The Players Championship is barrelling towards a Monday finish at best, however tournament organisers are confident they will not need to stretch into Tuesday despite rain and the threat of thunderstorms continuing to plague the week.
After two separate delays on Thursday which saw over half the field fail to finish their first rounds, nearly three inches of rain led to play being suspended for “unplayable conditions” with 48 players still to complete 18 holes at TPC Sawgrass, which has led to fears that the tournament could be extended by two days.
With heavy winds around 60mph rolling into Sawgrass early on Saturday morning, play will not resume until at least 11am ET (4pm GMT), meaning organisers are facing the possibility of further delays that could have a knock-on effect to the finish.
Obviously it is not a good look for the PGA Tour’s flagship event, which has been blessed with good weather for the last few years but has finally run afoul of Mother Nature this time.
Despite the lengthy delays, organisers are still confident of a Monday finish, with chief referee Gary Young saying: “If our calculations on everything hold together and we’re able to start tomorrow, we certainly expect to be finished with the championship on Monday.”
These delays are having a massive impact on players, some of whom finished their first rounds on Thursday but may not return to the course until Sunday morning if there are any further delays, with Ireland’s Shane Lowry among those who could fall into that category.
Seamus Power and Rory McIlroy, meanwhile, fall into the group of players who are yet to hand in their scorecards for their first 18 holes, with Power one-under thru 14 holes and McIlroy one-over sitting in the middle of the fairway on the par-five 16th.
McIlroy returned to the course on Friday morning having played his first two holes in level-par and immediately picked up two shots with a birdie at the par-three third from 11-feet and then he holed out from off the green for a three at the par-four fourth.
But after that things went downhill for the World No.6, who dropped a shot at the par-four sixth after finding a greenside bunker and then two more after the turn, again not making up-and-down from a bunker at the par-four 10th and then a wild drive led to a bogey at the par-four 14th.
Similarly, Power resumed with a 25-footer for birdie at his first hole, the par-five 11th, but he gave it back after a wayward drive at the par-four 12th and then dropped another shot at the par-three 13th after a three-putt.
The Waterford man did what many others cannot and holed an 18-footer for birdie at the famous par-three 17th, however again he gave it back to the course with a bogey at the par-four 18th to drop back to one-over.
But a superb approach to 13-feet on the par-five second led to an eagle to move into red figures, and three pars after that has him standing on the sixth tee at one-under and the best-placed of the Irish.
Spare a thought for Lowry, too. The Clara man hasn’t struck a ball in anger since Thursday evening and, if the weather delays persist, he might not be back on the Stadium Course until late on Saturday or potentially even Sunday needing a big second round to make the cut after a one-over 73.
At the top, Tommy Fleetwood and Tom Hoge’s six-under 66s were not surpassed in the limited playing time on Friday, but it was matched by Brice Garnett, who is six-under thru 13 holes after an eagle and four birdies in a thus far bogey-free effort.
The highlight of his round was that eagle, Garnett holing out from 96 yards on the par-four fourth, and he said of the conditions: “It wasn’t bad. It was pretty benign with the wind. Got wet a little bit early, but we weren’t expecting to get 14 holes in, I guess, 13, 14 holes.
“Just got off to a pretty good start, made a couple of good putts early, and the shot on four was definitely a bonus right before the horn.”
Six birdies and a bogey has Daniel Berger among the group one shot back at five-under, with the four-time PGA Tour winner resuming with a 40-footer for birdie on the par-three 17th, with playing partner Dustin Johnson looking at a 20-footer for birdie sitting at four-under after six birdies and two bogeys.
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