Matt Cooper

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Dose: The Simpson Show

Friday, May 11, 2018

Recap of the day
Morning wave: Chesson Hadley threatened to pull clear when 12-under for the tournament heading to the 17th tee. Alas the famous par-3 got him: Double bogey-5 followed by bogey-5 up the last meant 3-under-par 69 for the day and 9-under for the week. Charl Schwartzel went bogey-free in a 6-under-par 66 to move to 10-under 134 and was joined by Patrick Cantlay who was 4-under-par through 12 holes but parred his way home.
Afternoon wave: Quite simply, the Webb Simpson story - otherwise known as one of the finest putting displays in recent history. He drained a 33'0" put for an eagle-3 at the second and then completed three birdie conversions from 14'5", 11'2" and 14'5" before the turn. On the back nine he made six straight par-breakers from the 12th from 3'1", 18'1", 22'5", 17'10", 27'6" and 4'4". At that stage he was 11-under-par for the round, the only time any golfer has ever reached that mark during a lap of the Pete Dye design. Then he made double bogey-5 at the 17th, but a par-4 at the last allowed him to equal the course record of 63. 
Low round of the day: Simple - look no further than the blistering Simpson.
Cut: Fell at 1-under 143.
Saturday weather forecast
Mostly sunny with some cloudy periods. Gusts up to 20mph from a more standard 10mph (SSE in contrast to Friday's N) and temperatures in the high 80s but feeling more like low 90s. 
Top 4 after at 36 holes - how they performed
Webb Simpson 129 - An astonishing display from a golfer who prior to this year had recorded 14 over-par scores in 24 rounds at TPC Sawgrass (and just one sub-69 effort). The largest 36-hole lead in the history of the event.
Charl Schwartzel 134 - Missed just five of 36 greens so far, but a lofty position for the South African who is making his eighth start and still seeking a first top 25 finish. 
Patrick Cantlay 134 - Will hope not to repeat the unfortunate trick of needing more shots every round last year (69-70-72-77). 66-68 so far this time around.
Danny Lee 134 - A wild ride which included one eagle, eight birdies, six pars, two bogeys and a double bogey. Five of his birdie conversions were from inside 7'0".
Fate of the favorites
Jason Day 136 - Found 11 fairways in round one, just seven in round two, but was up from 12 greens in regulation to 15. Comfortably in the best position of the favorites.
Jordan Spieth 143- Seven birdies in the first 14 holes dragged him through to the weekend despite three-putting 18 for a third bogey of the day, breaking a run of three missed cuts at THE PLAYERS.
Justin Thomas 143 - Scraped through the cut, now fun and games begin because five weekend rounds at Sawgrass have produced two 65s, two 75s and a 79.
Rory McIlroy 145 - Playing the 17th hole right on the cut number he hit a poor shot and caught a poor bounce. The ball landed on the face of the bunker and ricocheted backwards into water rather than the sand. Six dropped shots is way too many in one round.
Dustin Johnson 137 - A weird round. An early eagle-2 at the second, gave away three shots in four holes right before the turn, a hat-trick of birdies from the 11th, bogey at 14. A recipe for treading water.
Revised outright betting: Simpson 7/4, Day 15/2, Cantlay 10/1, Noren 12/1, Schwartel 14/1, D.Johnson 14/1, Hadley 22/1.
Webb Simpson (66-63=129): "I didn't know the record. I cared more about my routine. Records are bonuses. I just want to try and keep this going."
Tiger Woods (72-71=143): "I didn't hit the ball close enough today. I just didn't quite swing it right. The course is in good shape and playing short because it's so hot. The greens are soft too. I didn't take advantage of that."
Jason Day (69-67=136): "I'm hitting it better than last week (when winning at Quail Hollow). Knowing I can close after last week makes me confident and more motivated to get more wins, to keep pushing. I feel I can win in bunches."
Henrik Stenson (after he made a triple bogey-8 at the 12th): Q - "Were you between clubs?" A - "I was between a lot of things."
Road to victory at Sawgrass
2017 Si Woo Kim – R1: 7th, R2: 16th, R3: 4th
2016 Jason Day – R1: 1st, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2015 Rickie Fowler – R1: 11th, R2: 3rd, R3: 11th
2014 Martin Kaymer – R1: 1st, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2013 Tiger Woods – R1: 4th, R2: 2nd, R3: 4th
Notes: Kim is one of only four of the last 20 winners who wasn't in the top ten after 36 holes. No less than 14 of those 20 were T3 or better.
Fate of the halfway leaders at Sawgrass - where did they finish?
2017 Louis Oosthuizen - 2nd, Kyle Stanley - 4th
2016 Jason Day - winner
2015 Kevin Na - 6th, Jerry Kelly - 17th
2014 Martin Kaymer - winner
2013 Sergio Garcia - 8th
Notes: In the last 20 years five 36-hole leaders completed the victory, which seems somewhat at odds with the observation (above) that 14 of those 20 winners were T3 or better. The flipside is that only one of the last 20 winners led by more than two shots at this stage (Jason Day, four shots) and he completed the win.
Focus on - Webb Simpson
Fantastic stuff so far from the 32-year-old, but beware his Moving Day record in the event. Four times out of eight visits he hasn't made it this far and the key reason he's only twice made the top 65 (and never the top ten) is that his record in the third round reads: 74-74-78-77. That said, he's already overturned one personal record this week because his Thursday 66 was a career low at TPC Sawgrass, bettering his first round 67 in 2013. And he smashed that less than 24 hours later.
What about 36-hole leads? He has had ten of them in the past on the PGA Tour (shared and solo), winning just the once. But that was when four clear in the 2013 Shriner's Hospital for Children's Open, his only lead of three shots or more. Remember, too, Alex Cejka. He led this tournament by five in 2009 and had just 18 holes to protect it, rather than double that figure. He finished T9.
Focus on - Phil Mickelson
Back in 2007 Mickelson was enthusiastic about the change in date for this tournament and with good reason: It was the first time it was played in May (rather than March) and he won. Since then? 11 appearances and he's not gone sub-70 even once ahead of the weekend (and only twice in ten Saturday/Sunday laps). Even worse, he's now made the cut just once in his last six visits. This week's 79-73 left him floundering. The return to March might seem like a good idea.
Minimum Requirement to top the rankings
Dustin Johnson – T11th
Jon Rahm – Solo 2nd
Jordan Spieth – Solo 2nd
Justin Rose – Win
Notes: Yep, the vagaries of the two-year rolling ranking means Thomas could miss the cut and still hit top spot. DJ’s best Sawgrass finish is T12 so he needs to go at least one better to remain top dog. Is that extra motivation for him this week? With that opening 66, he’s certainly responding positively to the prospect of losing his place at the top.

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