Players Championship: Tiger Woods scrapes into weekend, but McIlroy and Matsuyama among stars to miss cut
Three of world's top 10 players endure forgettable day on course but American manages to make cut
Three of the world's top-10 in Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy and Hideki Matsuyama, along with five-time major winner Phil Mickelson, found themselves with the weekend off after missing the cut in the Players Championship on Friday.
World No 6 Fowler had to use a pair of binoculars in unsuccessfully trying to locate his golf ball in a palm tree on the sixth hole at TPC Sawgrass - his 15th of the day.
He ended up with the first of back-to-back double-bogeys, his one-under round of 71 giving the 2015 winner of the tournament a one-over total that saw him miss the cut by two shots.
World No 8 McIlroy went into his second round at one-under par but after six straight opening pars the Northern Ireland star found himself outside of the cut-off mark with back-to-back bogeys at the seventh and eighth.
Four birdies and two more bogeys from the ninth through the 16th saw him arrive at the 17th even for the day and flirting with the cut.
However, his tee shot into the island green at 17 hit the front of the putting surface and spun back into the water.
McIlroy, 29, recorded a double-bogey and signed for a 74 that saw him join Fowler at one-over.
Japan's Matsuyama, ranked ninth in the world, bounced back from a first-round 79 with a 69 - but he, too, took a double-bogey at 17 and missed the cut for the second week in a row.
Mickelson, like Matsuyama, had opened with a 79, admitting his battle for a share of fifth at Quail Hollow last week had left him tired. Mickelson's more respectable 73 on Friday never put him in range of the cut line.
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Simpson in the lead
Webb Simpson's bid for a 59 ended agonisingly with a ball in the water guarding the famed island green at 17 on Friday, but his record-equalling 63 gave him a five-shot lead.
Former US Open champion Simpson, 32, had tournament officials delving into the history books when he birdied six holes in succession from the 11th through 16th holes at TPC Sawgrass, storming to 17-under par and a seven-shot lead on the field.
But his tee shot at the par-three 17th hit the wooden bulkhead surrounding the green, soaring high into the air before hitting the surface and rolling into the drink.
Simpson played his third shot from the drop zone en route to a humbling double-bogey five.
It was the only blemish in a course-record-equalling round that included an eagle at the second hole and nine birdies.
Simpson's 15-under total of 129 equalled the 36-hole tournament record set by Jason Day in 2015 and gave him a five-shot lead over South African Charl Schwartzel (66), New Zealand's Danny Lee (66) and Patrick Cantlay (68).
"When you're out there competing in a big tournament, you're as focused as can be, but then at a certain point, maybe on 13 today, you start just - like a kid, just kind of laughing," said Simpson, whose run of six straight birdies also matched a tournament record.
"Everything is going in. You feel like no matter what, you're going to make it, and I grew up on an easy golf course, so it reminded me of being back home, shooting low numbers.
"At the same time you're at TPC Sawgrass, so you know that trouble is everywhere, as you guys saw with me on 17.
"But it was just a fun day. And it's rare as a golfer where everything is working well, driving, iron play, chipping and putting, and today everything came together."
There were plenty of marquee names who couldn't say the same.
Tiger Woods settled for a one-under par 71 and then endured an anxious afternoon wait before knowing he had made the cut on the number of one-under.
Woods hit just 12 greens in regulation and was never inside 10 feet with his approach shots.
"I just never hit it close enough," he said. "The course could have been had today. It's so hot, it's playing short and the greens are receptive."
Nevertheless, the 14-time major champion will play the weekend for the seventh time in eight events he has played this year in his return from back surgery.
Updated: May 12, 2018 08:58 AM