Canada’s Svensson leads rain-delayed Players as McIlroy misses cut

Adam Svensson, of Canada, hits from the sixth fairway during the second round of the Players Championship golf tournament Saturday, March 11, 2023, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Adam Svensson hit a shot onto a hospitality tent and made birdie Saturday morning to build a two-shot lead in The Players Championship. Rory McIlroy dug a hole he could not escape and missed his first cut since August.

The Players finally finished its second round after storms moved in late Friday and shut down play with half the field unable to finish.

Svensson’s worst shot turned into a birdie when he received a free drop from the tent and a cart path and hit a delicate pitch to 4 feet for birdie on the par-5 ninth. That gave him a 67 and a two-shot lead over Masters champion Scottie Scheffler.

Scheffler took his time, and for good reason. He was playing with McIlroy as a twosome because world No. 1 Jon Rahm withdrew before the second round because of a stomach bug.

There was a lot of waiting, and Scheffler did what was needed. He had a pair of two-putt birdies on the par 5s on the back nine at the TPC Sawgrass, made sure he found land on the island green at the 17th and capped off a 69.

Now that Rahm and McIlroy are not round, Scheffler has a clear path to a return to No. 1 in the world. Scheffler needs to finish only in a three-way tie for fifth or better to replace Rahm.

Svensson, who won his first PGA Tour title in the final event last year at Sea Island, has his first 36-hole lead. He was at 9-under 135.

Two-time major champion Collin Morikawa didn’t make any gains Saturday morning and finished off a 73. He was three shots behind, along with Ben Griffin, Min Woo Lee and Christiaan Bezuidenhout.

Bezuidenhout was tied at 8 under with Svensson when play resumed in crisp, sunny conditions. He bogeyed three of his last two holes for a 70.

McIlroy hasn’t missed a cut since the start of the FedEx Cup playoffs last August, a tournament that no longer will have a cut going forward.

He opened with a 76 and was at 6 over for the tournament when he resumed play. He picked up birdies on the par 5s but needed so much more. McIlroy made a bogey of no consequence on the 18th for a 73.

“Just very blah,” McIlroy said.

He was asked again about the distraction of being such a strong voice in the massive changes being made to the PGA Tour because of Saudi-funded LIV Golf, and McIlroy said he looks forward to being just a golfer again.

Still, the heavy lifting ended last week, and McIlroy has a love-hate relationship with TPC Sawgrass, just like so many others. He won The Players in 2019. He has three other top 10s. He also has six missed cuts.

“The course, you just have to be really on to play well here. If you’re a little off, it definitely magnifies where you are off,” he said. “It’s a bit of an enigma. Some years I come here and it feels easier than others.”

This wasn’t one of those weeks.

The third round was set to begin Saturday afternoon in threesomes off both tees, and the 75 players who made the cut should be able to finish.

The sad tale belonged to Luke List, who was 1 over for the tournament and just short of the green on the par-5 ninth in three. It took him four shots from there — a double bogey — where a par would have made the cut at 1 over and eliminated 11 players, a group that includes Justin Thomas and Shane Lowry.

It also includes Keith Mitchell, who shoved his tee shot right and into the water on the fifth hole Friday, seconds before the horn sounded to stop play. He returned in the morning to hit his third shot from tee, and then hit wedge to a foot to escape with a bogey.

He made the cut on the number, critical because he is No. 47 in the world and needs to stay in the top 50 in just over two weeks to get into the Masters.

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