PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla., March 26 -- Zach Johnson had recovered quite nicely from the double bogey on the fourth hole Saturday when he came to the tee at the 447-yard 18th hole with a one-shot lead in the Players Championship. When he walked off the final green at TPC at Sawgrass, it was with a grimace, not a grin, after knocking his drive into the pond down the left side, leading to a second six on his card.
Still, by the end of another rain-shortened day and an incomplete second round, Johnson was only a shot off the lead of 10-under-par 134 posted by Englishman Lee Westwood (69) and Joe Durant (65) and in fine position to contend for the title in his first appearance in this $8 million tournament.
Vijay Singh, ranked No. 1 in the world, dropped into a tie for 38th after hitting the ball into the water on the 18th hole.
(Rick Fowler -- Reuters)
If Johnson (70 -- 135) does prevail in an event that seems likely to end Monday, it would be no surprise to any of his relatively new colleagues on the PGA Tour.
"He hits it a long way, and he's playing good, really solid," said Fred Funk, Johnson's playing partner the first two days and a contender at 7-under 137. "I'm glad he made six instead of seven at 18. He's a little upset right now, but he should be right there in the final round, whenever that is."
If the forecast holds, more thunderstorms are expected Sunday. Play in the second round was first suspended Friday morning and never resumed because the course was inundated with more rain, and there was a three-hour weather delay Saturday that prevented the completion of the second round and the final cut. Tournament officials have said they are prepared to complete all 72 holes as late as Tuesday, if necessary.
Those officials also made a rather unusual move Saturday morning. Though 30 players had hit at least one shot Friday before the rain, for the first time since 2001 the Tour decided that none of Friday's second-round play would count. The second round was simply restarted Saturday so all players could have the advantage of using the lift, clean and place rule from muddy and waterlogged fairways for the full 18 holes.
Only 71 of 146 players completed the second round Saturday, and play resumes Sunday at 7:30 a.m. Tee times for the third round will run from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., making it impossible to finish the final round Sunday.
A native of Iowa, Johnson won as a rookie last year in only his 13th start, the BellSouth in Atlanta, and became the second player in PGA Tour history to earn more than $2 million in his first season and made the cut in 24 of his 30 events. This year, he's been equally consistent, cashing checks in all eight tournaments he has entered, including a tie for third at Doral and a tie for eighth last week at Bay Hill.
"The way I characterize my game is pretty simple, stupid," he said. "I try to keep it simple . . . I've pretty much already forgotten about [the double bogey at 18]. I got up and down from 90 yards. Regardless of what it says on the scorecard, that's two shots I hit perfect that I'll think about when I'm waiting for my first tee shot on number one, hopefully tomorrow."
At the 18th, Johnson said he was "just a little over-aggressive" off the tee on a day he struggled more than occasionally with his driver. The drive was only five yards from staying dry, but he re-teed and sent his third shot into deep rough down the right side. From there, he could only lay up, but his fifth shot from the fairway landed five feet from the hole, and he made the difficult putt to avoid a triple bogey.
"I'll learn my lesson from that," he said. "Would have, should have, could have. I guess it's one of those things. But I had a good putt and ended on a good note, a good five-footer right in the hole, so that's what I'm focusing on."
Johnson was not alone in his frustration at 18. Vijay Singh, again ranked No. 1 in the world, pumped two consecutive shots off the tee into the water to post his first quadruple bogey since Bay Hill last year.
His 8 dropped him from 6 under for the tournament and a tie for fifth down to 2 under and a tie for 38th. He posted a 74 -- 141, and as he often is wont to do, never stopped to explain to waiting reporters what had gone wrong.
At this point, there seems little chance for an encore of the final round theater matching Tiger Woods, now No. 2, against Phil Mickelson, No. 4, three weeks ago at Doral. Woods, who won that stirring Sunday afternoon duel, did not complete his second round but was at 3 under through 10 holes for the tournament and seven behind the leaders.
Mickelson, who made a remarkable par after hitting his drive in the water at 18 (also his ninth hole), was at 4 under after nine holes.
He did not re-tee at 18 because his initial sliced drive had crossed dry land before splashing, leaving 195 yards to the pin. His third shot from the fairway landed four feet from the hole, and he made the par putt.
Ernie Els, ranked No. 3, was at 2 under after posting 71 Saturday, and Steve Jones, who shot 64 to lead Thursday, was at 10 under through nine holes. Play was halted at 6:29 p.m. because of darkness.
Defending champion Adam Scott once again was in contention with a solid 68 -- 137, only three behind the leaders, after hitting 16 greens in regulation on his no-bogey round. In the 25-year history of this tournament, no player has ever won consecutive championships in the richest event on the PGA Tour schedule, with a record $1.44 million to the champion.
"There's so much golf to go and some crazy weather coming in, so you don't know what's going to happen," Scott said. "It's a long way off and a lot of things can change. If I keep having these bogey-free rounds, I'm sure I'll be in good position come Tuesday."