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Survival test on a windy course

Here's what you can expect when you turn on today's Players telecast later -- big numbers.
As I turned off A1A toward the TPC Sawgrass, the flags at the entrance were fully taut and flapping in the breeze, probably 20-25 mph. That, coupled with Thursday's exceedingly firm and fast greens, means a day full of disasters at the Stadium Course, which wasn't all that receptive yesterday afternoon with a mere zephyr.
What this means is that the players who caught afternoon tee times Thursday, when scores were higher and birdies were considerably more scarce than in the morning, aren't going to get a break.
The good news is that tournament officials, aware of how close to the edge conditions were Thursday and of the wind forecast for Friday, double-watered the greens overnight.
Still, the early returns Friday didn't look promising. Kevin Na posted 42 on the back nine, including double bogeys on both par-3 holes. Robert Garrigus began his round with a double bogey at the 10th, then birdied 12 and scored a hole-in-one at 13.
Jesper Parnevik had a pair of doubles on the front side. There were some red numbers on the boards, so the watering must've helped. Nick O'Hern had three birdies on the front, though he shot one-under 35, and Charlie Wi birdied two of his first three holes to get back to even.
Meanwhile, it's still the incredible shrinking field after a batch of withdrawals yesterday. Jeff Maggert pulled out due to a family emergency Friday morning. Shigeki Maruyama withdrew due to a shoulder injury. When that was announced, SI writer John Garrity, seated next to me in the press center, asked, "Is there anyone left?"
Friday should be a survival test, that's for sure.

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by Kevin Cunningham