Westwood won the European Tour to Dubai race in 2020
|-9 L Westwood (Eng); -8th M Fitzpatrick (Eng); -7 C. Kirk (USA), S. Garcia (Spa)|
|Selected: -6 B DeChambeau (USA); -4 J. Rahm (Spa), P. Casey (Eng); -2 S. Lowry (Irish), J. Thomas (USA); -1 D. Johnson (USA), P. Mickelson (USA); level M. Laird (Sco), R. Knox (Sco); +1 T Hatton (Eng); +2 T Fleetwood (Eng), V Hovland (Nor); +3 T. Lewis (Eng), R. MacIntyre (Sco); +4 I Poulter (Eng); +10 R McIlroy (NI)|
|Date: 11-14 March Conference location: Stadium Square, Sawgrass, Florida|
|Cover: BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra Commentary – Saturday: 9:00 p.m. GMT and Sunday: 8:00 p.m. Live text commentary of the last two rounds on the BBC Sport website from 7:00 p.m. with highlights in the game|
Englishman Lee Westwood met a sensational bogey-free six-under-66-year-old and took the lead halfway through the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.
Westwood leads to nine under, one in front of compatriot Matt Fitzpatrick (68), with Sergio Garcia (72) and Chris Kirk (65) another shot back in Florida.
Bryson DeChambeau carded a three-under-69 and is one of six-against-six under.
Rory McIlroy missed the cut after a seven-over-79 with a 75 on round two and finished 10 over par.
The Northern Irishman came into the tournament as defending champion after winning that title in 2019 and the 2020 event was canceled after one round due to the coronavirus pandemic.
He had to improve his first round score by 14 shots to have a chance at the weekend, however, but bogeys on the sixth and seventh holes put an end to any faint hopes he might have had.
There are a handful of players who couldn’t finish their second round due to fading light so the cut won’t take until Saturday morning, but it’s likely it will be on the same level, meaning the Scottish couple Robert Knox and Martin Laird will play after this sum is completed.
However, your compatriot Robert MacIntyre will be among those to go home after three above-average results.
England’s Tyrrell Hatton, who ended up behind, is expected to be out, while Tommy Fleetwood and Norwegian Viktor Hovland, who took a two-shot penalty after the first round, ended the duel.
The Europeans are doing well in Florida
While McIlroy struggled, several Europeans have made an excellent start to the tournament, no more than Westwood, who finished second at DeChambeau at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week.
He started on the 10th and quickly improved his night rating from three under with birdies on his first two holes.
The winner of the European Tour to Dubai race in 2020 had three more birdies in a row from second and took his sixth place on the ninth par-5 course.
“I felt in control,” said the 47-year-old on Sky Sports. “I drove the ball well, iron shots were good, I hit nice pitches and chips and kept my momentum in a carefree lap, I was in the zone.
“I compare that to Augusta in that there are certain places where you can hit the ball and certain places you can miss. I feel good when I go to this golf course.”
Fitzpatrick picked up four birdies on his first 11 holes to get under eight. He then had two bogeys on the fifth and eighth holes but was immediately atoned for birdies on the sixth and ninth to ensure that he would play in the third round on Saturday with Westwood in the final group.
Garcia, who was seven under after the first lap, finished the par-4 race with an excellent birdie after nearly piercing his second shot.
In his unpredictable level par round, there were five bogeys – one after missing a par putt two meters away on the 15th – three birdies and a tap-in eagle on the 11th par five.
“It was a tough day,” said the Spaniard. “There were a lot of good things and a lot of bad things. I obviously didn’t play as well as in round one, but I fought my way through and tried not to shoot myself out of the tournament.
“I’m happy at 72 because I had two to play with three.”
His compatriot, the world’s second tallest Jon Rahm, had a 68 to improve to four overall, along with Englishman Paul Casey, who carded a 67.
DeChambeau shines among the great trios
DeChambeau won the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill last week
After a wild ride into the trees on the 10th, his first hole of the day, DeChambeau started with a double bogey six.
From then on, however, he played solid golf, collecting birdies on the 11th, 16th, 17th and sixth holes before finishing another on the ninth to sign for a second round of 69.
However, he wasn’t happy with his performance and said he was aiming for a 90-minute training session after his lap.
“I don’t hit it best, but I could scratch it off,” he said. “I hit my driver perfectly in one hole and then pretty far to the right in the next. I just have to focus on getting the ball into play.
“I’m happy with the fact that I was still able to hold onto it and score well. I was pretty lucky for the most part.”
He played with Dustin Johnson, the number one and 2020 world champion, and Collin Morikawa, the winner of the US PGA Championship.
Johnson had four birdies on his first seven holes for a total of three. He combined two bogeys with two birdies on his second nine before throwing two shots on the seventh after finding the water on his tee shot.
He missed a 7-foot birdie putt on the ninth when he signed for a two-under-70 and an under-total.
Morikawa shot a 73 but screwed his last two holes to land exactly on the expected cutting line at level par.
Americans in the foreground
However, there are many home players in the competition.
Kirk, who started on the 10th, had three consecutive birdies by the 15th and then took his second shot from 146 yards for an eagle on the par-4 second. He also finished with two birdies to hit Garcia’s lowest round of the week until he improved to seven overall.
There are four Americans tied with DeChambeau to six under.
Denny McCarthy had a hole-in-one in the par-3 third in a 69 with just one bogey, while Charley Hoffman had six birdies in a 68.
Brian Harman had a double bogey five on the par 3 17 course after hitting his tee shot into the water surrounding the green but had two birdies on his second nine to sign for a 71.
Doug Ghim was one of the later starters and came into play with a bogey-free ’67.
Sungjae Im is the only South Korean challenge after tying the Players Championship record of six consecutive birdies in a 66 that ended up being six under.
Meanwhile, Brendon Todd got his 5-wood tee shot on the 213-yard par-3 eighth note when he shot a 69 to finish one under.