Simpson matches course record, Tiger just makes the cut

Rita JamesMay 13, 2018

- Raleigh native Webb Simpson didn't flirt with another course record Saturday, but he showed no signs of slowing down as he extended his lead at The Players Championship.

The 24-year-old was level par for the day after six holes before birdies at seven and nine took him to the turn in 34, and he then reeled off three straight gains from the 11th before coming unstuck at the 14th, where a poor drive into the sand on the left led to a bogey.

And that island green on the par-3 17th that ruined his bid for the record score at the TPC Sawgrass the previous day? He tapped in for birdie.

Simpson's fellow first-round leader, American world number one Dustin Johnson, is now eight shots back after a 71, one behind the world's seventh-ranked player, Jason Day of Australia (67).

Simpson, who had dipped to 190th on the PGA Tour in putting two years ago, celebrated the one-year anniversary of going to a claw grip, with the right-hand low.

It added to a 19-under 197, tying the 54-hole record set by Greg Norman on a soft course in March.

Fourteen-time major victor Tiger Woods (71) finished on the cut line at one under, as did world number two Justin Thomas (70) and world number four Jordan Spieth (68). They still were 11 shots behind.

"I didn't quite swing it right today, and I didn't quite have the shape, ball flight", said the 14-times major champion. Two further birdies and a single bogey on the par four 14th saw him T9 with Jordan Spieth, who also went low today with another 65. To be 11-under par, it's a shame he doesn't finish it off.

Aussie Jason Day was unable to reel in Simpson, but a 71 left the 2016 champion sharing fourth at nine under, a whopping 10 shots off the pace.

Woods had his best round on the Stadium Course with a 65 despite playing the final six holes in 1 over. His other statistics were as impressive as you'd expect: 11/14 fairways, 15/18 greens and just 27 putts. Danny Lee, a footnote at this point, is in second at 12 under.

It was unbelievable to me that the 65s Woods and Spieth shot held up all day.

Simpson was between a hard gap wedge and an easy pitching wedge, and after a long conversation with Tesori, chose to go with the gap wedge, aiming for a spot 138 yards away, up the slope of the green, short of the back-center hole placement. I hit a lot of good shots today.

I had questions going into Saturday after Simpson built his lead mostly with his putter and short game.

"Eventually I was going to put all the pieces together and today for the most part I did that, " Woods said.

Woods, who will try to make another run up the board Sunday, will next play at the Memorial the first week of June.

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