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Tiger and Rory In; Phil and Jordan Out; Rickie Motivated by Overrated Remark

Kathy BissellCorrespondent IMay 9, 2015

Tiger Woods makes Players cut on the number
Tiger Woods makes Players cut on the numberAssociated Press

Although Jerry Kelly and Kevin Na top the leaderboard at The Players, the PGA Tour breathed a big sigh of relief when Tiger Woods played his way back into the tournament after shooting three over par on Thursday.

Rory McIlroy held steady, finishing just three back of the lead, while Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth could not find enough game to make the weekend. Rickie Fowler proved he is for real, despite what a magazine survey said.

Woods had to birdie his final hole, the ninth, to make the cut on the number, even par, and he gave a monster fist pump when the putt dropped.

“There’s no guarantee the guys are going to drop back to plus-one, so even [par] was guaranteed to make the cut,” he said about what he was thinking as he played the seventh and eighth holes and headed to the ninth, a par five. He knew he needed the birdie.

However, Woods could not get momentum going.“It was one of those things where I couldn’t capitalize on some opportunities and get on a run,” he explained. “I just didn’t stuff my iron shots in there. I felt like I drove it pretty good today overall, but I just wasn’t hitting the ball close enough.”

McIlroy came in at four under par, which is four strokes back of the lead. He described his round as steady.

“I was pretty bored out there,” he said to the media afterward. “I’m not sure how you felt about watching it.” That drew a laugh  

It was not quite boring. He hit a tree on the second and sixth, was in a fairway bunker on the fourth and fifth and found the water with his second shot on the 16th.

McIlroy hit 75 percent of fairways and 63 percent of greens. He described his round as trying to “hit fairways, hit greens and pick off my birdies when I could.”

Mickelson believed he would do better.

“I thought I was ready and mentally prepared,” Mickelson said. “I get a little rusty when I take three weeks off and I come out not the sharpest, so I didn’t think—I wasn’t too optimistic about going low yesterday—but I thought today I was going to get a good round going.” After a birdie at the first hole, he thought he would do well. “It didn’t really work out that way.”

Jordan Spieth’s troubles continued. He hit 64 percent of fairways and only 44 percent of the greens. It was like another person was inside his body.  

Perhaps motivated a bit by a Sports Illustrated PGA Tour players survey (via Golf.com) that named him one of the most overrated players on the PGA Tour, Rickie Fowler fired a second 69 that put him in a tie for third with David Hearn, Branden Grace and Chris Kirk.

“If there’s a time where I need something to kind of give me a kick in the butt, then I can think of that and it will put me in the right frame of mind to go out there and take care of business,” he said about the survey. And he said it with a smile, like, don’t worry, I’ve got this. The best revenge, of course, would be victory.

In thinking back on the round, Fowler said he would remember the drives at 17 and 18, particularly the one on the final hole. If he could package those, he’d be in good shape. The shot landed 325 yards from the tee and was in the center of the fairway, giving him a perfect look at the pin with a wedge.

He had a putt to take the lead but was fooled by the grain.

“I had the grain going right, and I thought it was going to drift a little right,” he said. It didn’t.

As for who has the best shot at winning, Woods said,” Anyone who makes the cut certainly has a chance on this golf course. And then if you put together a good round, you never know what could happen at the end.”

The end, of course, features the three famous finishing holes. Many a tournament has been lost in the water at either the 16th or island 17th, and the 18th remains the hardest hole on the course.  

Kathy Bissell is a Golf Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official interview materials from the PGA Tour, USGA or PGA of America.

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