Simpson leads Players by 5 after sizzling 63

Webb Simpson had a day to remember and one shot to forget.

Simpson tied the course record with a 9-under-par 63 on Pete Dye’s Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, despite hitting his tee shot into the water on the dye-obolical 17th hole, to take a five-stroke lead over three players after two rounds of the Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

“Everything was working and it was fun today,” said Simpson, who won the 2012 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. “Putts that I was just trying to get close were going in. I just tried to ride the momentum.

“ … I backed off (his shot at the 17th hole) a couple times because the wind was gusting. I felt I hit the shot pretty good, might have just blocked it a bit, but it wasn’t really a mistake maybe just the wrong club.

“But I played great today, so I just have to block out 17 and just keep playing golf.”

Simpson got his day rolling with a 34-foot eagle putt on the second hole and collected nine birdies before his double-bogey 5 on the 17th hole while posting a 36-hole score of 15-under 129.

Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters champion, had three birdies in a bogey-free 66 and is tied for second with Danny Lee of Australia, who sank a 13-foot eagle putt at No. 16 en route to another 66, and Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA, who birdied the first three holes to kick-start a 68.

Charles Howell III birdied four of his first seven holes in a 67 and is five shots back in a tie for fifth with Chesson Hadley and Alex Noren of Sweden, who both finished at 69.

Seventh-ranked Jason Day of Australia, the 2016 Players champion, had a bogey-free 67 and is another shot behind in a tie for seventh eighth with 51-year-old Steve Stricker, who finished at 69, and Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State, who came in at 68.

Top-ranked Dustin Johnson is tied for 11th after a 71, third-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain shot 70 and is tied for 17th, while 10th-ranked Patrick Reed had a 68 and is in a tie for 34th that includes fifth-ranked Justin Rose of England, who wound up at 72.

Defending champion Si Woo Kim of South Korea is tied for 25th after a 72.

Two-time Players champion Tiger Woods posted a 72 and is in a tie for 68th that includes fourth-ranked Jordan Spieth, who shot 68, and second-ranked Justin Thomas, who totaled 70. They made the cut on the number.

Sixth-ranked Rickie Fowler of Murrieta, who won the Players in 2015, had two late double bogeys in a 71 and missed the cut by two strokes in a tie for 77th that included eighth-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, who found the water at No. 17 and took a double that left him at 74.

Eighth-ranked Hideki Matsuyama shot 69 and missed the weekend by five shots, while Phil Mickelson, the 2007 Players champion, had a 73 and fell nine strokes short.

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