PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Matt Kuchar was lucky his ball stayed up and unlucky where it ended up.
Kuchar overshot the par-3 17th at the TPC Sawgrass in the second round of The Players Championship, but instead of landing in the lagoon that surrounds the island green, the ball came to rest near a wooden plank along the path to the green.
His lie would have posed no problem for a lefty, but the right-handed Kuchar had no room to stand normally, so he decided to turn around and backhand the ball onto the putting surface.
He managed to get the blind shot on the green, albeit about 60 feet from the pin. He settled for a two-putt bogey that left him one shot from making the cut.
“I didn’t stand a whole lot of chance,” Kuchar said. “The only way it gets within 20 feet is good luck.”
Kuchar said he has honed that kind of shot in practice rounds and even used a similar stance at the Sony Open a few years back.
“Every now and then you don’t have many options,” he said. “It’s one I’ve done a handful of times kind of messing around. … You hope that it’s not a really important shot that needs to be pulled off. It’s one that’s kind of fun to do. You enjoy doing it in practice rounds. It’s not one you really want to have in a tournament situation.”
As strange as Kuchar’s shot was, it wasn’t even the craziest one at 17 on Friday.
Will Mackenzie’s tee ball struck a plank, bounced on the path leading away from the famed green and landed near spectators.
Mackenzie received a warm welcome as he approached his ball. He got a standing ovation after his next shot.
Mackenzie bumped his ball onto the path, which is lined with artificial turf, and landed it 5 feet from the pin. He made the putt for par, but ended up shooting 3-over 75 and missing the cut at 6 over.
SPIETH OUT: Masters champion Jordan Spieth didn’t need two days with Rory McIlroy to know how far away he is from turning a budding rivalry into a real one.
“His career is certainly farther ahead of any younger player, including myself,” Spieth said after a 72 to miss the cut by three shots. “I never thought there was a rivalry. I have to work hard to get to that level.”
Spieth missed his second cut this year. The last one was at Torrey Pines. In the nine tournaments since then, he won twice, was second twice and had two other top 10s. As for this week? Spieth can’t say he didn’t see it coming.
“I told you on the podium yesterday that it wasn’t just an off day. There’s something going on with my swing that I’m not comfortable with, and it showed today, too,” he said. “I really fought hard. I got up-and-down a lot today. I’m not tired. I just didn’t play well this week.”
He was headed home to Dallas, where Spieth could be for six of the next eight weeks. His next two events are the Byron Nelson and Colonial. He said he looked forward to spending time with swing coach Cameron McCormick and playing two courses he knows well.
“I just simply have not worked hard enough since the Masters to have my game,” he said. “I’m excited for this next stretch.”
SERGIO’S FRUSTRATION: Sergio Garcia has been struggling so much with his putting that he has tried the claw grip and a conventional grip.
On Friday, he tried both in the same round.
He managed a 72 and was still in the mix, just five shots behind going into the weekend. But he missed six putts from inside 10 feet, according to Shotlink, including three of them from 4 feet and in. If anyone had reason to say he didn’t get much out of his round, it would be Garcia.
“The positive is that missing everything, I’m still 3-under par,” he said. “But the bad thing, I guess, is that if I would have putted half-decent, I would probably be 8- or 9-under par.”
Asked why he stopped using the claw grip, Garcia replied, “What do you think?”
“If it was working, I would go with it,” he said. “But came back the last four holes and I made one putt. So I don’t know. It’s just frustrating. I’ll have to figure out something.”
MICKELSON OUT: Phil Mickelson’s victory at The Players in 2007 seems like a long time ago. He missed the cut Friday for the third straight year, and as he made his way toward the finish found himself saying, “I can’t believe I’ve actually won here.”
“I’m not as discouraged as the scores out indicate, just for the simple reason that I made nine birdies,” Mickelson said after a 76. “I hit a lot of good shots. It’s just that when I hit bad ones, it led to huge scores.”
He tried to play a draw into the right pin on the 18th, and blocked it into the water. That led to a triple bogey. He got himself in a bad position short of the sixth green and made a double bogey.
Mickelson was playing for the first time since his runner-up finish in the Masters.
“I get a little rusty mentally when I take three weeks off and I come out not the sharpest,” he said. “I wasn’t too optimistic about going low yesterday, but I thought today I was going to get a good round going. Then I started out birdieing the first hole. I thought that I was going to be off and running, but it didn’t really work out that way.”
He made bogey on the next hole, the par-5 11th. And he was off and walking.
DIVOTS: Seven PGA Tour winners from this season missed the cut: Spieth, Ryan Moore, Jimmy Walker, Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, Brandt Snedeker and Justin Rose. … Koepka went quadruple bogey-quadruple bogey on the 17th and 18th holes in the first round when he shot 78. He was 8 over with 12 holes to play and wound up missing the cut by one shot after a 67. For the week, he had 11 birdies and two eagles. … Thirty-seven balls have landed in the water at No. 17, with 16 of those coming Friday. … Ian Poulter on whether fans heckled him on No. 17: “No idea. You saw it.” Poulter appeared to exchange words with at least one spectator and then waved over volunteers.