Unfamiliar leader at TPC

Alex Cejka served up more proof Friday that The Players Championship is full of surprises, not only on the devilish TPC Sawgrass, but also on the leaderboard.

Alex Cejka pitches to the second green during the second round of The Players Championship on Friday. He fired a 5-under 67 to sit at 11-under for the tournament and a two-shot lead.

Alex Cejka pitches to the second green during the second round of The Players Championship on Friday. He fired a 5-under 67 to sit at 11-under for the tournament and a two-shot lead.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Alex Cejka served up more proof Friday that The Players Championship is full of surprises, not only on the devilish TPC Sawgrass, but also on the leaderboard.

A week after he needed an epidural to restore feeling in his right arm, Cejka ran off six birdies in 11 holes to start his second round and wound up with a 5-under 67 to build a two-shot lead over Ian Poulter going into a weekend full of possibilities.

Neither of the top two players have ever won on the PGA Tour, and only one player in the 35-year history of this event has ever made this his first PGA Tour victory. An eclectic group four shots behind include Masters champion Angel Cabrera, former PGA champion David Toms and Jason Dufner, an alternate when he showed up Monday who earned a tee time through someone else’s misfortune.

Tiger Woods did his best to get back into the hunt, with a delicate pitch out of the mounds for a short birdie, and making an important save on the par-5 16th by trying to land short of the green with his third shot, even though he was only 45 yards away.

“I got myself back in the ball game,” Woods said after a 69, leaving him seven shots behind.

Seven shots sounds like a lot, but perhaps not at Sawgrass, where even small mistakes can lead to big numbers.

Cejka avoided that better than most.

He didn’t hit the ball as pure as the first round, when he hit every fairway and missed only one green on his way to a 66, but he holed enough putts to reach 11-under 133 and get into the final group on the PGA Tour for the first time in nearly five years.

“I’m pretty excited to sit here two days in a row,” he said.

Calgary’s Stephen Ames is tied for 27th at 3-under par after shooting a 1-under 71. Mike Weir just made the cut with an even-par 72 on Friday and is even for the tournament. The native of Bright’s Grove, Ont., is tied for 61st.

Kevin Na, who played with Cejka before no more than a few dozen people most of the round, tried to make up ground and had a 66 to finish in the group at 7-under 137, along with Cabrera (65), Dufner (70), Toms (70), Henrik Stenson (69) and John Mallinger (71).

Cejka didn’t seem overly surprised to be leading, despite his recent health issues. He had surgery to replace a disk in his neck last year and everything was going well until he couldn’t feel his arm two weeks ago. He had an epidural, regained some feeling in his arms, hands and fingers, then got right back to work.

“In New Orleans, where I didn’t feel anything at all, I really played from tee-to-green phenomenal,” he said.

“I just had no feeling, and I couldn’t make putts. The feeling is better, and I can see it on the greens. So we’ll see what happens the next two days.”

Phil Mickelson is thankful he gets to play for two more days. He struggled with his putting most of the round and shot 1-under 71, making birdie on the last hole to make the cut on the number.

“You never want to give up here, because too many things can happen on this golf course,” Mickelson said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A man wearing shorts uses trekking poles as he walks through the snow at Burnaby Mountain Park in Burnaby, B.C., on Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021. Canadians are “Angry Birds” when it comes to climate action, indicates a survey the United Nations calls the largest ever taken on the issue. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
UN survey uses Angry Birds to reveal Canadian, global opinions on climate policies

Canada seventh out of 50 countries when it comes to concern about the environment

James Scott, 19, pauses while picking through the remains of his home, which was destroyed by a tornado, on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Fultondale, Ala. Scott, who survived with his mother and sister, had never lived anywhere else and isn’t sure where he will wind up after the storm. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves)
Killer winter tornado stuns storm-savvy Alabama town

30 injured, entire families trapped in shattered homes

A photo illustration made December 14, 2012 in Montreal shows a computer in chains. Security experts warn about “ransomware,” where computers or mobile phones are locked down by cyber thieves. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Cyber cops in 9 nations team up to disrupt dangerous malware

Malicious software was delivered in infected email attachments containing Word documents

Vehicles are seen in a parking lot at the General Motors Oshawa Assembly Plant in Oshawa, Ont., on June 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin
GM, Navistar team up to build hydrogen powered heavy trucks

GM has been researching hydrogen fuel cells for 50 years

Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Minister Carla Qualtrough responds to a question during a news conference Thursday August 20, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Easing rules for parental benefits created inequities among parents, documents say

Documents obtained under the Access to Information Act

File - In this Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018 file photo, survivors of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz arrive for a commemoration ceremony on International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the International Monument to the Victims of Fascism inside Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland. The commemorations for the victims of the Holocaust at the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, marking the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau on Jan. 27, 1945, will be mostly online this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, file)
Auschwitz survivors mark anniversary online amid pandemic

Memorial site closed to visitors because of the pandemic

FIFA set a new target to finalizing North American host cities for the 2026 World Cup. (File photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
FIFA sets late-2021 target date to pick 2026 World Cup host cities

23 candidate cities likely need to be cut to 16

Hockey Alberta’s logo. (Photo courtesy Hockey Alberta Facebook)
Hockey Alberta sets deadline on decision for 2020-21 minor hockey season

Sustainability of league play for remainder of season under review

Well-known Rocky Mountain retreat Jasper Park Lodge has been booked out from the end of February until the end of April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lauren Krugel
Famous hotel in Alberta mountains reserved for nine weeks for private booking

Hotel could be a filming site according to online speculation

”Letterkenny” has signed a number of new merchandising deals, including one with collectible figurine creator Funko. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Bell Media, Amanda Matlovich
‘Letterkenny’ inks multiple licensing deals with merchandise companies

Expand on merchandise sold through show’s website

Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen, left, makes a save on Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk during second period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Mitch Marner scores game winner for Maple Leafs in 4-3 win over Flames

Mitch Marner scores game winner for Maple Leafs in 4-3 win over Flames

FILE - In this Oct. 25, 2007, file photo, Boston Red Sox's Curt Schilling pitches against the Colorado Rockies in Game 2 of the baseball World Series at Fenway Park in Boston. Like many baseball writers, C. Trent Rosecrans viewed the Hall of Fame vote as a labor of love. The results of the 2021 vote will be announced Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, and Rosecrans was not alone in finding the task particularly agonizing this time around. With Schilling's candidacy now front and center — and Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens still on the ballot as well — voters have had to consider how much a player’s off-field behavior should affect his Hall of Fame chances. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)
Baseball Hall gets no new members; Schilling 16 votes shy

Baseball Hall gets no new members; Schilling 16 votes shy

Prince Edward Island’s Birt is bubble-bound but first wants provincial title

Prince Edward Island’s Birt is bubble-bound but first wants provincial title

Most Read