Rory Ties Fleetwood for Players Lead

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and Tommy Fleetwood of England would have to vote for March.

McIlroy (pictured left) shot 7-under-par 65 to catch Fleetwood, who had a 67, and tie for the lead midway through the 47th Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

The tournament is being played in March for the first time since 2006, moving back from May.

“It was a pretty good day since I started with a bogey on the first hole,” said McIlroy, who has finished sixth or better in all five of his PGA Tour events this year, but has not won in more than 12 months. “I felt I came back well. I made pars on sough tough holes on the front nine and made a nice birdie on the eighth hole to get me going.

“It was another good day on the course and I’m happy the way things are going. It would be wonderful to win, but that’s too early to talk about. I hope to end up with the trophy on Sunday, but there’s a lot of golf left to be played.”

McIlroy played the last seven holes in 7-under, including a nine-foot eagle putt on the 16th hole, to tie Fleetwood at 12-under 232.

Fleetwood started birdie-eagle-birdie, holing a 45-foot bunker shot on the second hole, and added three birdies on the back nine.

“I got off to a fast start today, but the course got more difficult as the day went on,” said Fleetwood, who has seven victories as a pro but none in the United States. “The course is firming up and the greens are getting a little crispy after they were pretty soft yesterday morning. But, all in all, I’m very happy with my game.

“For us growing up in Europe, it’s definitely a different game over here, but I’ve always enjoyed it. It’s always tough, but my game’s getting better. It have yet get to win over here, but hopefully it’s coming.”

Jim Furyk, 48, had the low round of the day with a bogey-free 64 and is three strokes back in a tie for third with Ian Poulter of England and Abraham Ancer of Mexico, who both totaled 66, and Brian Harman, who had a 69.

Jason Day of Australia, the 2016 Players champion, totaled 66 and is another shot behind in a tie for seventh with Keith Mitchell, the Honda Classic champion, who wound up at 65, and Kevin Kisner, who posted a second 68.

Top-ranked Dustin Johnson carded a 68 and is five strokes down in a tie for 10th with 10th-ranked Jon Rahm (68) of Spain, Luke List (68), Vaughn Taylor (70), J.T. Poston (69), Byeong Hun An (71) of South Korea and Rory Sabbatini (69) of Slovakia.

Fifth-ranked Bryson DeChambeau of Clovis had a 69 and is in a tie for 20th that includes 2008 Players champion Sergio Garcia of Spain, who had a 70, while second-ranked Justin Rose of England shot 66 and is in a tie for 29th that includes defending champion Webb Simpson, who recorded a second 70.

Two-time Players champion Tiger Woods totaled 71, despite a quadruple-bogey 7 when he hit into the water twice at No. 17, and is in a tie for 39th that includes ninth-ranked Rickie Fowler of Murrieta, the 2015 Players champion, who had a 67.

Seventh-ranked Francesco Molinari is tied for 57th after a 70, while third-ranked Brooks Koepka had a 71 and is in a tie for 67th that includes fourth-ranked Justin Thomas, who came in at 72.

Eighth-ranked Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State finished at 74 and missed the cut by one stroke, and 2007 Players champion Phil Mickelson missed the weekend by four shots after a second 74.

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