PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla.- In search of his second PGA Tour victory and first since the 2010 Open Championship, Louis Oosthuizen shot 6-under 66 to hold a share of the lead at The Players Championship. Kyle Stanley finished with birdies on Nos. 7 and 9 to finish with a 66 and tie for the lead at 9-under overall.
“The history about the tournament, the golf course, everything about it, you see it as another major week of golf,” Oosthuizen said. “For a professional, this is definitely one of the courses that you try and up your game and just give it that little bit more for the week and try and win the championship. That enough is a lot of motivation.”
J.B Holmes is third after shooting a 69 Friday. Vijay Singh’s 68 put him alone in fourth. Sweden’s Alex Noren shot a 1-under 71 and sits in a tie for fifth at 5-under. He’s joined by Rafa Cabrera Bello, Ian Poulter, Patrick Cantlay and David Hearn.
This is Oosthuizen’s seventh appearance with his best finish coming in 2013. Stanley is making his fourth start, where has made three of four cuts. His best finish came in 2013.
“It doesn’t matter what your golf game looks like. It’s a week where, like a major week, it’s all on how you mentally go about it and just stay in the moment and try your best every shot,” Oosthuizen said.
A win Sunday would make Oosthuizen the 10th Players’ champion who has also won The Open Championship. Among that group, he would join Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as those who claimed victories at St. Andrews.
Despite only hitting six of 14 fairways in the second round, Stanley hit 14 of 18 greens in round two.
“Maybe I’ll try to harvest that a little bit — just knowing that I’ve been in the position before and was able to pull it off,” Stanley said. “But for the most part, not really. I feel like maybe I was a little bit of a different player back then. It was kind of a long time ago.”
Stanley is in search of his second career tour victory and first since the 2012 Waste Management Phoenix Open.
His best finish in 14 starts this season is seventh at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, his first top-10 finish on the tour since finishing eighth at the 2014 Barracuda Championship.
“I went a couple years there where it was pretty disappointing, but you’ve just got to keep working hard. You never really quite know when it’s going to show up or pay off,” Stanley said. “I’ve been pretty consistent about what I’ve been doing practice-wise and off the golf course. I feel like I’ve been working on a lot of the right things.”
Danny Willett withdrew after nine holes Friday due to a bad back. At 4-over 148, Jordan Spieth missed his third-consecutive cut after finishing fourth in his debut in 2014.
“I just got a little off yesterday and came back today and hit the ball well,” said Spieth said. “I gave myself a lot of chances and from those mid-range opportunities that I had, just couldn’t quite get comfortable. It’s just been on and around the greens I just haven’t quite figured it out.”
CLOSE ENOUGH: After five birdies and no bogeys through 16 holes in round two, J.B. Holmes finished with bogeys on Nos. 8 and 9 to card a 3-under 69 to sit solo in third after 36 holes. Holmes is playing in his 11th Players Championship. Vijay Singh’s 4-under 68 was nearly flawless until a bogey at the 18th dropped him to 6-under for the tournament and into fourth place. Singh, who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2006, is making his 24th start in The Players, highlighted by four top 10s.
NOTABLES: Defending champ Jason Day is at 142 along with Phil Mickelson (70), Adam Scott of Australia (72), Henrik Stenson of Sweden (70) and first-round co-leaders William McGirt (75) and Mackenzie Hughes (75). World No. 1 Dustin Johnson stands at 144. Johnson needed 31 and 29 putts, respectively, in the first two rounds. Among the others at 144 are Masters champion Sergio Garcia of Spain (71), Justin Thomas (71), Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy (71) and Rickie Fowler (75).
FRIDAY NOTES: Twelve of 43 second-round leaders/co-leaders have gone on to win The Players Championship, including Jason Day in 2016. Thirteen of the 25 second-round leaders/co-leaders on the PGA Tour this season have been able to convert for the win in stroke-play events, most recently Sergio Garcia at the Masters Tournament.
HOME COOKING: Eight Jacksonville area residents were in the field this week and seeking to join three who have already claimed The Players Championship title – Mark McCumber in 1988, David Duval in 1999 and Fred Funk in 2005. Vijay Sigh sits in fourth place after a 68. David Lingmerth shot a 75 Friday. Cameron Smith, Jim Furyk, Matt Every, Billy Horschel, Russell Knox and Jonas Blixt missed the cut.
BY THE NUMBERS: After two days, bogey-free rounds have been recorded by Alex Noren (68), Mackenzie Hughes (67), Jon Rahm (68), Lee Westwood (70), Smylie Kaufman (67) and Louis Oosthuizen (66) …. thirty-nine players went for the green (hit 3-wood or driver) on the par-4 12th hole in round two compared to 26 in round one. Nine players hit the green on Friday, with Luke List making the first eagle on the new 12th hole from 14 feet, 9 inches…Scott Piercy recorded the first-ever quintuple bogey-9 on the par-4 fifth hole Friday morning…there were 29 balls in the water at the par-3 17th hole Friday, the most ever in a second round since 2003.
CHARITABLE DEEDS: For the third year, Horschel has pledged to raise funds during the tournament to support the Feeding Northeast Florida Food Bank. Horschel will donate $1,000 for every birdie he makes and $5,000 for every eagle. In the second round, Horschel made five birdies, bringing his total to $9,000. Morgan Stanley will donate $5,000 to Ronald McDonald House Family Room at Wolfson’s Children’s Hospital for every eagle made. Through the second round, 24 eagles were made totaling $120,000.
Originally printed on Jacksonville Sports Day.