PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Frustrated as he was to have been forced to withdraw from his title defense of The Players Championship, Tim Clark had no regrets.
“I would have been disappointed if I didn’t start,” Clark said after calling it quits 10 holes into his second round. He was 2 over on his round, 4 over for the championship, “but I could feel (the right elbow) getting worse.”
Plagued by a bizarre case of tendinitis, Clark was playing in just his second tournament since starting the season with solid performances in Hawaii (the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and the Sony Open). Clark shot 73-73 and missed the cut at the Masters and made just two birdies in 27 holes here.
Clearly, he’s not anywhere near the player who won this tournament a year ago with rounds of 68-71-66-67.
“It’s no fun, but I had to test it out to see where I was,” Clark said.
And where is he? Clark shrugged, as if to suggest he’s clearly in limbo. He figures since he can’t play two rounds here, he can’t play next week at Colonial, but “I can’t get too despondent,” he said. Clark insisted he’ll remain committed to the therapy he’s undergoing, but “if it isn’t right in a couple of months . . . “
His voiced trailed off, because Clark knows that opens up other doors that aren’t inviting and he figures he has enough to worry about right now.
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LOOK WHO’S HANGING AROUND: Three members of the Champions Tour teed it up here, and all three made the cut. Mark O’Meara backed up an opening 66 with 74 to get halfway home in 4 under, Corey Pavin is at 3 under (72-69), and Kenny Perry has gone 72-71 to sit at 1 under.
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LOCAL BOY GOES SOUTH: At one point Thursday, David Duval had it to 4 under and it appeared that the onetime Jacksonville Beach resident was going to make the cut in his first trip to the Stadium Course since 2006.
But Duval stumbled home Thursday, then did so Friday in an even messier way.
Sitting 2 under after a birdie at the 12th, Duval bogeyed the 13th, then made a triple-bogey at 14 when he pulled his tee shot way left. Though he birdied 15, Duval needed one more and couldn’t get it. Instead, he bogeyed 18 to shoot 76 and finish at 2 over.
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MR. SUNSHINE: Paul Goydos, who lost in a playoff to Sergio Garcia here in 2008, is back in the thick of things at a course that makes him comfortable.
“I like the course (but) but my record here is horrible,” said Goydos, who shot 70 and is at 5 under.
The archives prove him correct, because in 12 previous starts Goydos has just that one top 10 in 2008. There have been five missed cuts and no other finish inside the top 35.
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GARCIA IS UP, BUT COULD BE OUT: Sergia Garcia said if he doesn’t work his way into the top 50 in the world rankings and earn an exemption into the U.S. Open, he wouldn’t try and qualify.
“I don’t think so. Things may change,” Garcia said, “but I don’t think so. If I don’t qualify, I don’t deserve to play.”
Garcia has played in 47 consecutive major championships, dating to the 1999 Open Championship at Carnoustie when he was 19. One month later, Garcia nearly won the PGA Championship at Medinah. He’s been a marquee attraction since then, but he has plummeted to 74th in the world rankings.
There are two deadlines by which he’d be exempt into the U.S. Open if he were in the top 50 – May 23 and June 13.
Garcia helped his cause somewhat by making the cut at The Players Championship. One day after playing “my worst round all year,” a 2-over 74, Garcia eagled the par-5 second and played his final 15 holes bogey-free and 4 under to shoot 68. At 2 under, he made the cut for the eighth straight time here and has an outside chance to match his 2008 win.
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SLOPPY FINISH: Ernie Els was within 50 feet of the hole in two booming shots at the the 577-yard ninth, his final hole. He proceeded to take four strokes from there, make bogey, and miss the cut by one.
Comments were unavailable, but Els’ hasty exit said everything. It was a painful way to end a week that had begun with his induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Els was sitting at level par when he stood over the short pitch as his ball sat in rough on the up-slope of one of the moguls that frame the ninth green. Inexplicably, Els fluffed the shot, then pitched to 4 feet. When he missed that one, it was a round of 73 and just his fourth missed cut in 18 appearances at The Players.
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PINCH-HITTER FARES WELL: Put into the field as a last-minute alternate when Jeff Maggert withdrew, Kevin Chappell did himself proud. With a birdie at the par-4 seventh and pars at eight and nine, the PGA Tour rookie finished off a round of 73 and make the cut on the number.
Chappell is playing in his 12th tournament of the season, having made the cut in his sixth one. A few weeks ago he finished tied for second at the Valero Texas Open.
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TESTIFYING FOR THE DEFENSE, SABBATINI?: Say what you want about Rory Sabbatini, so long as you agree he’s one complex individual.
A staunch critic of slow play, Sabbatini supplied the testimony on Jonathan Byrd’s behalf in the scorer’s house. Byrd had hit his shot well left into the woods at the par-5 11th and took what officials deemed was too long to play. They thus assigned him a bad time.
It’s his first bad time of the year. A second bad time results in a fine. A third bad time would mean penalty strokes.
Sabbatini argued for Byrd – unsuccessfully – saying “that 99 percent of the players out here would have taken that much time,” to play the shot out of the woods at 11.
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SHORT SHOTS: He bogeyed four of his last five holes Thursday to shoot 74 and Anthony Kim remained on the bogey train Friday. He made five of them, added a double at the par-4 15th, shot 76, and missed the cut for the third time in four starts in the Players Championship . . . . . Geoff Ogilvy continued to struggle with a sore shoulder, finally withdrawing midway through his second round. He had shot 75 Thursday and was out in 2-over 38 on the back nine when he said enough was enough. Ogilvy also withdrew without teeing it up at the Wells Fargo Championship a week ago . . . . . Padraig Harrington talked Wednesday night of a new routine in his set-up, but he continued with some familiar results at The Players Championship. Harrington missed the cut for the third time since this tournament moved to May; he has finished T-52 and T-49 in the other two years . . . . . Keegan Bradley had one of the two eagles at the short, par-4 12th, holing a wedge from 73 yards, but it was his birdie at the par-5 ninth, his 18th hole, that pushed him into the weekend. “It was the longest 2 feet I’ve ever seen,” Bradley joked of his short putt that gave him a 69 and a 36-hole total of level par . . . . . Jim Furyk bogeyed three of his first six holes, made just one birdie, shot 76, and at 3 over missed just his third cut in 16 Players Championship starts.