as it appears Thursday’s afternoon wave has had the worst of the conditions and the four-time major winner is hoping he can squeeze his way into the final two rounds and finish quickly.

“You get your good ones, and you get your bad ones. You have to believe that they all even out over the course of a year or a career, I guess,” he said.

“I've certainly been on the good side of a draw many times, and I've been on the bad side a lot too. But at the end of the day, I feel like it all just sort of evens out. It sucks that the bad end of the draw is this tournament, but it is what it is.

“Bethpage '09 U.S. Open is probably the closest I've experienced to something like this. Yeah, it's been really unfortunate, just with the weather and everything that's sort of come our way. I guess that was part of the reason why they moved it to May a few years ago.

“Yeah, it's unfortunate, but hopefully sort of get back on track tomorrow and get this thing going.

“I might be one short. We'll see what happens tomorrow. Obviously the double on 7 was very untimely. I thought if I birdied the last and got to 1-over, that should be good enough. I did everything I should have done on 9. I hit four good shots, but the putt just sort of didn't want to go in.

“Hopefully I've done enough. I mean, it just depends on the conditions tomorrow for the other guys,” he added.

In contrast, Power probably didn’t want the hooter to sound despite dragging a 7-foot birdie effort left on 16. The West Waterford native will return to the devilish 17th on Sunday morning just three shots shy of Tommy Fleetwood who completed three holes of his second round.

Power made the turn in level-par after a birdie on 3 was cancelled out by a bogey on 7 but a brace of birdies on 11 and 12 saw him ease his way into contention and he might have caught a break if the wind has calmed for the final two holes of his second round.

Bubba Watson and Justin Thomas are the leaders in the clubhouse through 36 holes on three-under-par after rounds of 68 and 69 respectively as both put on a ball-striking clinic of how to maneuver the golf ball in the wind. This was a day for the aristocrats and the US pair stepped up to the plate, particularly JT who produced an array of ball flights and shot shapes as he carded three birdies and fifteen pars.

For Bubba, it was the low round of the day (Saturday) and he also went around bogey-free and is 16th in strokes gained putting.

Shane Lowry was bizarrely scheduled to tee off after sunset on Saturday so inevitably he didn't play any golf and when he finally gets his second round underway on Sunday it will be 70 hours since the Clara native hit a golf ball in this championship. Weather permitting of course.

The extraordinarily long delay between rounds didn't seem to be troubling the Offaly man too much as he kicked back, relaxed and watched Ireland thump England at Twickenham while his fellow golfers soldiered on at Sawgrass.

 


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