The Players Championship: Ramey and Morikawa make it look easy with bogey-free rounds

By Sports Desk March 09, 2023

Chad Ramey put together a memorable round on Thursday as he shot an eight-under 64 to lead The Players Championship after 18 holes.

Ramey, 30, has one PGA Tour victory to his name and is defying his recent form, having missed the cut in each of his past three starts, and he has not had a top-30 finish since October.

He finished his first trip around The Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass with four birdies on the front nine and four more on the back nine – including on the famous 'island green' 17th hole – and was one of the few players to go bogey-free.

He is one stroke clear of two-time major champion Collin Morikawa, who was the only competitor to shoot a seven-under 65, also going bogey-free with five birdies and an eagle.

While Morikawa is the only player within two strokes of the lead, rookie Justin Suh has a chance to join him when he resumes on Friday with three holes to finish off. He is tied for third at five under, although his next shot will be a putt for eagle on the 16th.

Suh is joined by Taylor Pendrith and Ben Griffin at five under, while world number two Scottie Scheffler headlines the group tied for sixth at four under.

Viktor Hovland and Jordan Spieth are still in the mix after impressive three-under 69s as part of the afternoon group, who played in the trickier conditions, and coming off four consecutive top-10 finishes Jason Day is one further back at two under.

It was a day to forget for pre-tournament fancies Rory McIlroy and Matt Fitzpatrick, both at four over, while Hayden Buckley will never forget his shot of the day after acing at the famous 17th.

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    Scottie Scheffler was left to rue "another frustrating day" at the US Open on Saturday, when Collin Morikawa found form on moving day at Pinehurst.

    World number one Scheffler struggled once again in North Carolina, carding a one-over 71 to drop down to six-over par after the third day.

    The two-time Masters champion has now shot four consecutive rounds over par for the first time in his professional career and catching the likes of Matthieu Pavon, Bryson Dechambeau and Tony Finau appears unlikely.

    "Another frustrating day," Scheffler said on Sky Sports after his putter went cold once more. "Today was a day where I thought I played a lot better than my score.

    "I'm having a lot of trouble reading these greens. I had a lot of putts today where I felt like I hit it really good. I looked up and they were not going the way I thought they were going to go."

    Morikawa, in stark contrast, went on a hot streak with his putter and finished with a four-under 66 to move back to level par, sneaking within touching distance of the top 10.

    The two-time major champion still has serious ground to make up to catch the leading trio on Sunday, with Ludvig Aberg, Patrick Cantlay, Corey Conners and Tyrrell Hatton all chasing at the top as well.

    "If I play the way I did today, who knows what could happen," Morikawa said. "This course is only going to get tougher. 

    "I know it's not going to be easy. Today was not easy by any means. I just put it in the right spot, kept the ball in front of me, really just played very simple golf."

    Rory McIlroy remains in with the contending pack, aiming to end a 10-year wait for major success, but may be concerned if countryman Shane Lowry's words are anything to go by.

    Lowry stayed on five-over for the tournament after battling through "torture" from the Pinehurst No.2 course, offering a warning to all competing this weekend.

    "It's torture out there, honestly it's absolute mental torture," Lowry said. "That's the best level par I've ever shot in my life.

    "Every single shot you have, even when you hit a good shot the putts you have, it's brutally difficult. It's not much crack out there, to be honest.

    "The wind's in a different direction so some of the par fours are really long. You really just have to manage your way well around there and I did a great job today."

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    Aberg heads into the weekend with a one-shot advantage after carding a one-under 69, backing up an impressive 66 in his first round to leave him five under par at the top of the standings.

    It leaves Aberg in a great position to become the second US Open debutant to win the tournament and the first since Francis Ouimet in 1913.

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    "It's what we expect coming into a US Open, even though it's my first one.

    "I've had a lot of good discussions with my caddie Joe about course management and about trying to stay disciplined and patient.

    "It's not easy, but I feel like we've done a great job of that so far."

    Patrick Cantlay and Rory McIlroy held the joint lead heading into day two after both carding five-under 65s on Thursday.

    However, McIlroy shot a disappointing 72 for his second round, while Cantlay's 71 leaves him as one of three players one shot behind Aberg, alongside Bryson DeChambeau and Thomas Detry.

    The soaring temperatures have proved testing conditions for players and are expected to continue over the rest of the tournament.

    Cantlay is predicting a difficult final two rounds, though he also said he was happy with the position he is in.

    "I think this golf course is going to play very challenging over the weekend, especially with the forecast that we have," Cantlay told reporters.

    "So I think being smart and being patient, it's inevitable there's going to be some mistakes made, but that's just part of playing a US Open."

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    Woods shot three over in his second round having carded a four-over 74 on Thursday to leave him at seven over par, two shots off the cut line.

    It means Woods has now either failed to make the cut or withdrawn from six of his last nine major tournaments, and at 48-years-old and having faced a host of injury problems, it appears the 15-time major champion's glittering career is nearing its conclusion.

    After Friday's disappointing exit from the major he has won three times previously, Woods insinuated that it may well have been the last time he plays in the US Open.

    Woods told reporters: "In order to win a golf tournament, you have to make the cut. I can't win the tournament from where I'm at, so it certainly is frustrating. 

    "I thought I played well enough to be up there in contention. It just didn't work out.

    "As far as my last Open Championship or US Open Championship, I don't know what that is. It may or may not be.

    "I've only got one more tournament this season. Even if I win the British Open, I don't think I'll be in the [FedEx Cup] playoffs. [There is] just one more event and then I'll come back whenever I come back."

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