Seven notable second-round Players Championship stats from Golf World contributing writer Brett Avery, who compiles the Rank and File statistical sections for the magazine's coverage of the major championships and other significant events.
A large percentage of the top 10 and ties -- 14 players at five-under-par 139 or better -- have precious little experience being in contention on the PGA Tour, let alone on a stage as big as the Players. Only two contenders have won major championships (Zach Johnson,'07 Masters; Ben Curtis, '03 Open Championship) and one landed the Players trophy (Adam Scott, '04). At the other end of the spectrum, Harris English (-7) and Blake Adams (-5) have never competed in a major or the Players; Martin Laird (-6) and Kevin Stadler (-5) have never finished top 10 in either; and there are 10 or fewer major starts on the career summaries of Charlie Wi (five majors, -6) and Michael Thompson (two, -5).
Only five of the top 10 players in the Official World Ranking survived to the weekend: No. 2 Luke Donald (-3), No. 3 Lee Westwood (-3), No. 7 Tiger Woods (-2), No. 8 Martin Kaymer (-2) and No. 10 Phil Mickelson (-2). That said, the Players does not have a recent record of rewarding the top 10. Only two winners since 2004 were ranked that high (Mickelson, third in '07; Henrik Stenson, ninth in '09). Meanwhile, in the same eight-year stretch, four players outside the top 30 were victorious (Fred Funk, 59th in '05; Stephen Ames, 64th in '06; Tim Clark, 40th in '10; K.J. Choi, 34th in '11).
History indicates that any of the 26 contenders within five shots of the tri-leaders has a chance to win. Since the event moved to the Stadium Couse at TPC Sawgrass in 1982, six players have erased at least a five-shot deficit through 36 holes and won:
--Jerry Pate (T22 after 36 holes in '82, trailed by five shots)
--Hal Sutton (T11 in '83, five)
--John Mahaffey (T12 in '86, five)
--Sandy Lyle (T11 in '87, five)
--Fred Couples (T11 in '96, five)
--Tim Clark (T23 in '10, seven)
In addition, Justin Leonard was tied for 13th midway through the '98 edition and made up four shots on the weekend while K.J. Choi made up the same number of strokes last year from T11.
Of course, the group six shots back includes Tiger Woods, who made a specialty of wild weekend performances before his November 2009 car crash. This is the 26th start Woods has made in an official PGA Tour stroke-play tournament since his return, and the 23rd time he made the cut. (He withdrew before finishing 72 holes at the '10 Players and '12 WGC-Cadillac.) Of the 20 times Woods has posted a four-round total, he has broken 70 in both weekend rounds just once a year (69-68 at '10 Deutsche Bank, T11; 68-68 at '11 Frys.com Open, T30; 69-62 at '12 Honda Classic, T2). When he triumphed in late March at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, his first official tour victory since the '09 BMW Championship, Woods shot 69-65-71-70.
The second-round leader or co-leader has won the Players nine of 38 times. Phil Mickelson is the most recent example in 2007. The 36-hole leaders have won only five of 19 stroke-play titles this season, none since Jason Dufner at New Orleans. (h/t @PGATour)
Chances are one of the longest-standing droughts in Players history will remain: No player has posted four rounds in the 60s since Steve Elkington won in 1997 (66-69-68-69). Of the 144 competitors who began this week, only Matt Kuchar (68-68) and Kevin Na (67-69) would be able to achieve the feat. Kuchar has made four cuts in seven previous starts at Sawgrass but has only one round in the 60s (68, fourth round in '09). Na has made two cuts and never shot better than 70. Elkington is joined in the all-sub-60s club at Sawgrass by the top three finishers in 1994: Greg Norman (63-67-67-67), Fuzzy Zoeller (65-67-68-67) and Jeff Maggert (65-69-69-68).
The second-round scoring average was 72.642, fractionally higher than the 72.373 for Thursday's play. The 36-hole average was 72.505. Players fields have averaged below par 72 in the third round in five of the last nine years but firm greens and the potential for freshening afternoon winds may make such a performance a challenge.
-- Brett Avery