The wind is up a bit and the greens are getting firm on Saturday at The Players Championship, but a couple of the chasers have made early moves at TPC Sawgrass. Lee Westwood, who started the day six shots off the lead, opened with an eagle on the second to quickly get to 8-under. Gary Woodland, who absolutely crushes the ball, opened with back to-back birdies to also start 2-under after two. They appear to be the early challengers to that final pairing of Martin Kaymer and Jordan Spieth.
Westwood is now full time on the PGA Tour after relocating to Florida, but he's had an underwhelming season so far. He had that top 10 at the Masters, which seems automatic given the Englishman's history at Augusta. But there hasn't been a ton of bright spots or weekends in contention in 2014. He opened the week with a 5-under round of 67 on Thursday, playing in the very first tee time of the day for the first time in years. Westwood is getting up there, so he needs to start converting some of these major events into trophies instead of huge paychecks. Maybe the eagle can boost him to a moving day run early on the front nine.
Woodland has made noise for much of the season, bombing away and putting himself in position on the weekend at multiple events. This is a course that doesn't reward length off the tee as much as your regular PGA Tour stop. Three of the four par-5s are reachable for everyone, and accuracy tee-to-green is a requirement more than most weeks. The Kansan only uses his driver four or fives times at TPC Sawgrass, so the other areas of his game have been strong this week. Woodland's weakness is his short game, but he's improving that enough for it to not wipe him out.
In addition to Woodland and Westwood, the early Thursday leader, Russell Henley, has jumped up to 8-under. Kaymer and Spieth opened with pars to keep that distance on the field, but both missed big opportunities to get a red number at that par-5 second. So that's a win for the chasers. Here's the top of the leaderboard with the final pairings just getting started:
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