Players Championship 2019: Tee Times, Pairings and Predictions for Saturday

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistMarch 16, 2019

Rory McIlroy has been on top of his game at the Players Championship.
Rory McIlroy has been on top of his game at the Players Championship.Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

Tommy Fleetwood is one of the best golfers in the world. European golfers and fans know this well because he has regularly earned victories with his consistently decisive play.

American golf fans may not know much about Fleetwood, but that could change when the Players Championship concludes Sunday. Fleetwood followed up his opening round of a seven-under 65 with a five-under round of 67.

Golf Central @GolfCentral

Tommy Fleetwood got off to a “dream start” Friday, playing his first three holes in 4 under par. The challenge now is turning the dream start into a dream weekend. https://t.co/KoX1fAlWXn https://t.co/R609pHGvQK

Fleetwood continues to strike the ball quite well, and he has taken advantage of his birdie opportunities. The English star is tied for the lead at 12 under par with Rory McIlroy, who shot a seven-under 65 in Round 2 and appears to be on top of his game.

McIlroy made an eagle on the par-five 16th hole, and he followed that with a birdie on Island Green at No. 17 to give himself a share of the lead.

Fleetwood and McIlroy have three-stroke leads over a group of four players: Ian Poulter, Jim Furyk, Abraham Ancer and Brian Harman.

Kevin Kisner, Jason Day and Keith Mitchell are one stroke further behind at eight under par. Those three are in a perfect position to attack the leaders.

Fleetwood and McIlroy will tee off at 2:40 p.m. ET at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

Poulter and Furyk will precede the leaders and tee off at 2:30 p.m., while Harman and Ancer will start their round at 2:20 p.m..

Kisner and Day will tee off at 2:10 p.m. Mitchell will play with Luke List, and they will begin their round at 2 p.m. Tiger Woods and Kevin Na will tee off at 11 a.m.

Here's a link to all the starting times for Round 3.

McIlroy is striking the ball with consistency and power, and the Northern Irish star and is playing with confidence.

He has contended in multiple tournaments throughout the year, but he has struggled with his closing-round performances. He may face another crucial round Sunday if he can play well during moving day.

"It's a long way to go between now and the end of the tournament," McIlroy said in the media tent during the Gold Channel's broadcast. "It's too early to talk about winning. I have to continue to do the things I am doing to have a chance."

McIlroy has been 12 under par at the 36-hole three times in his career, and he has gone on to win on each occasion. Those tournaments include the 2012 Deutsche Bank, 2012 BMW and the 2014 British Open, per golf statistician Justin Ray

Here's a look at the full leaderboard after 36 holes.

Golf Central @GolfCentral

Tiger Woods' second round featured 17 textbook holes and, well, the 17th hole. @GCTigerTracker on Woods Friday 71 ... and that quad: https://t.co/5F7BBi7QBo https://t.co/tCRtXxfqUa

Woods followed his opening round of a two-under 70 with a one-under 71. However, those relatively consistent scores do not tell the story of either round. Tiger's short game was on in the opening round, but he had some awkward tee-to-green play.

He had a relatively steady round Friday, but he had one major problem on the 17th. Woods hit two balls into the water, taking a quadruple bogey seven on that par-three test.

"Both shots, I'm just trying to hit the ball into the slope [on the green] and just walk away with a 20-, 25-footer and move on about my business," Woods said, per Bob Harig of ESPN.com. "The second one I hit too flat and too hot. But the first one from the regular tee and was a good shot, it just flew a little bit too far."

When he went to the 17th hole, Woods was just two shots back of the leader at the time. While the rest of his round was acceptable, Woods finds himself nine strokes behind Fleetwood and McIlroy.

Fleetwood said the course was tougher in the second round than it was in Thursday's opener. "Yesterday, going off in the morning, the course was quite receptive," Fleetwood told NBC's Mike Tirico at the conclusion of his round. "It got much tougher today as the course firmed up."

Top players Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm are among those at seven-under, while first-round co-leader Keegan Bradley slipped a bit and is at six-under with Patrick Reed.



McIlroy has been contending nearly every week, and while he has had problems during closing rounds, that doesn't look set to be the case in the third round. 

He is hitting the ball extremely well, and he is playing with the confidence it takes to strike the ball from the pine straw and end up on the green, as he did on the 18th on Friday. When McIlroy is on his game, he plays with no fear, and it seems there's no shot he can't attempt successfully. 

After firing 67 and 65 in the first two rounds, look for a 66 in the third round.

Fleetwood is a tremendous golfer who knows he has a chance to win his first tournament on U.S. soil. He has one of the most beautiful swings in the game, and there's no reason he can't fire a third consecutive round in the 60s.

The 48-year-old Furyk continues to defy time, as he fired a 64 Friday, the best round he has ever had at the Players. He understands how to play TPC Sawgrass in all conditions, and the winds are likely to come from the North and make the course play longer and tougher. Furyk's accuracy off the tee makes him a threat.

Dustin Johnson is capable of taking over any golf tournament because of his tremendous combination of power and skill. Those parts of his game were on display in the second round with his 68, and that score could have been better if he had been a bit luckier with his putter.

Johnson may be ready to flex his muscles and assault this famous golf course. Look for Johnson to fire a 66 or 67 on moving day.

Tiger would appear to be a long way from contention, he did make the cut, and he will compete. The prediction here is that after dunking two balls into the water on the 17th hole Friday, he will nail a birdie on Island Green on Saturday and shoot at least a four-under 68.