Adam Svensson of Surrey, B.C., fell behind as American Scottie Scheffler capped off a long day of 26 holes with one last birdie Saturday that gave him a seven-under 65 and a two-shot lead at The Players Championship, with no one else from the top 10 in the world within seven shots of him.
That might not make the final round any easier given the nature of the TPC Sawgrass as it dries out from a rain that led to a delay.
Min Woo Lee of Australia, the younger brother of U.S. Women’s Open champion Minjee Lee, stayed with Scheffler stride-for-stride after holing out from 131 yards on the opening hole. His only bogey came at the end with a three-putt bogey, giving him a 66.
Cam Davis of Australia had a 67 and was four shots behind, followed by a group five back that included Tommy Fleetwood and Aaron Rai of England, who made a hole-in-one on the 17th. It was the first time the island green has yielded two aces in the same week. Chad Ramey made one in the opening round.
For Scheffler, who won this year in the Phoenix Open, a victory would send him back to No. 1 in the world. Scheffler referred to the ranking as “just an algorithm.” What matters is winning, and all his wins so far have come against some of the strongest fields in golf.
What a finish 🔥<br><br>Scottie Scheffler closes the day with a birdie to take a two-shot lead <a href=”https://twitter.com/THEPLAYERSChamp?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@THEPLAYERSChamp</a>. <a href=”https://t.co/2QqcBPWXME”>pic.twitter.com/2QqcBPWXME</a>
Jon Rahm, the current No. 1 and three-time winner this year, withdrew before the second round with a stomach ailment. Rory McIlroy at No. 3 missed the cut with rounds of 76-73.
Storms kept half the field from finishing on Friday. Scheffler returned at 7 a.m. with eight holes to play, made a pair of birdies to get within two-shots of 36-hole leader Svensson and then swapped turns at the top with Lee most of the day.
Tom Hoge set the record on the Players Stadium Course when he holed a 10-foot putt for his 10th birdie of the round for a 62. Nine players had previously shot 63 over a 30-year span, starting with Fred Couples in 1992 and most recently by Dustin Johnson in 2022.
The biggest help came from Luke List. He was short of the par-5 ninth green in three, some 40 feet from the hole. Get up-and-down for par and the cut would be one over and 11 players would have missed the cut.
He made double bogey. Hoge was among those who got in. And he took it from there, missing only two greens and converting all the important putts.
Hoge now is at eight under, six shots out of the lead.
“I finished yesterday afternoon actually and woke up this morning to watch the scores for a few hours there, and that was all over the place,” Hoge said. “So I just felt fortunate to have tee time this morning. Just tried to go out and make as many birdies as I could.”
He didn’t know it was a course record until he signed his card.
A game of inches 🤏<a href=”https://twitter.com/Minwoo27Lee?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@MinWoo27Lee</a> couldn’t believe this one didn’t fall. <a href=”https://t.co/fjq5zPFiFJ”>pic.twitter.com/fjq5zPFiFJ</a>
Whether that kind of score is available Sunday depends on how much wind continues to dry out the course. There was plenty of decent scoring, and plenty of water and trees that knocked back good runs.
Ramey, the 18-hole leader at 64, pumped two in the water on the 17th in his second round and fell back with a 75. He bounced right back in the afternoon with a 68 and was in the group five shots behind.
Svensson falls behind
Svensson, meanwhile, made birdie on his final hole of the second round after hitting into a hospitality tent next to the ninth. That gave him a 67 and a two-shot lead, and he started with a birdie. But it got sideways quickly, particularly when he made a mess of the 14th and took triple bogey.
Patrick Cantlay, the No. 4 player in the world, overcame three bogeys on the front for a 68 that put him eight behind along with Jordan Spieth, who shot a 66.
Lee has plenty at stake. The European Tour member can earn PGA Tour status with a win, and a decent finish is likely to move him high enough in the world ranking to get in the Masters. There’s also that small matter of a $4.5 million US payoff to the winner.
“Sawgrass is scary,” he said. “There’s a lot of times where people have faltered and you don’t want to be one of those. But as long as you can control your emotions and go out there and have fun — which I did — it was fun playing really good golf.”
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