Friday, February 23, 2018
Golf

Birdie string boosts Tiger Woods into weekend at Players Championship

Leaderboard

Zach Johnson70-66136-8

Kevin Na67-69136-8

Matt Kuchar68-68136-8

Harris English70-67137-7

Notables

Ian Poulter 65-76 141 -3

Phil Mickelson 71-71 142 -2

Tiger Woods74-68142-2

Rory McIlroy72-76148+4

Today on TV: Noon, Golf Channel; 2 p.m., Ch. 8

Weather: 81, mostly cloudy, 10 percent rain chance

PONTE VEDRA BEACH — The Players Championship on Friday lacked definition going into the weekend. At least it still has one of golf's star attractions.

Tiger Woods, with one burst of birdies, went from a guy struggling to make the cut to being on the periphery of contention in the second round.

"I was trying to shoot my number (Friday). Sixty-six was my number," said Woods, who birdied Nos. 8 through 11 and shot 4-under 68, ending a streak of nine straight rounds in the 70s.

He was at 2-under 142, two above the cut line and six behind co-leaders Zach Johnson, Kevin Na and Matt Kuchar.

"I figured (66) would have been a good way to go into the weekend, being probably four or five back," Woods said. "But I'm still with a good chance."

Johnson made five birdies on the back nine until a bogey on the 18th hole, though he matched the best score of the second round with 66. Kuchar, who made a strong run at the Masters last month, played bogey-free over his last 13 holes for 68. Na started the back nine with three straight birdies for 69.

They were at 8-under 136.

First-round co-leaders Ian Poulter and Martin Laird struggled. Poulter had two bogeys and two double bogeys and finished at 4-over 76 to fall back to 3 under for the tournament. Laird was 10 under with three holes to play when he lost four shots on the last three holes. His 73 put him in a large group two shots behind the leaders.

"I'm glad it happened on a Friday and not on Sunday," Laird said.

At least they got the chance to play on the weekend. Rory McIlroy didn't.

The reigning U.S. Open champion, who last week lost in a three-way playoff at the Wells Fargo Championship opened with birdie and didn't make another one the rest of the day. He shot 76 and missed the cut for the first time in more than a year, though it wasn't unusual at TPC Sawgrass. In three appearances at the Players Championship, McIlroy has never broken par or made the cut.

"Hopefully, I'm coming back here for another 20 years," McIlroy said. "If I don't figure it out on my 20th, there's something wrong."

Woods was two shots over the cut line when he hit his best shot of the tournament, a 5-wood into a stiff breeze on the par-3 eighth that caught a slope on the edge of the green and rolled 8 feet from the flag. That was the first of his four straight birdies, and when his tee shot to the island-green 17th settled at the very back of the green, he was safe.

"I was just very consistent," Woods said. "Nothing spectacular, just real solid golf."

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