Three intriguing storylines heading to the weekend at The Players

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA - MARCH 10: Jason Day of Australia plays his second shot on the 10th hole with his caddie Jim Mackay during the second round of THE PLAYERS Championship on THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on March 10, 2023 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images) (David Cannon, 2023 Getty Images)

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Some unexpected names are near the top of the leaderboard at The Players Championship and now they must withstand the pressure of the weekend at one of the biggest tournaments in the world. Here are three of the most interesting storylines to follow over the weekend at TPC Sawgrass.

1. Can Jason Day turn back the clock?

The 2016 Players champion followed up a first-round 70 with another 2-under-par score. He’s 4-under par heading to the weekend. Day has been working his way back into contention. The former number-one-ranked player in the world hasn’t won a PGA Tour event since 2018. But lately, the results have been better.

He finished T10th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week, his fourth top-10 finish in a row. His best recent finish was a fifth place at the WM Phoenix Open.

“I think just overall kind of managing my game,” Day said after his round on Friday. “Actually I wasn’t quite happy with how I was hitting it over the last few tournaments but did a really good job of leaving myself in the correct positions and then getting up-and-down, and my putter has improved drastically since the last two years.”

If Day can win this week, he would become the seventh man to win more than one Players Championship and the first since Tiger Woods won his second in 2013.

He’s not quite back to the form he showed in 2015 and 2016, but he sees improvement.

“I would say that I’m not too far away,” Day said. “But I would like to give myself a modest five (out of 10). I just feel like the level of golf that the three guys are playing right now up in the top of the World Rankings with Jon, Scottie and Rory, the way they’re playing, it’s very difficult to beat.

“But I feel like if I can keep putting in the work, hopefully, it’ll pay off over time.”

2. Will one of the big three win?

The three top players in the world rankings were grouped together on Thursday and Friday. Jon Rahm withdrew on Friday with an illness. After a first-round 68, his best career round at The Players, Scottie Scheffler was 1-under par for his second round when play was suspended. He is certainly in contention to make a move over the weekend. Rory McIlroy struggled with a 76 on Thursday and was 2-over par through 10 holes when weather forced play to be halted for the day.

“I think it was playing pretty challenging when we started out with the high winds and the greens were getting really firm,” Scheffler said. “I did a good job of staying patient. I wasn’t swinging my best, but I made two nice birdies toward the end of the round and then obviously the delay will hurt a little, but start back up in the morning.”

3. Mother Nature’s impact

When the horn sounded at 4:27 p.m. suspending play for the day, it meant the cut following the second round would not be made until sometime late Saturday morning, at best. Play is scheduled to resume at 7 a.m. on Saturday. Then, the field will have to be reset with the top 65 and ties beginning their third rounds. There is a good chance that the tournament could need a Monday finish again this year. There have been eight Monday finishes at The Players since the tournament moved to TPC Sawgrass.

“We feel very confident that between them playing the remaining round and the scoring that they need to do at the end, we should be done at approximately about 10:10 a.m,” said PGA Tour rules official and chief referee Gary Young. “That gives us enough time to repair. We’ll be going off two tees and playing in threesomes at approximately 10:40 to 12:40.”