Players Championship: Tommy Fleetwood shares lead at windy TPC Sawgrass in round two

By Peter ScrivenerBBC Sport at TPC Sawgrass
Tommy Fleetwood in round two action at TPC Sawgrass
Tommy Fleetwood is looking to become the first Englishman to win the Players Championship
Players Championship, round two leaderboard
-6 T Fleetwood (Eng)*, T Hoge (US)*; -5 J Niemann (Chi)*, K Mitchell (US)*, A Lahiri (Ind)*
Selected:-3 B Watson (US), J Thomas (US), J Rahm (Spa)*; -2 D Johnson (US), P Casey (Eng)*, T Hatton (Eng)*; -1 V Hovland (Nor)*; Level R Knox (Sco)*, M Laird (Sco)*; +2 R McIlroy (NI), S Scheffler (US); +4 C Morikawa (US)
* denotes yet to start or complete round two

Strong winds blew away the storms that have blighted the Players Championship as round two finally got under way on Saturday at TPC Sawgrass in Florida.

However, those winds wreaked havoc on the par-three 17th and its island green with 29 balls hit in the lake, compared with just four on the first two days.

England's Tommy Fleetwood has played three holes of round two and continues to share the lead on six under.

Rory McIlroy, the 2019 champion, is two over after completing two rounds.

The Northern Irishman was among 47 players who had to finish their first rounds when play resumed at 12:00 (17:00 GMT) on Saturday after hope of morning play was wiped out by another thunderstorm.

And he faces a long and anxious wait to discover if he will make the halfway cut after carding two one-over-par 73s. The top 65 and ties will play the final two rounds and McIlroy is current joint-84th.

"It was brutal out there," he said. "Hitting those tee shots on 17 and 18 and just keeping them dry and walking forward is nice."

On his tee shot on the 17th, McIlroy said he hit a seven iron 123 yards, explaining that in normal conditions he would hit it 185 yards.

When asked what his thoughts were while standing on the tee, he replied: "Basically, the green's a big massive dartboard, and you're like, just hit it anywhere on there."

On his hopes of playing the final two rounds, he added: "I might be one short. For the 21 holes that I played today, I was one over par, which I thought was pretty good in the conditions."

McIlroy was playing with defending champion Justin Thomas, and the American compiled a stunning bogey-free 69 to move to three under for the championship. No-one has ever won successive Players Championship titles.

No Englishman has ever won the title either. McIlroy's win three years ago and Scotsman Sandy Lyle's 1987 triumph are the only victories by UK golfers.

Fleetwood is in prime position to build on his excellent first-round 66 when he resumes his second round at 08:15 local time on Sunday.

He birdied the second and bogeyed the third before darkness fell on Saturday.

But, after completing his first round on Thursday, he appears to have missed the windiest conditions, with the 35mph gusts that buffeted the course on Saturday forecast to weaken on Sunday.

American Tom Hoge, who also carded a 66 on Thursday to join Fleetwood in the lead, was one of 24 players who were unable to get their second rounds started on Saturday.

Despite the first round taking 54 hours and 16 minutes to complete, tournament organisers are "confident" that the champion will be crowned on Monday.

Windy conditions make 17th brutal

TPC Sawgrass is celebrating its 40th anniversary as home to the PGA Tour's $20m (£15.2m) flagship event. The Stadium Course was purpose-built to host this tournament and the 136-yard 17th has been the scene of so much drama over the years.

It has been built like an amphitheatre and is flanked on three sides by huge mounds and stands that shelter the players and make judging the wind difficult.

Open champion Collin Morikawa, who was playing with McIlroy, struggled in round one, backing away from his tee shot several times before hitting into the water. He did so again in round two as he followed an opening 73 with a 75 to end on four over.

Four-time major winner Brooks Koepka laughed out loud after also dunking balls in both rounds. The hole cost him five shots on Saturday, with a double bogey in round one and a triple in the second. He will be heading home after signing for a nine-over 81.

"There was nothing I could do. I hit a gust of wind. You catch some gusts and the wrong shot, the wrong gust, you make some numbers," he said.

And spare a thought for Sepp Straka. The Austrian was one off the lead on five under when he walked onto the 17th tee. He walked off the green on one under, two balls in the water and four shots gone.

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