PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) – Playing with a heavy heart and the initials "CA'' on his hat, Ryan Palmer managed to keep his composure before and during the second round of The Players Championship on Friday.
After was a different story.
Playing just hours after the death of one of his best friends, Palmer got a little emotional following his par putt on the 18th green.
"The day was over so I kind of let it all out for a minute,'' Palmer said after a 3-under 69 that left him at 8-under 136 and squarely in contention at TPC Sawgrass.
Palmer got the call Thursday night that Clay Aderholt was killed in a car accident in San Antonio earlier in the evening.
He talked to friends and his psychologist, whose advice focused on “being real calm and slow out there and just not getting too emotional.''
Palmer kept the tips in mind, which he credited with helping him get through an up-and-down round that featured five bogeys, four birdies and two eagles.
"I had some rough holes, but I stayed strong, stayed positive and kept in the present, and that got me through,'' Palmer said.
Palmer said he and Aderholt grew up together in Amarillo, Texas, attending the same middle and high schools as well as going to college together at Texas A&M.
"All the way back to as long as I can remember,'' Palmer said.
Palmer will enter Saturday's third round in a three-way tie for sixth, three strokes behind leader Sergio Garcia.
He said his short game `"saved'' him Friday, and anyone who watched him play the Stadium Course knew exactly what he was talking about. He drained a putt from just off the green for eagle at No. 9 and chipped in from a bunker on the 11th for another. It was the first time he's ever managed two eagles in the same tournament, let alone the same round.
"You've got to have things happen like that to be in contention to win, so I've had some things go my way,'' said Palmer, who never considered withdrawing from the field. “If we keep playing well and get a few more breaks on the weekend, who knows? We'll see what happens.''
CASTRO STUMBLES: Roberto Castro's stay atop the leaderboard at The Players was short-lived.
The 27-year-old Castro, who shot 9 under Thursday, followed the round of his life with one to forget. He shot a 6-over 78 in the second round Friday and dropped into a tie for 29th.
Despite the stumble, his outlook remained positive.
"I wouldn't have been embarrassed or felt bad or anything if I would have shot two 76s this week,'' Castro said. “It's a hard golf course. I'm 3-under par and beating 110 of the best players in the world through 36 holes. So I just kept telling myself, `it's not easy, it's not easy, it's not easy.'''
Only five golfers – Derek Ernst, Brian Harman, George McNeill, Greg Owen and Y.E. Yang – had worse second rounds than Castro.
Castro, though, preferred to focus on his finish. After making a birdie, five bogeys and a double through 12 holes, he settled down and made six consecutive pars.
"It was huge,'' he said. "I was 6-over par and sitting there looking at 16, 17 and 18. I saw (Thursday) every hole on the course is hard, so it was nice to finish with six really solid holes.''
HEADED HOME: Eleven former major winners, including Vijay Singh, headed home after missing the cut at The Players. Fourteen other major winners advanced to the third round.
Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Ernie Els, Graeme McDowell, Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink, Geoff Ogilvy, David Toms, Keegan Bradley and Y.E. Yang joined Singh in getting the weekend off.
Singh sued the PGA Tour on Wednesday for exposing him to "public humiliation and ridicule'' during a 12-week investigation into his use of deer antler spray. The tour dropped its case last week.
The lawsuit and its timing raised eyebrows, especially since The Players is the Tour's flagship event. Singh's presence at TPC Sawgrass this week, though, caused few, if any, distractions.
EAGLE SIGHTINGS: The par-4 18th has historically been the toughest hole on the Stadium Course.
And it's playing that way again this week – but not without a couple of historic exceptions.
After surrendering just two eagles over the previous 31 years during The Players, the finishing hole has given up two in as many days. Marc Leishman accomplished the feat Friday, holing out with a wedge from 172 yards away. Jason Dufner carded an eagle there Thursday.
"As soon as I hit it, it looked like it was pretty good, and it was it pretty good,'' Leishman said.
DIVOTS: The PGA Tour's longest active streak of cuts ended Friday when Billy Horschel put two balls in the water on No. 18. Horschel had made 23 consecutive cuts. He shot a 1-under 71 in the second round, finished at 3 over and missed the cut by three strokes. "It's a new learning situation,'' Horschel said. "I should have made the cut. The mistakes I made were just simple mistakes. Obviously, I didn't make enough birdies to offset them like I have in the past.'' … Dustin Johnson (lower back) and Colt Knost (neck, spine) withdrew before the second round with injuries. … The tournament encountered some parking issues Friday, with spectators getting turned away from full lots. Gorgeous weather and an increase in tickets put up for sale resulted in an estimated record crowd for the second round at TPC Sawgrass.