7:00b Be sure to catch up with Gary Van Sickle blogging at 9am tomorrow. The baton is his!!!
7:00 I think I should end on this one, folks. From Stewart Cink (via ground control) on the dressing habits (or lack thereof) of Jason Dufner: "Reliable source says Jason Dufner left important part of wardrobe behind today and is going commando. Remarkable considering 90deg heat." No boxers or briefs for Mr. Dufner! He's 4-under. I guess he'll go commando the rest of his career. (I'm thinking Nuke LaLoosh from Bull Durham). And there you have it. It's dinner time on the East Coast, nearing the end of the work day out West (where everybody is understandably consumed with Manny Ramirez news). Thanks readers, emailers and all lovers of golf. Good night and good luck! 6:52 Plenty of good seats available on Pete Dye and Deane Beman's mound between 17 and 18 as these final groups come through. Day is almost over. 6:45 15-minute warning, gang! If you have a question for this blogging, twittering Jesse, get it in now! 6:34 Just got word from ground control that Nick Faldo is saying nutty things late in the Golf Channel broadcast. He said Paul Casey looked like he was putting in a bathtub and then he commented on Casey's get-up. "Wonder what instrument he played in the band?" Ouch, Nick! Casey was one of your captain's picks in the Ryder Cup last year. (Well, maybe Nick's being mean because Casey went 0-1-2). 6:31 Phil finds fairway on 18, hits it close, and ends with a birdie. Nice finish to a rollercoaster round of 73. He's 8 off the lead and, not to be overlooked, 2 behind Tiger Woods. 6:25 Wait a second, who does Cink think he is, the Associated Press? Actually, glad to see Cink Twittering. He's got a large following (I'm one of them). He Tweets, he shoots 70 (as he did today at Sawgrass). He does it all! 6:21 Breaking news from Stewart Cink's Twitter. Garrath Lord, the caddie for Robert Karlsson, won the caddie-closest-to-the-pin-on-17 contest Wednesday. "Yesterday's winning caddy Garrath Lord hit it 6'0" and picked up a new laptop, an iPod, and about $3000," Cink wrote. 6:15 Sean O'Hair (my pick to win) is logging some bad memories at 17. Two years ago, he knocked two in the water while in pursuit of Phil Mickelson. Today, he pulled his short iron left of the green, finding water again. Not good for the scorecard (or my street cred). 6:08 Phil finds land on the island green. Two putt par. Exhale. One more to go… 5:57 Phil couldn't get up and down, made bogey on 16, and now is two over after being three under through four holes. And now he has to play 17 and 18?? Phil is in danger of bogeying himself out of the championship. 5:53 Check that…the par-5 16th hole. 5:50 More bad news, Phil fanatics. Your man just hit his approach shot on the par-5 second in the water. He can still get up and down for par, but his back nine has been a struggle after he began his round so beautifully. I guess that's why they play 18 holes. 5:43 I should also add Sergio Garcia v. Paul Goydos from the Players Championship last year. (Garcia beat Goydos in a playoff) That was great theater, in large part because of the contrast in styles (ages, world rankings, bank accounts, wins, etc.) In case you wondered, there will be no repeat magic for Goydos. He opened with a six-over 78. 5:38 Reader Patrick weighs in on the press room talk about the lack of star power atop leader board:
"This is part of what is wrong with so much sports coverage these days. We fans like seeing under dogs and unknowns, while the people who cover the events want the most famous names to be at the top all the time. It makes for easier stories."
I hear you Patrick, but I think there is a happy medium. I, for one, love the Tiger v. Rocco Mediate/Bob May battles (or even Phil v. Sean O'Hair, Players '07). I think an underdog against a star beats a bunch of underdogs against a bunch of underdogs every time. Tiger v. Phil (according to ratings anyway) seems to top them all. 5:25 Phil, when it's breezy, swing easy, bro! Mickelson is swinging out of his shoes and the ball is flying all over the place. He just missed the fairway right. (Camilo, another guy who goes after it with fury, just drove into the pine needles on seven.) Sometimes I think Phil is so in love with distance, that he puts himself in harm's way far too often. This is not a course you need to overpower. Get it in play (like you did in '07 with that shortened swing) and go from there. 5:15 I played this TPC once - once! – and it nearly destroyed me. Shot a million that day. It is a brutal test. I hit into the water on 17, but saved bogey after nestling (love that word) my third shot to 25 feet and rolling in the putt. Sweetest bogey ever.
5:07 An hour ago half the scribes in this press room were ready to hand Phil Mickelson his second crystal trophy. I was among them. Now, he's riding a vicious bogey train, dropping three shots in four holes. It's going to be interesting to watch him play 16, 17 and 18. Won't be easy. 5:00 I'm happy to see NBC analyst Mark Rolfing back on the course after completing a stint in alcohol rehab. I don't know Mark well, but I met him a couple of times when I was just getting started on the golf beat at Newsday, and he was always friendly. I wish him the best. 4:53 When I was 10 years old, I learned how to juggle. Seriously. I can still do it, too. Golf balls. Tennis balls. Now the talent is helping me blog and twitter simultaneously. If you are a Twitterer as well, check out pithy golf and NFL tidbits at www.twitter.com/SI_DamonHack 4:45 Can Phil get it to the house without leaking any more oil? He's suddenly hitting it all over the place. Just bogeyed 12 to fall to even. I remain captivated by the guy. I'll never forget standing on the 72nd hole at Winged Foot in '06, ready to watch Mickelson claim his third straight major. Tiger had missed the cut. The sun was setting. The world was Mickelson's. "Dude's about to own the sport," I remember thinking. Then he made double and hasn't won a major since. I also thought Phil was ready to take over the sport when he won the Players in '07 weeks after teaming up with Butch Harmon. Then he got hurt in the rough at Oakmont and he's been up and down since. I'll never stop watching though. The guy is a walking E ticket ride. 4:35 Reader Joe is angry that Tiger Woods wasn't shown on TV. I'll explain. The tee times of most golf tournaments are typically split between morning and afternoon. Today, you get Phil (since Tiger teed off in the morning). Tomorrow, you get Tiger. (Phil will be done, having teed off in the morning). 4:30 Fred Couples finds the drink on 13!!!!!!! Never a good thing!!!!!!! 4:19 I thought Brandel Chamblee's analysis of Sergio Garcia's woes spot on. Chamblee basically said that Mickelson's close calls in majors motivated him, and that Garcia's seem to destroy his spirit. Garcia, despite winning the Players last year, is in a huge funk. He was moody at the Masters and continued to have bad mojo following his 71 in the first round at the Players today. What is going to be the end game with Sergio? Multi major winner? A one-time major winner? None? 4:13 Email from reader Wes says Phil Mickelson knows how to take risks and display his tremendous ability. Hmmmm. I'd say he has unquestioned talent, but I think his risk-taking has cost him through the years as much as helped him. (Bay Hill '02, Winged Foot '06 spring to mind). That said, his short game is ridiculously good. In that race, it's between him and Tiger. 4:04 Some members of press room corps complaining about the lack of star power atop the leader board, what with John Mallinger, Johnson (Richard S., not Zach), Brad Adamonis and Ben Crane. 3:55 Sean O'Hair (my pick) turns in even-par 36. Now, he heads to the back nine… 3:49 Lot of press room chatter about the big news of the day: Dodger Manny Ramirez's 50-game drug suspension by MLB. (Full disclosure: I grew up a HUGE Dodger fan in Los Angeles). So is this what they mean by Manny being Manny? 3:45 Two-putt birdie for Phil. He's back to two under, four behind leaders John Mallinger and Richard S. Johnson. The leader board is a jigsaw puzzle. Way too early to know how this thing is going to shake out. 3:40 Jim Furyk, an annual pick to win the Players (including this year by Sports Illustrated's Anonymous Pro) just hit it close on 18. He's three under in his first eight holes (he started on 10) and may finally get it right this year. 3:34 The good and bad Phil continues. The bad? Two bogeys in three holes. The good? He just reached the par-5 ninth in two mighty clouts, the second from 271 yards out. 3:21 How's this start from Masters Champ Angel Cabrera? Triple, birdie, birdie, birdie, bogey, bogey, eagle. Adds up to par through seven holes. As my colleague Gary Van Sickle just pointed out, imagine if a writer from Buenos Aires just called the Players Championship press room?
Buenos Aires reporter: "How's Cabrera doing?"
Press room official: "Even par through seven."
Buenos Aires reporter: "Geez, boring round. Thanks, good bye." 3:11 Briny Baird and his PF Chang's brim getting tons of TV time on Golf Channel. I mean, who doesn't love PF Chang's? Mongolian Beef, Chang's Spare Ribs, and an afternoon nap. 3:04 For the record, I picked Sean O'Hair to the win the Players Championship. For the record, he's even-par through six holes. Give him time, people, it's early. 2:55 Stephen Ames, best known for taking a 9 and 8 beat down from Tiger Woods in the Match Play a few years back, is rolling at the TPC. He won here in '06, got clipped by Craig Perks in '02, and is cruising at four under through 8 holes. Ames must be taken seriously on this track. 2:51 Phil misss putt on the high side (better than missing on the amateur side, I guess) and makes bogey to drop back to two under. 2:48 Phil hits low punch left of green, pitches on and has 8 feet left for par. 2:42 Phil is in the trees on No. 6! Will he hit it left-handed? Right-handed? Cross-handed? Stay tuned! 2:37 While we were sleeping, Jeev Milkha Singh became the best Singh in golf, and Vijay became the other Singh. Forget the World Golf Rankings. Jeev is on leader boards every other week it seems. Old Veej? Can barely find him these days. For the record, Jeev opened with a 68 today, Vijay with a 71. 2:33 What's the over/under on how many times we'll see highlights of 1982 champ Jerry Pate diving into the water at the 18th after shoving Pete Dye and Deane Beman in first? I'll start the bidding at 20. 2:25 Good feature today in USA Today on the other par 3 holes at TPC Sawgrass. The 17th is the most famous, but the others have teeth too. Anthony Kim just found that out on the par-3 13th. Tee shot in the drink. Agony. 2:22 Phil Mickelson has made three straight birdies in his first four holes. The guy is devouring the course early and could supplant Tiger as the No. 1 player if he wins. Who is the best player in the world on May 7, 2009? Tiger or Phil? The floor is yours! 2:19 Reader Francisco wants to know if Camilo Villegas can crack the Top 3. In this tournament, yes. In the world, I'm not sure. Lots of traffic up there (Tiger, Phil, Sergio, on and on), but Camilo has the tools to at least be a Top 10 player for a long time. Bombs it off the tee, good iron player, streaky putter. 2:05 Welcome to the afternoon edition of the golf.com Players blog. I am picking up for Jim Gorant, aka Mr. Villanova. Good to be with you. If you want to talk golf, you've come to the right place. Tiger just finished his post-round interview (he shot 71). Phil is out there on the course, two under through three holes, and Rory McIroy, the boy wonder from Northern Ireland, just got a taste of American golf, Pete Dye style. He hit his tee shot on the dreaded island 17th in the water. Didn't even touch the green. Welcome to the states, kid!