By petedirenzo
Friday, May 08, 2009

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer for Sports Illustrated, covered the early action at the Players Championship today, including Phil Mickelson's round. Check the latest scores on our leaderboard

1:57 p.m.--I'm signing off in a minute. (Translation: I'm signing off now.) Passing the flame of the Hottest Player on the Course to Ernie Els, he just birdied his first two holes. That's on pace for 54, except Ernie isn't going to birdie the third hole. He's having some problems there. He's got a six-footer for par. Tiger has a 13-footer for par. Good luck, guys. There are plenty of birdie holes lurking ahead, based on what we've seen. Enjoy your buffet, and go see what Connell Barrett has to say.1:42 p.m.--It appear's that JFK's momentum has been shot. JFK--that's Jeff Freakin' Klauk, son of the long-time superintendant--got to five under par witha  clutch of birdies but he just put up a sleeve of bogeys and is back to two under. He's still got 16, a birdie hole, plus 17 and 18. He could still get two shots back.1:35 p.m.--The story of the day is probably going to be Alex Cejka, although John Mallinger or Richard Johnson could get to 11 under with another low round, as Cejka did. It's hard to get too worried yet about Cejka's gaping lead. He's coming back from surgery last year, was suffering from hand pain and had to have an epidural last week. Now he's running away with the Players? He does have three 13th-place finishes this year but realistically, he's not a guy I'd expect to go wire-to-wire on this course. That means second place is the target and right now, that's only at 7 under par, and still within range of anybody who makes the cut, including Tiger.1:28 p.m.--Was there ever any doubt? Of course Tiger pitched it to inside two feet and made par. No one has ever been better around the greens. Letzig made that birdie putt at 17. I don't know much about him except this--when I've watched him play, he can be as slow as anyone on tour.1:23 p.m.--This is an amazing stat. We're into the afternoon and no player has yet hit one into the drink at the par-3 island green 17th. Michael Letzig could be the new hot player of the day. He's birdied four of his last six and just stuck one close at 17. 1:20 p.m.--It's not a good sign that Tiger is forced to hit a trick shot on his first iron of the day. He was in jail in the pine straw left of No. 1, then did one of his patented spin-out hook shots. He got it out of the trees to just in the rough right of the first green. That was one sweet shot and Tiger still has a chance to get up and down for another routine Tiger par.1:18 p.m.--PhilWatch update: Mickelson stroked his 54-foot eagle putt to three feet. He has to make this putt. It's a must. Before he putted, he watched Adam Scott chip in for eagle to get to one over--and miss the cut. Phil makes his putt. He's back to even par and a tie for 64th. He's above the cutline for now. But being the Harbinger of Doom that I am, I'm saying the cut goes to one under and Phil will be out. I'd be glad to be wrong--there's always a first time.1:10 p.m.--Moments after Phil Mickelson knocked it onto the back of the ninth green in two, Tiger Woods stepped to the first tee. He just yanked a low snipe into the pines. Not a good start.1:08 p.m.--Nobody has ever won all four majors and the Players in the same year. Angel Cabrera, your Masters champ, piled up nine birdies today for a 65. he's tied for second at the moment at seven under par. That's incredible considering that he triple-bogeyed the opening hole on Thursday. Comeback player of the week... so far.1:05 p.m.--Anybody remember Padraig Harrington? He won two majors in a row and was the toast of Ireland last year. This year has been a struggle. Like Phil, he too is in trouble of missing the cut. Harrington has three birdies and three bogeys today and is at even par. Which makes the cut now but may not by the end of the day. The bad news for Paddy is, the U.S. Open is coming up in a month at Bethpage, where he contended in '02. Right now, he's just not on his game and he's been working his tail off.1:02 p.m.--PhilWatch alert: Uh-oh. Mickelson just bogeyed the eighth hole. He's back to one over. He needs to birdie the ninth to have any chance to make the cut. As I wrote earlier, I'm not sure that birdie will even be enough. Phil is now in the Needs a Miracle Department to think about winning the Players. If he makes the cut, he's looking at needing  pair of 64s. So much for possibly passing Tiger and claiming the No. 1 spot in the world rankings. Phil is in dire straits. Warning, we're going to DefCon 2.12:58 p.m.--Time for viewer mail. Sam wants to know about other chick caddies. The most famous is Fanny Sunesson, who caddied for most of Nick Faldo's major wins. She's now on the bag for my tournament pool pick, Henrik Stenson. Kevin thinks I drew the short straw so I have to blog. No. The short straw has to Twitter. Soon, we'll just be texting you all individually, dogs.12:50 p.m.--Passsing the torch again. Robert Allenby is now the hottest player on the course. He just birdied 16 and 17. That's eight birdies on the day, a sweet round except for a double at 14. He's now at five under par, tied for seventh. 12:44 p.m.--Golf Channel found Tiger Woods warming up for his 1:10 tee time on the back end of the range, away from the crowds. The camera shot Woods between a couple of trees. Great observation by analyst Brandel Chamblee, who said, "Wouldn't that just break your heart? You come out to watch Tiger hit balls and he goes to the back of the range? That would kill me."12:22 p.m.--Here's a bad idea. Golf Channel doesn't start showing live golf until 1 p.m. but it comes on the air at 11. Two hours of talking heads and shots of players on the range warming up is at least one hour too many. As a viewer, I'm getting frustrated. You're on, show me the golf. I know you're there. Quit the tease already.12:20 p.m.--This announcement just in: Carl Pettersson just withdrew due to illness. He shot 38 on the front today and made a pair of 6s on 10 and 15 before he quit. Illness? I don't want to start any irresponsible rumors but SWINE FLU EPIDEMIC SWEEPS THROUGH PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP. RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! In an orderly fashion, please.12:03 p.m.--Kalpesh wants to know why Brian Gay isn't in the field. Hey, Kalpesh. Scroll down. I discussed that three hours ago. Gay did a WD this morning after he shot 80 yesterday. He's out.11:58 a.m.--One thousand rounds later, here comes Jeff Klauk. The son of the longtime Stadium Course superintendent is suddenly making a move. Klauk grew up here, worked on the grounds crew and estimated he's played at least a thousand rounds here (in my Wednesday preview story on him). He just finished off a 32 on the front nine and is making the turn. He's got a comfort level and course knowledge level on this track like no one else. And he can play. He's won more than $637,000 this year and is already within range of locking up his tour card for next year. He joked with his agent that he was "gonna shock the world" this week. Hey, he's only six shots behind Cejka, who just knocked in an 18-footer to save par on the 18th hole to finish off a 67 to go with his first-round 66. Watch out for JFK--Jeff Freakin' Klauk. Here he comes.11:46 a.m.--Golf Channel just chatted with flavor of the month swing instructor Sean Foley, who works with Sean O'Hair and Hunter Mahan, among others. Foley's best line, talking about his players' success: "They're the Ferraris and I'm just a navigation system."11:41 a.m.--Alex Cejka survived the 17th hole, made a nice two-putt for par. He's had only 22 putts through 17 holes. This may be the hottest pairing on the course. Kevin Na is playing with Cejka and he's six under today through the first 16 holes. Na is tied for second now with Crane a
nd Villegas.Their bestball score for the day so far is nine under.11:39 a.m.--Angel Cabrera, your Masters champion, is now on the board. He's got six birdies today and moved to five under par, tied for seventh. Golf Channel put his scorecard on the screen and Brandel Chamblee said, "I don't know if ducks can run, but this Duck is running." Wonder why Cabera hasn't signed a deal with AFLAC yet?11:36 a.m.--I'm passing the torch of hottest player on the course to Kevin Sutherland, who has birdied four of his last six holes. He's not exactly threatening for the lead, he's still at three under. Actually, checking his back nine, Sutherland has birdied six of his last nine holes. It's a good round in progress.11:32 a.m.--Golf Channel has been on the air for a while now but not with live play, just a lot of talking heads. In a camera shot tha could be significant, GC just focused in on a flag by the clubhous that was waving. In other words, a light breeze has kicked up. That means the afternoon draw may not have it quite as easy as the morning guys. Tiger Woods goes off at 1:10, fyi. The wind isn't supposed to get up much more than 10 mph, however, so it may be only a modest factor. 11:28 a.m.--PhilWatch update. Mickelson knocks it on the par-5 second hole in two and two putts from long distance for birdie. He's back to even for the tournament, tied for 61st. This bird gets him above the current cutline but I recommend he get to one under to be sure. On the bright side, he's now only seven shots out of second place. He's still in it unless Alex Cejka does a Brian Gay at Harbour Town, but he needs at least two more birdies on the front.11:09--Your leader, Alex Cejka, has definitely cooled off. He parred the last three holes. At 12, he holed an eight-footer to save par. At 13, he two-putted after sticking a shot in there just 63 feet from the pin. He two-putted for par from 55 feet at 14 and he just missed a 14-footer for par at the 15th. He's back to 11 under for the tournament, four shots clear of Ben (Waiting) Crane and Camilo Villegas.11:03 a.m.--In answer to Jeff's question, Cejka is from Czechoslovakia. He was 9 when he and his father escaped the Communist country, jumping off a train, and they settled in Germany. Hence his German nationality. Who's the best German player between Cejka and Martin Kaymer? Well, Cejka is 38 already. He's heading into the home stretch of his prime time. Kaymer is young and has most of his career ahead of him, so I'd have to go with Kaymer. I think he'll make more of an impact in Europe than Cejka did.10:52 a.m.--PhilWatch update. Mickelson got up and down for his par at the 18th, making the turn at even par 36. He needs to shoot a couple under par on the front to make the cut today, and needs to get a bunch under par to think about getting back into contention. he's 13 behind Cejka. 10:50 a.m.--This just in from Live At 17 on, where all they do is broadcast what's happening on this course's most famous hole. They just reported that so far, no player has hit a shot into the water yet. Todd Hamilton just missed an ace, but his ball spun back a ways and he missed the putt. The hole is back center. Former Players champ Craig Perks, who is involved with the broadcast crew, predicted there may be an ace there today. The fact that there is nary a ripple on the lake means it shouldn't be a scary hole today, so far.10:37 a.m.--Was I the only one who thought it was kind of rude to pair Kenny Perry with the guy who beat him in the Masters playoff, Angel Cabrera? Perry remarked yesterday about how it was kind of tough for him to play with Cabrera after all that. He must be feeling better today becuase Kenny's got three birdies on the front nine. I know the pairings are supposedly made by computer but since Phil and Tiger are on opposite ends of the draw--how convenient for TV!--and Kenny is paired with Angel, I'm not buying it. You might as well pair Greg Norman with Larry Mize and Nick Faldo while you're a it. Hi, Nick.10:33 a.m.--PhilWatch update. Good news. Phil didn't hit it in the water at 17. Middle of the green, two putts, par. Still one shot below the cutline, however, so we're holding at DefCon 4.10:30 a.m.--First eight-track cartridge of the day goes to Michael Bradley. He just eighted (yes, I'm trying that out as a verb) the 18th hole. I'm checking Shotlink to see how he did it. Tee shot in the lake on the left. He dropped on a forward tee, hit to the fairway, missed the green short and right, pitched on to 38 feet and three-jacked. That's an 8. He's two ahead of Rory Sabbatini in the race for DFL (or dead last, as it's known in some parts).10:25 a.m.--Sportswriters will nitpick anything to death. Steve DiMeglio of USA Today just looked up Alex Cejka in the official Players program. "He's not in it," DiMeglio said. Only select players are listed in the program. Cejka now has a five-shot lead thanks to a bogey by Ben (Waiting) Crane, who arrived at the course yesterday via a moped because his wife had the car. He could still be the first semi-major winner to ride a moped to the course. I'll check the record books.10:19 a.m.--I have a new favorite player in golf. His name is Roope Kakko. Of Finland, I believe. Just saw him putting on Golf Channel from Europe. Saw his last name on the screen, Kakko, and offered $500 to my colleague Damon Hack if he could tell me the guy's first name. I'd never seen his name before. Neither had The Hack. Which is good, because I had no intention of forking over $500. Roope Kakko is hereby proclaimed the coolest name in golf (sorry, Bunky Henry) even though I have no idea how it is pronounced. 10:17 a.m.--PhilWatch alert. Phil birdies the par-5 16th--yeah, he'd better. He's back to one over for the tourney, still below the cutline. Return to DefCon 4. Roger that.10:14 a.m.--Holy Prague, Batman. Alex Cejka just birdied the 11th, too. He's 6 under through 11 holes today, 12 under for the tournament and he's four ahead of Ben (Waiting) Crane. 10:12 a.m.--Chez Reavie is the first man with a pair of 6s this morning. Not as good in golf as it is in poker, though.10:05 a.m.--Hottest Man on the Course Award goes to former Players champ Stephen Ames. He just birdied his last four holes on the front nine. He's four under. He's low Trinidaddio & Tobagan so far.10:03 a.m.--Cejka cannot be stopped. Another birdie at the 10th. He's 11 under, leading by three over Ben Crane. Is this the Brian Gay story from Harbour Town all over again, a runaway in the making? Time to seriously Czech this guy out.9:57 a.m.--More fashion, but on the dark side. The Euro Tour just came on Golf Channel and Long John Daly was just seen chipping on a par 5. He's got a light green shirt and dark slacks with some kind of mutant paisley pattern. Florida Times-Union golf writer Garry Smits quips, "Last time we saw those, they were curtains at a Holiday Inn." Let's not insult Holiday Inns. Marty Hackel, Fashion Maven, please call John Daly immediately.9:48 a.m.--For the Marty Hackel fan club, here's what the erstwhile golf fashion guru has on today: white long-sleeved shirt, sleeves rolled up; salmon-colored slacks and a dark tie. Impeccable. Yesterday it was the bright kelly-green slacks. Hey, people want to know.9:45 a.m.--PhilWatch alert. Mickelson just bogeyed the 14th hole, three-putting from 20 feet. His first putt sailed eight feet past. He's now 2 over par, 12 shots off the lead and two shots off the cutline. Go to DefCon 3.9:41 a.m.--Phil (Special) K. has a good question. Add K.J. Choi to Adam Scott in the what ever happened to him category. I'm not sure what's currently up with K.J. He got off to a good start, was third at Riviera. Now he has missed four of his last five cuts and he's one over par here. No answers, my friend,
only questions. The stats say it could be his short game. he ranks 150th in scramling from inside ten yards and 175th in overall putting average. That's not good. He's 150th in straight-up putts per round. Maybe that biggie-sized putter grip has lost its magic.9:37 a.m.--About the SI cover jinx, as proposed by Charlie (The Hangman) Hanger. Not likely. There was Brian Gay on the cover, the Pitt basketball team, the New England Patriots and their perfect record before the Super Bowl, Tom Brady, Wilt Chamberlain, the Hindenburg and Drew Peterson. I don't see any jinx. George W. Bush was never on the cover, was he?9:35 a.m.--Watson isn't on Golf Channel anymore. I guess that Shell's match is over. But Watson is on the leaderboard. Bubba Watson, not Tom, birdied the first hole moments ago and jumped to six under and a tie for third with Camilo Villegas, John Mallinger and Richard Johnson. 9:32 a.m.--A PhilWatch update: Pars on 12 and 13. Two putts from 62 feet for par at 13 and 22 feet at 12. Still on the wrong side of the cut line.9:28 a.m.--Alex Cejka, your leader, cooled off. He parred the eighth hole so now he's 4-4 in the pars versus birdies category. For those of you charting shots at home (get a life--try Star Trek), Cejka birdied the par-5 second after pitching his third shot to ten feet, holed a 17-footer from the fringe at the par-3 third (can't tell whether he chipped or putted from Shotlink), sank a 14-foot putt at the fourth and stuffed his approach shot to two feet at the seventh. He's been hitting it close all day and judging by other scores so far--Will MacKenzie birdied three of his first four, Chad Campbell has just birdied his firt two--it looks to be another relatively low-scoring day at a course where low-scoring days are as common as Brian Gay shooting 80. Maybe that's a poor analogy. See below.9:21 a.m.--As long as we're talking picks, I could mention proudly about how my pick is doing. That was straight-hitting Brian Gay, who won at Harbour Town by, like, 27 shots. My man Gay had only one 9 yesterday, and shot 80. I just checked the scoreboard to see how he's doing today and, oops, his name isn't on the board. Did he withdrew, I ask a tour media official? Affirmative. Reason? Illness. Sick of shooting 80, perhaps? No, more likely a case of shooting 80 because he was sick. Luckily, no one remembers who you picked to win unless you bring it up yourself and write about it--damn. 9:17 a.m.--The eagle has landed. (I'll be no one in history has ever said that before.) Sean O'Hair just notched the first eagle of Round Two at the 11th hole. He hit his approach to 9 feet 2 inches, Shotlink says, and holed the putt. That gets him from below the cut line to above it at 1 under par. My SI colleague Damon Hack picked O'Hair to win this week, a fact he kept reminding me about pretty much all day yesterday when O'Hair was playing well, not so much after Sean missed the 17th green wide left.9:12 a.m.--Today's PhilWatch has already begun. Not looking too good so far. Phil parred the first two holes. Starting on the back, he missed a good birdie opportunity at the par-5 11th, where he missed the green just left, pitched on to six feet and missed the birdie putt. It must've been slick because Shotlink says his second putt was almost four feet. He just hit onto the 12th green and has a 22-footer for birdie. By the way, he's 11 shots behind leader Alex Cejka, who just birdied the seventh, his fourth birdie of the morning. Perhaps I should switch from PhilWatch to the CejkaCheck.9:08 a.m.--I'm sure I am among many who wonder what ever happened to Adam Scott. Ii watched him tee off Thursday on No. 1 and he hit a big, big slice. It was so far right, he was right of the fairway bunker. Rush Limbaugh was probably in the vicinity. That's way right. Today, Adam teed off on the back nine and, according to Shotlink/Shot Tracker, he hit it off the map. He's off the hole diagram in the white area. Then he chipped back to the fairway, hit it on the green and three-putted for a double. He's one over par which, if the cut was made right now, he'd be out. Let's see if he can rally.9 a.m.--It's already getting crazy. Fred Couples is three under par and he's pummeling Tom Watson wearing an old Ram hat and this is incredible and... wait. This isn't the Players telecast on Golf Channel I'm watching. It's an old, old Shell's Wonderful World of Golf match. No wonder Watson's swing looks so good. Although on second glance, life imitates history. The Freddie of 2009 has already teed off in the second round on the back nine at the Stadium Course and birdied the first two holes. That gets him back to six over. At least he still looks good. I saw him yesterday, apparently trying to take a shortcut from the adjacent Marriott to the tour fitness van through the media center and watched him try several doors trying to get out of the media dining area. He had on gym shorts and a T-shirt. "Trapped in the media center of doom!" I told him. He laughed but he didn't slow down on his way out. Can't wait for him to be in charge at the Presidents Cup. That team is going to have fun.

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