Simpson ties course record for five-shot lead as Tiger survives but McIlroy misses cut
Webb Simpson tied the course record at TPC Sawgrass as the red-hot American claimed a commanding five-stroke lead following the second round of The Players Championship, where Tiger Woods survived but Rory McIlroy missed the cut.
In a six-way tie for the lead at the start of Friday's play, Simpson carded a stunning nine-under-par 63 to move clear in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
Simpson flirted with the course record until he found the water at the notorious par-three 17th hole as he became the seventh player in Players Championship history to shoot a 63.
The 2012 U.S. Open champion, who posted a 66 on Thursday, also tied the course record for consecutive birdies as he made six in a row from the 11th to the 16th holes.
Simpson also posted the lowest 36-hole scoring mark in tournament history at 15-under par.
"I felt like everything was working today," Simpson told Golf Channel after his round. "Putts that, you know, I'm just trying to get them close are going in, so I just kind of rode the momentum and kept going."
Charl Schwartzel (66), Patrick Cantlay (68) and Danny Lee (66) are Simpson's nearest rivals heading into the penultimate round.
Former world number one and 2016 winner Jason Day recorded a five-under-par 67 to be seven shots adrift of Simpson.
This game will toy with your emotions like nothing else can. pic.twitter.com/E61sdKFHQC— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 11, 2018
It was a disappointing day for Dustin Johnson, who dropped down the leaderboard after shooting an even-par 71.
Johnson opened with a 66 to be among the overnight leaders on Thursday but four bogeys to go with an eagle and three birdies saw the American star stumble to seven under alongside 2017 Masters champion Sergio Garcia (69).
Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas just managed to avoid the cut heading into the weekend.
Woods – a 14-time major champion and two-time winner of the PGA Tour tournament – hit a 71 to reach one under through 36 holes, a shot above the cut line.
"I didn't quite swing it right today," he told reporters. "And I didn't quite have the shape, ball flight. I didn't have much of what I wanted. With these greens as soft as they are, I didn't take advantage of the opportunities I had today to really shoot a good number."
Former world number one Spieth (68) and US PGA Championship winner Thomas (70) recovered from bad starts to stay alive in the field.
Rickie Fowler (71) – the 2015 winner – and four-time major champion McIlroy (74) were not so fortunate as they missed the cut.