A game that isn’t that easy, on a course notoriously hard, Webb Simpson made a remarkable run at the unthinkable on Friday, flirting with 59 before the diabolical 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass intervened.
Simpson made six consecutive birdies on the back nine to get to 11-under par for the round. But at the par-3 17th and its island green, he bounced a gap wedge shot off the top of a railroad tie at the front of the green, the ball bouncing over the green and into the water.
The ensuing double-bogey did not prevent him posting a nine-under-par 63 that equalled Jason Day’s course record. But rather than leading by seven, he leads by five through 36 holes in the Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
“It was a lot of fun,” Simpson said. “I felt like everything was working today. Putts that I’m just trying to get close were going in. I kind of rode the momentum and just kept going.”
Simpson’s run began with him holing a 34-foot eagle putt on the second hole. He added three more birdies in a front nine of five-under 31, then began his birdie streak at the 11 by holing a three-foot putt. He followed with birdie putts of 18, 22, 18, 28 (from off the green) and four feet to set a tournament record for most consecutive birdie putts.
Then came 17.
“I backed off a couple of times because the wind seemed to be changing and people were yelling at me to hit it,” he said. “Honestly, I felt pretty good over it, but just blocked it a little bit. I was trying to smash it. I don’t think it was a mistake. Just the wrong club, probably.”
Simpson, a former US Open champion, completed 36 holes in 15-under-par 129. Charl Schwartzel, New Zealand’s Danny Lee and Patrick Cantlay finished at 10-under-par 134.
Australia’s Jason Day (69-67) is eight-under 136 in T-8, while Adam Scott (69-68) reached seven-under with late birdies at the 16th and treacherous 17th holes to be T-11.