Five Things: Bradley's driver disaster, Toms leads

Michael Bradley watches his drive from the 18th tee during the final round of the 2011 Puerto Rico Open, where he defeated Troy Matteson in a one-hole playoff.

Michael Bradley watches his drive from the 18th tee during the final round of the 2011 Puerto Rico Open, where he defeated Troy Matteson in a one-hole playoff.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Michael Bradley’s mistake was the reason you might’ve seen Louis Oosthuizen, your reigning British Open champion, dangling from his feet above a water hazard on Friday.

Bradley dropped his driver in response to a hooked tee shot into the water left of TPC Sawgrass’ seventh hole. The club then bounced into a water hazard some 8 feet below the tee box.

“I looked around, and guessed that I was the lightest of the six of us (players and caddies), so it would be better if they tried to hold my legs,” said Oosthuizen, who’s listed at 5 feet, 10 inches and 170 pounds. “I looked at the scores, and they were making the cut and I was missing it, so I was probably the one that was going to get wet.”

photo

Louis Oosthuizen tries to fish out Michael Bradley's driver after it slipped out of his hand and landed in the water during his tee shot on the seventh hole during the second round of The Players Championship.

Oosthuizen was unable to recover the driver. A fan, Norman-Gerard Merizzi, was the next to be lowered into the hazard. He was able to reach Bradley’s driver after hooking it with the head of another club. His reward? A signed glove.

Bradley missed the cut by one shot after making triple bogey on No. 7 (his 16th hole).

“I didn’t realize that I was so close to the water,” Bradley said. “When I dropped it, it kind of bounced, and I thought, ‘Oh, crap. What did I do?’”

The hunt for the sinking driver may be the day’s most memorable image, but it shouldn’t overshadow a strong leaderboard that reads Toms, Watney, McDowell, Stricker, Donald, Glover, Mahan, Baddeley, Holmes and Love III.

• • •

2.) No tricking Toms: TPC Sawgrass is far from the longest course on the PGA Tour. Much of its difficulty comes from the twists and turns that architect Pete Dye built into this layout carved out of a north Florida swamp. David Toms has the 36-hole lead at The Players Championship because he’s learned to overcome Dye’s trickery. Toms is at 10-under 134 (66-68), one shot ahead of Nick Watney.

Toms’ tee shot on No. 18 is a perfect example of his philosophy this week. Most players hit a draw on the dogleg left to keep their ball away from the water on the left side. Toms played his preferred left-to-right shot, even though it requires his ball to flirt with the hazard

“I think that’s what I’ve learned over the years, just try to play my game rather than trying to hit the perfect shot on the golf course,” Toms said. He entered the Players having finished in the top 25 in five of his past six starts, including top-5 finishes at Mayakoba and Bay Hill.

Toms is seeking his 13th PGA Tour victory and first since the 2006 Sony Open in Hawaii.

• • •

3.) Back in form: Graeme McDowell is two shots off the lead, just two weeks after he described his game as “rock bottom.” McDowell’s missed cut two weeks ago at the Zurich Classic was his third in his past four starts; he’d broken par in just two of his past 10 rounds.

“I’ve been swinging the golf club like an idiot,” McDowell said bluntly. His instructor, Pete Cowen, visited McDowell in Orlando, Fla., last week and helped the reigning U.S. Open champion get back on track. McDowell admits he let bad habits creep into his swing after he returned from a four-week break earlier this year.

“You forget the . . . things you worked on to get to the point in your golf swing where it feels easy, so you take your eye off certain departments,” McDowell said. “I’m not trying to say I haven’t been working hard this year. I’ve been working very hard this year, but . . . I didn’t know what I was trying to achieve.”

McDowell shot 67-69 over the Players’ first two rounds, capping his second round with a 3-foot birdie putt on No. 18.

• • •

4.) What happened?: The Players Championship may no longer have Tiger Woods in its field, but, at least for a brief time, it had Phil Mickelson on the first page of its leaderboard. Mickelson shot 5-under 31 on his first nine holes Friday, including an eagle on the par-5 16th, to get to 6 under par for the tournament.

He followed with 40 on his second nine, hitting just two fairways and four greens on those nine holes. Mickelson ended the day at 2 under par, closer to the cut line than contention. He hasn’t finished better than 17th in three appearances at TPC Sawgrass since his 2007 victory.

“I thought I could go shoot a few under on the front and really have a good day,” Mickelson said. “And I just really let a good round go. It’s disappointing.”

• • •

5.) Packing up: The 36-hole cut fell at even-par 144. Among those who missed the cut were Marc Leishman (81-80), Jhonattan Vegas (78-77), Adam Scott (76-72), Padraig Harrington (73-78), Edoardo Molinari (72-78), Anthony Kim (74-76), Jim Furyk (71-76), David Duval (70-76), Rickie Fowler (77-68) and Camilo Villegas (74-71).

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