The Players: Tommy Fleetwood on top after 'dream start' to day two
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 16/03/19 3:59pm
Tommy Fleetwood enjoyed a "dream start" and went on to earn a share of the halfway lead for the second week in succession following a second-round 67 at The Players Championship.
Fleetwood, who also shared the halfway lead at last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational before struggling on Saturday, will go into the weekend tied at the top with Ryder Cup team-mate Rory McIlroy on 12 under - three clear of the field at TPC Sawgrass.
The Englishman got his second round off to a flyer when he followed a birdie at the first with a sublime hole-out from a greenside bunker for an eagle at the second, and he then nailed a 25-foot putt for birdie at the third to race to 11 under.
Fleetwood got into bother at the long ninth and scrapped his way to a disappointing six, his first blemish of the tournament, but he bounced straight back with a birdie at 10 and another from 15 feet at the 12th.
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He suffered another setback when he missed a four-foot putt for par at 15 before pushing a short birdie attempt wide of the mark at the next, but he made a cast-iron par at the penultimate hole and closed out another impressive day's work with a nice wedge to 10 feet at the last and a putt to match.
"It's all very positive, and my game is clearly in a very good place," said Fleetwood. "Last week, I had three very good rounds and one where I struggled but didn't feel like I did loads wrong. I think the things to take from it is how confident I've been with my game.
"All the good stuff I've been doing has been nice. I've had a slower start to the year than the last couple years, so these couple of weeks are really nice, really refreshing. I showed some good golf in Mexico, last week I showed a lot of really good golf, and now this week.
"It's just really important to look at all the positives and keep that flow going, keep doing all the same things and keep playing. Golf is a tough game, tournaments are long. It's hard to keep it going for four days, but I'll just keep it going. I'm playing well.
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"I had the absolute dream start today, but even then I felt very calm, felt really good. I was hitting a lot of good tee shots, putting myself in position a lot, and I enjoyed it. There was a lot of good stuff, and I just feel really happy with it.
"I need to keep driving it like I have done. Hitting it really good off the tee breaks the course down a lot because there are some tough tee shots and once you get out of position, it makes the course a lot harder, not necessarily because the rough is tough or the fairway bunkers are tough, but actually controlling your ball into these greens is very important.
"So I need to keep doing that, which is my game in general. The courses get tougher as the week goes on, so late on Saturday and Sunday when hopefully I'll be playing, courses get firmer and harder and patience is a key.
"But I've just played two really, really good rounds of golf, and I played three really, really good rounds of golf last week. I just need to keep doing what I'm doing and see where it goes from there."
Ian Poulter, meanwhile, was determined not to let a final-hole bogey sour his mood after he made huge strides up the leaderboard with a 66 that lifted him into the tie for third place on nine-under par.
The 2017 runner-up chipped in for eagle at the 16th - his seventh - and holed another perfect pitch for birdie at 18 before picking up four more shots over the next five holes, including a 40-foot putt for a bonus birdie at the fifth.
"I'm delighted," he told Sky Sports. "I don't know that I've seen quite so many different colours on one's scorecard, but it was good golf. I played real solid, left myself on the right side of the hole, which you have to do, and then kind of got a momentum chip-in at 16.
"Then a great chip-in on 18 and then obviously birdie on one, two, four and five was really quite sweet, especially when the greens around the turn when we got on that front nine started to get real crusty. Around the hole they were getting a little bit dicey.
"You'd see a few guys kind of missing some shortish putts out there. But that was a decent round of golf on a golf course that's getting more difficult."