Faldo swept off the course

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The Independent Online
NICK FALDO has missed the cut following the second round of the windswept Players' Championship at Ponte Vedra Beach in Florida. Faldo, the pre-event favourite, finished on a nine-over-par aggregate of 153 to miss the cut by five strokes. The two-times Masters champion, aiming for an impressive tournament in preparation for this year's Augusta event beginning in a fortnight, blamed equipment trouble for his disappointing display.

Faldo claimed the company which manufactures the balls he uses provided him with the wrong type, but admitted: "It may be a mixed blessing. At least it gives me a bit of a break."

While Faldo struggled in vain to beat the cut, Gene Sauers suffered a double bogey on his final hole to fall back into a tie for first place with the overnight leader Corey Pavin. Pavin, wrestling with extremely difficult conditions, followed his opening 66 with a 73 to stand at five- under-par 139 along with Sauers, who shot an even-par 72.

One stroke behind the leaders at 140 were the 1992 champion Davis Love, who had an impressive 67, the former Masters winner Bernhard Langer, of Germany, and the second-year tour player Steve Stricker, who matched Langer with a 71.

The wind changed direction by 180 degrees on Friday, but in every other way the second round featured the same scoring conditions as the first. "Today was a very tough day out there. It was brutal this afternoon," said Pavin, who had two birdies and four significant missed greens.

On three of the missed greens Pavin took bogeys, but on the 18th - the toughest hole on the course - he saved par with a six-foot putt. "This was a round that could have gotten away from me, but I didn't let it. I'm real happy about that," Pavin said. "But if it keeps playing like this, you're not going to see the winning score get much lower than what it is now."

Just eight players managed to break 70 in the second round with the low round of the day belonging to Phil Mickelson, who vaulted into contention with a six-under 66. Mickelson carded a hole in one on the 13th hole and finished the day just five shots off the pace at 144 despite an opening round of 78.

Sauers at one point reached seven under par to move three strokes clear of the field. Like so many at this tournament, however, he was tripped up by the closing holes. Sauers scrambled for par on the 17th, sinking a 12-foot putt for the save. He then hit his drive into the water on the final hole to set up a double bogey.

"The double bogey does leave a bad taste in your mouth, but I'm right where I want to be," Sauers said. "You just have to forget about it and go on and try to start over again tomorrow."