Not as promising as it began, nor as bad as it ended, Colin Montgomerie's Good Friday left him five shots behind Steve Elkington after two rounds of the US Players Championship. Montgomerie returned his second successive 70, but he had got to six under before bogeying two of his last six holes.
Montgomerie had the perfect start when his nine-iron from 149 yards at the 10th finished two feet from the hole. That birdie was followed by an eagle at the 16th when he covered the 497-yard hole in a drive and a two-iron and a putt from 15 feet.
At his next par-five, the second, a most unMonty-like drive put him deep in the trees on the right. The Scotsman then pitched out to the fairway and ended up holing a 35-foot putt from the front fringe.
However was it as far as forward progress was concerned. His recovery from a bunker at the fourth found water and he three-putted at the eighth. At the ninth, he had to scramble a par from the rough at the back of the green.
"It just didn't happen," Montgomerie sighed, content that he had not lost too much ground on the leaders. "I have not had much good fortune yet, but it was getting difficult with the wind picking up." The slothfulness of his playing partners, Mark Wiebe and Pete Jordan, was another distraction. "I can't believe we weren't warned as we were yesterday," Monty said. "We seemed to be a hole behind all the time."
At four under par, the Scot is on the same score as last year after two rounds. Then, he trailed Tommy Tolles by seven shots but rallied over the weekend with rounds of 66 and 68 to pull himself up to second place behind Fred Couples.
Elkington, who beat Montgomerie in a sudden-death playoff in the '95 USPGA, added a 69 to his first round 66 to get to nine under. He won over the Sawgrass course six years ago and is coming off a victory, with new clubs after previous sets were twice stolen, at the Doral Open three weeks ago.
"Playing late yesterday and out early this morning was like playing one round," Elkington said. "You could keep the momentum going. On this course you need to get as many birdies as you can early on because you will need them later on in the tournament."
So far, he has collected 13 birdies over the two days, which has been counterbalanced by a double bogey when he found the water at the 18th on Thursday and two bogeys yesterday. Elkington was lucky to be out in the morning calm while Nick Faldo and Sandy Lyle were among those struggling in the afternoon breeze. Faldo shot a 72 after flirting with the cut, while Lyle recovered from taking three bogeys in his first six holes to birdie his last for a 74 which dropped him no worse than two under.
While Costantino Rocca made sure of surviving the cut with a 69, Sam Torrance missed for the fourth time in five tournaments despite improving by seven shots on his first round with a 71. Ian Woosnam did not even complete 36 holes, after withdrawing with a bad back. Having played the back nine in 37 to be five over, Woosie quit after taking a nine at the fifth hole.
"I pulled a muscle in my left side which was causing me to pull-hook the ball," he said. "I had no chance of making the cut but I'm not worried as it will go away after a few days' rest."
Like the surface of the earth, the Stadium course at the TPC of Sawgrass is two-thirds water and Jesper Parnevik twice found a soggy graveyard at the 18th. It was the second day running he had put two balls into the water at the last and despite being one under on the other 17 holes, he was seven over on 18 alone.
Now that the legal eagles have blocked Seve Ballesteros's hope of getting more than two wild cards for the Ryder Cup team, Parnevik may rejoin the European tour, but not until he has secured a spot in the US Open by retaining his top 10 position in the US money list.
PLAYERS' CHAMPIONSHIP (Sawgrass, Florida): Qualifiers for third round (US unless stated): 135 S Elkington (Aus) 66 69. 136 L Mize 68 68. 137 T Tolles 70 67; D Edwards 67 70. 138 C Parry (Aus) 71 67; D Love 72 66; T Lehman 67 71; B Watts 70 68. 139 B Faxon 70 69; E Els (SA) 68 71; K Triplett 71 68; F Zoeller 67 72; D Stockton Jnr 68 71; T Purtzer 68 71. 140 V Singh (Fiji) 71 69; S Hoch 69 71; C Montgomerie 70 70; B Andrade 68 72; M Brooks 72 68. 141 R Fehr 74 67; R Cochran 67 74; T Watson 70 71; D Waldorf 71 70; M Hulbert 70 71; T Smith 68 73; H Sutton 70 71; R Damron 69 72. 142 M Bradley 68 74; J Huston 72 70; J Cook 73 69; N Ozaki (Japan) 68 74; S Appleby (Aus) 71 71; M Brisky 71 71; G Day 70 72; A Magee 71 71; M Calcavecchia 67 75; J Leonard 71 71; S Lyle (GB) 68 74; O Uresti 73 69. 143 L Mattiace 71 72; C Rocca (It) 74 69; D Duval 74 69; G Morgan 71 72; P Stankowski 73 70; G Norman (Aus) 71 72; N Price (Zim) 75 68; N Faldo (GB) 71 72; R Gamez 70 73; D Martin 72 71. 144 M McNulty (Zimb) 71 73; P Azinger 72 72; L Roberts 70 74; J Wilson 70 74; B Langer (Ger) 71 73; J Haas 68 76; T Woods 71 73; J Sindelar 71 73. 145 J D Blake 73 72; M Reid 71 74; D Pooley 71 74; J Furyk 71 74; P Blackmar 71 74; N Henke 72 73; C Perry 74 71; M O'Meara 73 72; W Wood 74 71; F Couples 71 74; S Lowery 73 72. 146 L Rinker 74 72; P Jacobsen 75 71; M Ozaki (Jap) 70 76; P Jordan 72 74; J Gallagher 72 74; F Funk 71 75; L Janzen 73 73; S Gump 71 75. Withdrew: J Daly, G Boros, I Woosnam (GB).
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