PONTE VEDRA BEACH (Florida) • Tiger Woods probably thought he had encountered everything in professional golf - until a freakish Friday at the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.
In virtually the final acts of the second round, the most unlikely set of events handed the 14-time Major winner salvation after a one-under 71 for a total of 143 had left him heading for an early exit.
Woods found himself afforded cut-line hope as Justin Thomas, one of golf's most unflappable figures, fluffed a chip at the 18th en route to a bogey.
But he still needed assistance to move back inside the top 70 and it was provided unwittingly by Jordan Spieth. The Texan three-putted the final green, with these instances of non-deliberate mercy sufficient to hand the Players a boost by way of Woods' involvement today and tomorrow.
"I didn't quite swing it right today," Woods admitted. "That's golf, unfortunately. If we were able to put all of our facets of the game together, there would be a lot more tournament winners out here. But this is just part of the job.
"We have to figure out a way to put it together and I have not done that consistently this year so far."
His reprieve was in contrast to events surrounding Rory McIlroy. The Northern Irishman had also flirted with the cut before finding water at the 17th for a 74 and a total of 145, which meant the world No. 8 missed the cut by two shots.
Two other players in the world's top 10 - Rickie Fowler and Hideki Matsuyama - along with five-time Major winner Phil Mickelson joined McIlroy in making an early exit.
Sixth-ranked Fowler carded a 71 for a total of 145, while ninth-ranked Matsuyama could not bounce despite shooting 69 for a total of 148. Mickelson's 73 for a 152 total never put him in range of the cut.
Webb Simpson's bid for a 59 ended agonisingly with a ball in the water, but his course record-equalling 63 gave him a five-shot lead. The 2012 US Open champion had officials delving into the history books when he birdied six holes from the 11th to 16th, but his streak came to grief with a double bogey at the famed island green par-three 17th.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN
THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP
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