Adam Svensson of Surrey, BC, fell behind as American Scottie Scheffler capped a busy 26-hole day with a final birdie Saturday to give him a seven-under 65 and a two-shot lead at The Players Championship, with none other than top 10 in the world within seven shots of him.
That might not make the final round any easier given the nature of TPC Sawgrass as it dries out from a rain delay.
Australia’s Min Woo Lee, the younger brother of Women’s Open champion Minjee Lee, stayed with Scheffler stride-for-stride after holeing out from 131 yards on the opening hole. His only bogey came at the end with a three foot bogey, giving him 66.
Australia’s Cam Davies had a 67 and was four shots back, followed by a back-five group that included Tommy Fleetwood and England’s Aaron Rye, who made a hole-in-one at the 17th. It was the first time the island green had two aces in the same week. Chad Ramey made one in the first round.
For Scheffler, who won this year’s Phoenix Open, a win would send him back to world No. 1. Scheffler referred to the ranking as “just an algorithm.” What matters is winning, and all of his wins so far have come against some of the strongest fields in golf.
What a finish 🔥
Scottie Scheffler closes the day with a birdie to take a two-shot lead @THEPLAYERSChamp< /a>. pic.twitter.com/2QqcBPWXME
Jon Rahm, the No. 1 and three-time winner this year, withdrew before the second round with a stomach upset. Rory McIlroy at No. 3 missed the cut with rounds of 76-73.
Storms prevented half the field from finishing on Friday. Scheffler returned at 7 a.m. with eight holes to play, he made a pair of birdies to get within two shots of 36-hole leader Svensson, then traded turns at the top with Lee for 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 since Dustin Johnson in 2022.
The biggest help came from Luke List. He missed the par-5 ninth green in three, about 40 feet from the hole. Go up and down for par and the cut would be one up and 11 players would have missed the cut.
He did a double bogeyman. Hoge was among those who went inside. And he took it from there, missing only two greens and converting all the important putts.
Hoge is now at eight under, six shots off the lead.
“I finished yesterday afternoon actually and woke up this morning to go over the scores for a couple of hours there, and that was all over the place,” Hoge said. “So I was lucky to have tee time this morning. I 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.
An inch game 🤏@MinWoo27Lee i couldn’t believe this didn’t drop. pic.twitter.com/fjq5zPFiFJ
Whether that kind of score is available on Sunday depends on how much wind continues to dry out the course. There was plenty of decent scoring, and plenty of water and trees to disrupt good runs.
Ramey, the 18-hole leader at 64, two-putted the 17th in his second round and fell behind with a 75. He bounced right back in the afternoon with a 68 and was in the group five shots back.
Svensson lags behind
Svensson, meanwhile, birdied his final hole of the second round after hitting a hospitality tee next to the ninth. That gave him a 67 and a two-shot lead, and he started with a birdie. But he quickly fell by the wayside, especially when he made a mess of the 14th and triple bogeyed.
Patrick Candley, the No. 4 player in the world, birdied three bogeys on the front for a 68 that put him eight back with Jordan Spieth, who shot a 66.
Lee has a lot at stake. The European Tour member can earn PGA Tour status with a win, and a decent finish is likely to propel him high enough in the world rankings to take the Masters. There is also the small matter of the US$4.5 million payout to the winner.
“Sawgrass is scary,” he said. “There are a lot of times when people have faltered and you don’t want to be one of them. But as long as you can control your emotions and go out there and have fun – like I did – it’s been fun to play really good golf.”