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Players Championship leaderboard 2017: TPC Sawgrass’ island 17th hole wreaks havoc on Friday

The Players is most famous for its course and the annual visit to TPC Sawgrass delivered an entertaining wave of carnage at the par-3 17th on Friday.

THE PLAYERS Championship - Round Two
The 17th provided a dramatic and entertaining arena on Friday at The Players.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

TPC Sawgrass is always the biggest star of the The Players Championship and on Friday, its most infamous hole delivered. We’ve got an eclectic leaderboard at the 36-hole mark — a mix of young and old players, International and Americans, and all styles of games. Sawgrass is often hailed as a democratic test and so far, it’s been just that. Here are some notes from the second round at The Players.

Island din

The vibe changes late in the day on Sunday, as the stakes get higher, but for Thursday through Saturday, it would seem impossible for a player to get distracted on the tee box at the 17th. I sat there with some friends for about an hour late in the day on Friday, baking in the 90-degree sun. At the other tee boxes, you don’t dare talk out loud or make sudden movements or laugh with friends. At the 17th, you can do all of those things without fear of being reprimanded or outed and confronted by the players.

There’s a constant hum and chatter, an amalgamation of generators, consistent crowd chatter, and commercialism. You can chat with your friends at a normal volume just 10 or 15 yards from where tee shots take off for the island green. It’s a party and the players don’t mind. It’s such a contrast from every other tee box, where the softest noise from your camera phone brings a record-screeching halt to everything and prompts every caddie and player on the tee to immediately turn and glare.

There are a few holes on Tour with this kind of atmosphere, but none with higher stakes. You get bashed over the head with coverage of the 17th, but the relaxed vibe there when you’re on the ground is like little else in golf. There’s no tenseness or stress about being the jackass that disrupts play in some way.

The 17th Delivers

While it can be a relaxed setting for the fans watching, it was the exact opposite for the players, who were tormented on Friday.

This should not be a hard hole. It should not. But on Friday, it destroyed round after round as balls plunged into the drink. The pond gobbled them up — the most in any second round since they started recording the water balls at this most famous water par-3. It was on track to become the second-most water balls in any round ever at The Players.

With humidity relatively low, the wind up, and the sun firming out the entire hole, the green did get a little quick and getting balls to hold near the back pin location became tougher and tougher as the day progressed. The wind gets especially tough to judge, with players and caddies looking at different flags all around the green — the two high up in the sky on the TV camera crane, the many decorative flags lining the hospitality suites, and the pin up ahead taunting them. But it all seemed hopeless, with gusts coming up and the ball acting different once it got up above the wall of hospitality suites and into the air.

The most violent car crash came via Zac Blair, who dumped three in the water and made a 9 that wrecked a relatively good start to his second round. These weren’t bad swings.

Blair won the crowd with his display, however, waving his hat when he finally did get one to stay dry. On Twitter after the round, he insisted he hit good shots — flushed them, even! But the 17th, which, again, should not be too hard, can sometimes turn good swings into double and triple and sextuple bogeys.

This was a fun Tin Cup moment, with Blair refusing to go to the drop zone and repeatedly putting balls back down on the tee.

While Blair was the most explosive crash, he was not alone. It was a mess the entire afternoon. Billy Horschel, already a Patrick Bateman lookalike, giggled like a maniac after his ball came up well short of the green and dove into the water. He stared incredulously at all the flags on top of the hospitality suites, and then smirked back at his caddie. Phil Mickelson had a rather tense exchange with his longtime looper, Bones McKay, before blasting one over the green. Jordan Spieth came just a moment later and one-hopped his ball into the water off the back as well. It just kept coming throughout the afternoon.

At the drop area, things got testy, with Phil sternly interrupting Bones with an “I know what I need to do -- I just need numbers right now.” Phil was clearly fuming. We know the 17th can become a circus and tiresome, but this was fantastic theater. That’s what we want out of this event, good TV and drama, and the mics picked up all the carnage on this difficult Friday.

King Louis

The PGA Tour may not be crazy about their leader at the midpoint of their marquee tournament. That’s because Louis Oosthuizen is a UPS man. Why do we care about package delivery services at a golf tournament?

The PGA Tour announced a big new deal with FedEx to start this week, their most important week of the season. It’s a massive 10-year deal for FedEx to stay on as the premier partner of the Tour, sponsoring the season-end playoffs and race for the “FedExCup” that we hear about during each and every round all year.

As ESPN’s Bob Harig reported on Friday, an alleged part of that new deal may forbid players sponsored by FedEx competitors from competing in the playoffs. There’s been a lot of chatter this week about this potential clause in the deal — players are independent contractors, free to take bids from a variety of sponsors. It’s definitely getting the Tour into dicey territory, but FedEx is putting a ton of money into their organization.

Lee Westwood and Oosthuizen are the two premier players sponsored by UPS. Oosty is the kind of guy who, when he’s on, leaves you mystified that he doesn’t have more majors or a single win on American soil. Those who know the swing always cite Louis and Adam Scott as having the two sweetest moves in the world. The problem with Louis is that he often doesn’t care too much — he just wants to chill and ride on his tractors back home in South Africa. Now he’s at 9-under, on a share of the lead with Kyle Stanley, and will be the favorite on the weekend.

Flashback Friday

While UPS Louis may not make the Tour thrilled, at least he’s not in the process of suing them, like another player currently in contention inside the top 5. Vijay Singh put together an incredible 4-under 68 and is just three shots back of Oosty and Stanley. It’s a little awkward, to say the least, having Singh near the top of the leaderboard at the PGA Tour’s home course and their marquee event. He’s still in the process of a lawsuit over a failed drug test — an interminable conflict that’s dragging on for years now.

The 54-year-old became the story of the day on Friday, getting his putter rolling throughout the second round to move 14 spots up the board. Singh is 16th in strokes-gained putting through his first 36 rounds and 4th in strokes gained overall. He was just winning on the Champions Tour and now here he is back in contention with the young guys.

Here’s your leaderboard with 36 more to play at TPC Sawgrass (for a full leaderboard, click here):

Players Championship Friday Leaderboard

Place Player Score
Place Player Score
T1 Louis Oosthuizen -9
T1 Kyle Stanley -9
3 J.B. Holmes -7
4 Vijay Singh -6
T5 David Hearn -5
T5 Rafael Cabrera Bello -5
T5 Patrick Cantlay -5
T5 Alex Noren -5
T5 Ian Poulter -5
T10 Chez Reavie -4
T10 Jon Rahm -4
T10 Webb Simpson -4
T10 Lucas Glover -4
T10 Brendan Steele -4
T10 Paul Casey -4
T16 Ben Martin -3
T16 Smylie Kaufman -3
T16 Si Woo Kim -3
T16 Daniel Berger -3
T16 Harold Varner, III -3
T16 Cameron Tringale -3
T16 Tommy Fleetwood -3
T23 Seung-yul Noh -2
T23 Roberto Castro -2
T23 Adam Scott -2
T23 Steve Stricker -2
T23 Mackenzie Hughes -2
T23 Daniel Summerhays -2
T23 Jason Day -2
T23 Henrik Stenson -2
T23 Phil Mickelson -2
T23 William McGirt -2
T23 Yuta Ikeda -2