PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Florida – Lee Westwood isn’t interested in comparing himself to the player who rose to world number one a decade ago. All he knows is that he’s playing his best golf, and he has another chance to see if he can hold up to the best course.
Westwood had all the shots Friday in a bogey-free round at the Players Championship, with two birdies early and a nifty shot to a troublesome pin at ninth par-5 to close with another birdie and a 6-under 66.
That gave him a one-shot lead over Matt Fitzpatrick (68) heading into the weekend on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, with US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau not far behind.
Westwood, who will turn 48 next month, played well enough to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week at Bay Hill, except DeChambeau was a better shot in a riveting game of generations on a field that favors power.
Sawgrass doesn’t favor any particular style, and produced an eclectic mix of contenders in the middle.
“I think to compete in any of these tournaments against the best players in the world, you can’t have any weaknesses in your game,” Westwood said. “I couldn’t say I’m doing this better or better. There isn’t a single shot that scares me. There isn’t a shot that I go up to and think, ‘I haven’t got. I have this one.
“I feel comfortable with everything.”
He was at 135 under 9 and will be part of the final All-England matchup on Saturday.
Sergio Garcia was another return shot after a 72 that looked like it was much worse with so many putts the Spaniard missed, including a 23-inch par putt on the 15th hole that followed a 5-foot par putt that missed on the 14.
Still, the 2008 champion showed a lot of play, and enough torque putts going in, to keep him on the hunt. He drilled his approach inches away at par 5 11 for his third eagle of the week, which already ties the tournament record.
And he finished in style with an approach that danced around the flag and set up 5 feet away to birdie on the 18th.
“It was a beautiful roller coaster,” Garcia said. “There were a lot of good things. Unfortunately, a lot of bad things. But more than anything there were a lot of fights, and that’s one of the things I’m most proud of because when things don’t really happen and you miss a couple of putts here and there. , it’s easy to let the round get away from you. “
When the second round was called off by darkness, 16 players were within five shots of the leader.
DeChambeau was in the group three shots behind after a 69 that started with a double bogey from the trees and a cushioned splinter from the rough from behind the green. He was free of ghosts the rest of the way in a field that does not allow him to launch into the fences due to the water, the crossed bunkers and other kinds of problems.
“I’m happy with the fact that I’ve still been able to keep up and score well,” DeChambeau said. “I’ve been very lucky, for the most part. I don’t think that will happen this weekend. I have to make sure my game is good off the tee, so those problems don’t happen.” And I don’t have to rely on luck for the most part. I have to get it on the street. “
Kirk holed from first fairway for eagle and closed with consecutive birdies for a 65. Starting with a chip-in for birdie on the 15th, he played six straight holes at 6 under.
Sungjae Im tied the tournament record with six straight birdies, a streak that ended when he missed the green to the left at third par-3, and even then he almost contributed. He had to settle for a 66 and was three shots behind. .
Dustin Johnson blew a good start and shot 70, leaving him eight shots behind. Jordan Spieth made his first double bogey on 411 holes, the longest streak of his career, and shot 74 to make the cut in number.
The weekend is so much about who is missing.
Rory McIlroy, who started at 79, wasn’t much better on Friday. He doubled bogey on the 10th hole and hit 75. His 154 total over 36 holes was the highest in his 11 Players Championship appearances. He is the first defending champion to lose the cut since Rickie Fowler in 2016.
Four players in the world’s top 10 missed the cut: Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Tyrrell Hatton and Webb Simpson, whose hopes ended with one of 13 balls in the water at 17 Green Island.