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Better late than never

Players 2022: Alternate's patience pays off after waiting overnight to get into TPC Sawgrass field

Mike Ehrmann

PONTE VEDRA BEACH — Tyler McCumer's sore shoulder and Thursday's stormy weather conspired to bestow on Michael Thompson a late, late, late date on the first tee Friday at the Players Championship.

Thompson, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, was the third alternate behind Patrick Rodgers and Aaron Rai when the tournament began on Thursday morning. He moved up to first when Rodgers took Hideki Matsuyama’s spot in the field after the reigning Masters champion withdrew with a lingering back injury and Rai withdrew from the alternate list.

Weather delays of more than five hours on Thursday pushed back tee times to the extent that a few groups never started their opening rounds. In fact, McCumber, paired with Charl Schwartzel and Denny McCarthy, was part of the next group to tee off when play was suspended at 6:36 p.m. EST because of darkness.

Thompson, who lives in Sea Island, Ga., wasn't just hanging around in hopes of an 11th-hour opening. According to a PGA Tour official, he was given a heads up that McCumber was ailing and might have to withdraw so he stuck around the area just in case. And just before play resumed at 7:15 a.m. Friday, McCumber pulled out and Thompson was in.

Thompson, after beginning the year with a T-5 finish at the Sony Open in Hawaii, has missed his last four cuts. He is making his eighth start at the Stadium Course, where his best finish came last year, when he was T-48. Only three of his 22 career rounds in the Players have been sub-70, with a low of 68 in his debut in 2012.

Even so, the 36-year-old Arizona native apparently was ready to roll Friday morning. He eagled the par-5 second hole from 12 feet and converted a six-footer for birdie at the fourth hole and then made a 14-footer for birdie after driving in the right rough on the fifth hole to get to four under early.