TOUGH DUO GET GOING
Oosthuizen, Stanley storm ahead on crusty surface and windy conditions
PONTE VEDRA BEACH most that I could have out of that round,” Stanley said. “A couple bogeys, but you can expect that to happen around here with as difficult as the golf course is.”
Johnson and McIlroy at least are still in the game.
Jordan Spieth was headed home after missing the cut for the third straight year, yet he didn’t sound terribly upset. He chalked that up to not being able to handle this strand of grass when it gets firm and crusty. Spieth’s last hope ended with a tee shot that bounced at the back of the island-green 17th and into the water.
Equally surprising was Vijay Singh, the 54-year-old Fijian who was making putts from everywhere until a three-putt bogey on the 18th. He still shot 68 and goes into the weekend only three shots out of the lead.
“We’re in a pretty good spot going into this weekend,” said Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion who still hasn’t won in America. “A lot of golf to be played around this golf course, and as we’ve seen the last two days, you can easily make a mistake around this track.”
Phil Mickelson started making putts and moved up the leaderboard, only to begin a slow slide. He made three bogeys on the back nine and then, torn between a 9-iron and a wedge on the 17th, he opted for a wedge to make sure it didn’t go over the back of the island.
It still hopped hard at the back of the green and went into the water, leading to a double bogey. That left him at 72, seven shots behind.
“It’s a hard course, and any errant swings will lead to not a good score,” Mickelson said. “But I played a good front nine and shot even. I don’t know what else to say.”
Defending champion Jason Day didn’t make up any ground, either, trading birdies and bogeys for a 72. He also was seven back at 2-under 142. Rickie Fowler shot 74 and joined Johnson and McIlroy at 144.
Ian Poulter, who only got into The Players on a clerical mistake regarding his time away for injury, shot 67 and was in the large group at 5-under 139.
Oosthuizen picked up birdies on both par 3s on the back nine, and then hit his best shot on the first hole from deep in the woods on pine straw.
He managed to play a low punch shot with a draw, and it ran up to about 5 feet for a birdie. He let his putter do the work the rest of the way, holing 20-foot birdie putts on the fifth and ninth holes to share the lead. AP
Louis Oosthuizen reacts to a missed putt for birdie in Ponte Vedra Beach on Friday.