PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – One prominent player’s streak of weekends off came to an end on Friday at The Players Championship. Another’s rolls on. Their names: Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth.
Mickelson had missed the cut four consecutive years. Despite a tough finish Friday – he dunked a tee shot and made double at the Stadium Course’s famed par-3 17th – Mickelson moved to the weekend after a second-round 72 left him at 2 under.
As for fellow competitor Spieth, who played in the same pairing. He was headed home to Dallas after a second-round 75 left him at 4-over 148. He hasn’t made a cut at The Players since his debut at Players, when he tied for fourth in 2014.
He now has broken par on the Stadium one time in his last seven trips around the course.
“It’s just been on and around the greens I just haven’t quite figured it out,” Spieth said. He will play the next two weeks as the Tour moves closer to home in Dallas and Fort Worth. (He is defending champion at Colonial.) “These greens get pretty crusty and, historically, whenever firm Bermuda or greens are crusty to where it’s tough to set the putter down, I just struggle with my alignment and it just kind of throws me off. It happened again here.”
Spieth said his ballstriking was better Friday than it had been a day earlier, but when he gave himself some mid-range opportunities, he simply failed to convert. He didn’t make a birdie on Friday until his 15th hole, and for the second consecutive round, needed 31 putts.
Mickelson seeks 1st top-10 finish since ’07
As for Mickelson, whose Players win in 2007 marks the last time he finished in the top 10 here, he had some nice momentum after touring his opening nine in 33 shots, and he even averted disaster after hitting a tee shot left into a bush at the par-4 10th.
He took an unplayable in the woods, pitched out, and still saved bogey. When he rebounded with a birdie at the par-5 11th, he was 4 under for the round.
But the Stadium giveth as much as it taketh away, and he endured a rough finish. Mickelson made bogeys at Nos. 13 and 15, got a shot back at 16, but then doubled 17 when his shot pitched on the green and didn’t stop until it dove into the water beyond the green. He said he was between a 9-iron and wedge, tried to hit wedge to the front of the green, and still finished long.
“It’s going to make us look pretty silly out there a lot of spots. But I hit a lot of good shots, including the one on 17 that went in the water,” Mickelson said. “So, unfortunately I made double there. But I’m in a good spot for tomorrow, I’ll come out tomorrow and see if I can shoot a number.”
At 2 under, seven shots off the lead, Mickelson is convinced a player teeing it up earlier on Saturday has a good shot at posting a low score and climbing up the board. The late afternoon rounds here have been difficult, though Saturday’s action could include some mid-day rains that could soften the place up.
“I think the guy that is going to be leading tomorrow is going to be somebody that’s at like even, 1 under par right now, that goes out early and has a chance to shoot a low round,” he said. “Because as the day wears on, the course firms up, dries out and it gets a lot more difficult.”
At least Mickelson will be around to give it a go. Spieth? He’s on to Dallas.