x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Cejka leading field by a neck

Alex Cejka proved a pain in the neck for his rivals at the Players Championship.

FLORIDA // Alex Cejka proved a pain in the neck for his rivals at the Players Championship. The United States-based German fired a five-under par 67 to lead the tournament at the 7,215-yard TPC Sawgrass, near Jacksonville, by two strokes from Briton Ian Poulter. And this was despite needing an epidural injection to ease the pain in a long-troubled neck.

"I had a pinched nerve and I had a numb arm for three weeks," Cejka said. "So they had to go in there and put some cortisone shots in the nerve, so it's healing better. "It's still not 100 per cent but I feel my hand, so that's a good sign." Cejka, 39, who is still searching for his maiden PGA Tour victory after playing full time in the United States since 2003,began the day at six under par, a shot behind early leader Ben Crane.

But he quickly moved past his American rival with three birdies in a row over the first four holes in his 67, 11-under for the tournament. Second-placed Poulter saw his fortunes prosper on day two as he conquered the par-fives at Sawgrass. In a round of five birdies and one bogey, the Englishman went around the four par-fives in three under, compared with level par in round one. "I think it was key to try to take advantage of the par-fives today and I certainly did not do that yesterday," Poulter said.

"If I could do that playing the way I've been playing and taking advantage of a couple of the [par] fours then I can shoot a good score, and that's what I did. I birdied three of them and made a great par on the second hole." Poulter was also pleased to have carded just one bogey for the second day in a row. "It's been solid the last few weeks and it's been nice to bring that into The Players and play well," he added.

Lying behind Cejka and Poulter on seven under par were Americans Kevin Na, John Mallinger and Jason Dufner, Masters champion Angel Cabrera, who shot a 65 and Henrik Stenson of Sweden (69). * PA Sport