PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — When it absolutely had to be, golf was on Ryan Palmer’s mind Friday.
Between shots, though, his heart was heavy, his focus far away.
Palmer received a call Thursday night notifying him that Clay Aderholt, one of his best friends from Texas who was a classmate in middle school, high school, and college, had been killed in an automobile accident.
After writing “C.A.” on his hat, Palmer went out and shot a 3-under-par 69, pushing to 8 under halfway through the Players Championship. He made two eagles, added four birdies, and was tied for sixth after 36 holes.
It’s only the second time in eight tries he’s made the cut at the Players, but after his round, Palmer seemed to indicate that detailed minutiae from a solid day of golf was inconsequential at the moment.
“All day, yeah, it was tough,” he said. “I had some rough holes, but I stayed strong, stayed positive, and kept in the present, and that got me through. My mind was good today, all things considered.”
The eagles came from off the green in a three-hole stretch. He used a putter from 30 feet at No. 9, then holed a bunker shot at the 11th.
Palmer, who had opened with 67, was asked if he considered withdrawing in light of what happened in San Antonio.
“No,” he said. “I talked to some close friends, and nothing I can really do except keep him in my prayers and memories and just keep playing golf. That’s what I took with me today, and I felt really calm.”
Course suits him
Even though he’s never won the Players, keep an eye on Lee Westwood this weekend. He has a solid record at the Stadium Course (three finishes of sixth or better in 10 starts), and through two rounds, he was the only player in the field who had yet to make a bogey or worse.
Westwood (69-66) is 9 under, two shots behind leader Sergio Garcia, and tied with Kevin Chappell for third.
“Love the golf course, always have. It’s always suited my game, and I always feel like I’ve played pretty well around here,” said Westwood, who started his second round on No. 10 and began par-eagle-birdie-birdie. “I haven’t made a bogey yet this week, just made good, solid stuff, very patient, and played into the right areas.”
Keegan Bradley limped to the finish line for the second day in a row, and this time it cost him a spot on the weekend. Bradley, who bogeyed his final three holes in a first-round 70, was 3 under for the tournament and three shots inside the projected cut line when he made the turn Friday. But he doubled No. 12 and bogeyed the 14th to forfeit any margin for error. Two water balls off the tee — on the 17th, when he salvaged a bogey, and the 18th, which led to a double — sealed his fate. Bradley finished two rounds at 3-over 147, and missed the cut at the Players for the first time in three trips . . . Phil Mickelson had made the cut at the Players every year since 2001, winning for the only time in 2007. But he was sent home early this year, shooting 72-73 to miss the cut by one . . . Nice bounceback by Boston’s James Driscoll, who followed his first-round 75 (which left him tied for 113th) with a 4-under 68, good enough to make the cut by one. Driscoll birdied two of the par-3 holes (Nos. 3, 13) and only dropped one shot, making the cut for the third time in four Players appearances. A tie for 27th in 2006 is his best finish . . . Others who won’t be around for the weekend include Ernie Els, Rickie Fowler, Ian Poulter, and Scott Stallings, who opened the tournament with five straight birdies . . . First-round leader Roberto Castro followed up his 63 with a 78, but will hang around for two more rounds.
One day after Jason Dufner did the same, Marc Leishman knocked his second shot on No. 18 into the hole for an eagle, the fourth in tournament history. Leishman actually called his shot. Debating between a 9-iron and a pitching wedge, Leishman’s caddie suggested the 9; Leishman grabbed the wedge and said, “I’m going to hole it.” He shot 66 and is 6 under . . . Billy Horschel’s streak of consecutive PGA Tour cuts made ended at 23 when he pumped two balls into the water on No. 18 and shot 76-71. Jimmy Walker (72-71) is the new active leader, with 22 . . . The par-3 eighth yielded the fewest second-round birdies (three), but the par-4 14th played the toughest, to a 4.373 stroke average . . . Nine balls found the water on No. 17 in the second round, bringing the two-day total to 24 . . . Withdrawals before the second round: Dustin Johnson (who opened with 74) because of a lower-back injury, and Colt Knost (79) with a neck injury.