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Simpson ties course record, surges to 5-shot Players lead

The Associated Press

Webb Simpson salutes the gallery after making a birdie putt on the ninth hole during the second round of The Players Championship on Friday in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

The Associated Press PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — No one ever played a better round at the TPC Sawgrass than Webb Simpson.

For 16 holes, anyway.

With his sixth straight birdie on the back nine, Simpson became the first player to reach 11-under par for a single round at The Players Championship. The course record? Simpson couldn’t resist thinking about a 59. All he had to do was navigate the shortest and scariest hole Friday afternoon on the Stadium Course.

He hardly missed anything all day except the island green on No. 17.

Splash!

“Just the wrong club,” he said.

The consolation was enormous. Even with that double bogey, Simpson tied the Stadium Course record with a 9-under 63 and had a five-shot lead after 36 holes, the largest in the 45 years of this tournament.

“Everything is going in,” he said. “You feel like no matter what, you’re going to make it, and I grew up on an easy golf course so it reminded me of being back home, shooting low numbers. But at the same time, you’re at the TPC Sawgrass, so you know that trouble is everywhere, as you guys saw with me on 17.”

The sand wedge in the water on the 17th hole ruined his round, but not his day. Simpson couldn’t miss putts he wasn’t even trying to make, whether it was a 35-foot eagle putt on his second hole or a 30-foot birdie putt up the slope and into the cup on the 15th.

At that point, all he could do was laugh.

And then he reached the 17th, playing 147 yards to a back pin, the light wind playing tricks with him. He kept backing off, consulting with his caddie as he tried to decide between sand wedge and pitching wedge.

“The wind seemed to be changing,” he said, “and people were yelling at me to hit it.”

The ball hit the wooden frame on the front of the green, caromed high in the air and landed on the back of the green with so much momentum that it rolled through the light collar of rough and disappeared into the water.

Simpson’s 15-under 129 on the Stadium Course tied the 36-hole record set two years ago by Jason Day.

Charl Schwartzel (66), Patrick Cantlay (68) and Danny Lee (66) were five shots behind.

Tiger Woods at least gets to return on the weekend. He made the cut on the number (1-under 143) after a 71 in the easier morning conditions. Woods was outside the cut line until Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas each made bogey on the 18th to finish tied with Woods.

Rory McIlroy wasn’t so fortunate. He was inside the cut line until hitting into the water on the 17th and making double bogey.Speech

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