Commentary

Sobel's Players Championship Blog

Originally Published: May 9, 2009
By Jason Sobel | ESPN.com

7:30 p.m. ET: He has been a pro for exactly two decades. He's competed in Q-school on both the PGA and European tours. He's earned 11 victories worldwide. He's competed in every major championship on multiple occasions.

[+] EnlargeAlex Cejka
Richard Heathcote/Getty ImagesAlex Cejka birdied the 18th hole Saturday to give himself a 5-shot lead heading into Sunday's final round.

And yet, there's never been a more important round in Alex Cejka's career than Sunday at the Players Championship.

With rounds of 66-67-72, the Czechoslovakia-born, Germany-raised Las Vegas resident enters the final 18 holes with a 5-stroke lead in search of the first U.S. title of his career. At stake are all sorts of perks and prizes: A 5-year exemption on the PGA Tour, an invitation to next year's Masters Tournament and a cool $1.71 million paycheck.

As if that wasn't nerve-wracking enough for Cejka, there's also the little matter of his final-round playing partner. Ranked No. 267 on the Official World Golf Ranking, Cejka will go head-to-head against the man who's spent most of his professional life atop that list. Tiger Woods.

Whether intimidation or the size of their Sunday gallery or the magnitude of the moment play a factor into Cejka's final result remains to be seen, but there is one recent tale that suggests history may not be in his favor, despite holding such a definitive lead.

Exactly six weeks ago, Woods trailed Sean O'Hair by 5 strokes entering the final 18. Some five hours later, Tiger had posted a 67 while his opponent took a 73 -- and the comeback story was complete.

In order to avoid a repeat of O'Hair's performance, Cejka will need to rely on the same strategy that's gotten him through 54 holes so far. A fairways-and-greens type of player, he currently leads the field in driving accuracy (83.33 percent) and is T-20 in greens in regulation (66.67 percent).

Add in the fact that he's also putting well, ranking T-7 in total putts (26.33 per round) and it's apparent that Cejka is on top of the leaderboard because he's made the fewest mistakes of anyone in the field so far.

If he can retain those numbers in the final round, the Players Championship title -- and all of its perks -- will be all his on Sunday evening. If he falters, though, Cejka will only need look across the tee box to find a player ready to pounce on any inadequacies that drop his opponent down the leaderboard.

I'll be here on site at TPC Sawgrass for the final round on Sunday as Cejka will try to hold off Woods and a bevy of other competitors down the stretch. Check back at 2 p.m. ET for continuous updates in the blog.

Until then, hit 'em straight ...


7:04 p.m. ET: Ian Poulter fails to chip in, clinching Tiger Woods' place in tomorrow's final pairing.

Here's Alex Cejka from 5 feet for birdie ... and it's good!

Five-shot lead for Cejka going into tomorrow's final round.

Somewhere, Sean O'Hair is very nervous for Alex Cejka.


7:01 p.m. ET: The bad news for Alex Cejka? It's going to take a great shot from Ian Poulter on the final hole to post birdie and knock Tiger Woods out of the final pairing tomorrow.

The good news? Whomever he plays with, Cejka will likely own a 5-shot lead entering the day as he just stiffed one close at the difficult 18th.

Of course, that doesn't necessarily equate to victory.

Exactly six weeks ago, Tiger Woods entered the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational trailing playing partner Sean O'Hair by 5 ... and beat him by 1.


6:57 p.m. ET: After hitting a tree with his second shot and having the ball bound back to the fairway, Kevin Na finishes with a bogey on the final hole to shoot 74 and close at 5-under.

Let's break it down: Na had an eagle, four birdies, seven pars, five bogeys and a triple.

And his last six holes coming in were triple-par-birdie-eagle-bogey-bogey.

Wow.


6:54 p.m. ET: With Kevin Na leaking oil up ahead, Alex Cejka and Ian Poulter both find the short stuff off the tee on 18. Good start ...


6:50 p.m. ET: After Ian Poulter makes a nice 2-putt par on 17, Alex Cejka burns the edge with a lengthy birdie attempt.

That would have given him a 5-shot lead heading to the final hole. Instead, he's up 4 ... and would love to make par and stay there.

Yesterday on this hole, Cejka drained an 18-foot putt to save par.


6:42 p.m. ET: After hitting his second shot to about 8 feet below the 17th hole, Kevin Na pushes his par effort and will settle for bogey.

Na is now at 6-under, one of nine players tied for second place, 4 shots behind Alex Cejka.


6:39 p.m. ET: Decent birdie opportunity for Henrik Stenson at the final hole ... but he misses and settles for par.

Stenson will finish up among a large group at 6-under. Very much in the mix, though he would have liked to be much closer, considering he was 9-under with just six holes to play today.


6:33 p.m. ET: Like Henrik Stenson before him, Kevin Na is now trying to play his way out of that final pairing tomorrow, too.

Na crushes his tee shot on 17 and it runs through the green, only stopping on the narrow strip of grass bordering the back edge that leads to the water below. Tough stance from there. That will be a tough up-and-down.


6:31 p.m. ET: One more player joins those in a share of third place at 6-under ...

Ben Crane finishes eagle-par-birdie for an even-par 72.


6:25 p.m. ET: Wherever they are, Tiger Woods, Retief Goosen and Jonathan Byrd are making a charge up the leaderboard.

Henrik Stenson just 3-putted for bogey at No. 17 to drop to 6-under with those aforementioned players already in the clubhouse.

If things end the way they are right now, Tiger Woods will be in tomorrow's final pairing -- a fact that's got to surprise even him.

Then again ... let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.

Kevin Na is currently at 5-under and has a makeable eagle putt on No. 16 ... and it's good! He moves to 7-under and after two shankopotamous shots, he's now back in sole possession of second place.

By the way, Cejka and Na would each love a reunion pairing tomorrow. They played the first two rounds together -- without a third player -- and the Las Vegas neighbors and friends fed off each other's play.


6:20 p.m. ET: Speaking of Cejka, nice routine par on 15 to get off the bogey train and remain at 10-under.

Par-5 16th coming up ...


6:18 p.m. ET: Tweet, Tweet ...

Dimonator@JasonSobel how bad do you think Cejka wants Stenson to finish out these last two holes with pars?!?!?!?

Well, I don't think Cejka has any idea what's going on in terms of tomorrow's pairings -- and I don't think he cares right now -- but yeah, if you sat him down, told him the situation and asked him to think about it, he'd likely rather play with Stenson than Woods.

Of course, he may not admit it.

Most players say they'd rather have the challenge of playing against the world's best. And there is one definitive advantage to being paired with Tiger: You can keep an eye on him first-hand.


6:14 p.m. ET: Henrik Stenson misses a long par putt on 16, drops to 7-under.

If he loses one more stroke down the stretch and Ian Poulter doesn't pick one up, Tiger Woods would join Alex Cejka in the final pairing tomorrow.


6:10 p.m. ET: How close were the guys at 6-under to being in a tie for second place? About 6 inches.

That's how far away from the water hazard Henrik Stenson's bunker shot stopped on No. 16. If that goes in, there's a decent chance he drops two shots and joins the pack at 6-under.

Even so, gonna be a very tough up-and-down for par from there. Could be looking at another bogey.


6:07 p.m. ET: Uh-oh. They might be crying in their beers in Portland.

After a nice bunker shot on 14, Alex Cejka can't convert his par attempt. He made two straight birdies on 11 and 12, but has now followed with two straight bogeys. Drops him to 10-under for the tourney, as the lead over Henrik Stenson is back to 2.


6:01 p.m. ET: Here is some of what Tiger Woods had to say in his post-round interview session with the media ...

Q: Was it frustrating about the way things were going, to really, really hang in there, knowing what would transpire --
Tiger Woods: Yeah, I just kept saying if I keep plodding along, not coming back, that's the whole idea, just making pars, par after par. If I happen to sprinkle in a birdie that would be fine. But I made a few bogeys out there and thought it would have been a little bit better.

Q: Are you surprised to be this close with you've been expressing your levels of frustration, it's been a little unpredictable how it's going. And you somehow put three straight under par rounds together on a hard track?
Tiger Woods: Just grinding it out. This is basically our fifth major, and that's how it's playing. It's playing just like a major championship. It's fast. It's hard. It's dry. And you just have to keep plodding along.

Q: When you're struggling, do you always feel that you're one hole, one shot away from figuring it out?
Tiger Woods: Yeah, if I have an understanding of my misses, yeah, I can figure it out. Sometime you don't. It's a little frustrating. But this week I have an idea of what I need to do, it's just a matter of doing it when I do it properly.

Q: Are you close in that regard?
Tiger Woods: I'm not that far off. Look at & my rounds since I've come back and played again, I really haven't been that far off. But I just haven't been as consistent as I was before my injury.

Interesting stuff. Not sure I've actually heard Tiger acknowledge as much about his lack of consistency since returning, even if it's plainly evident.


5:59 p.m. ET: One more random observation ...

If you had told me that of the two players in today's final pairing, one of them would be wearing pink ... I definitely would have picked the wrong dude.

Channeling his inner Paula Creamer seems to be working for Alex Cejka, though.


5:56 p.m. ET: Jeff from U.S. Team Cejka checks in from team headquarters in Portland, Ore., again:

Man. Stressful. It got a little quiet at headquarters. Alex thinks HQ is in a high-rise on the 44th floor in downtown Portland. It's actually in the local watering hole. The funny thing is, the entire bar is now going crazy. Everyone is asking why we're yelling. They've been told the story and the place is hanging on every shot. His fan base has expanded exponentially. Fun.

Damn, gave one back. But we all feel good. I like your comparison to Ames. Spot on. He won't flinch.

NBC needs to get some cameras to that watering hole for the final round. It's gotta be the only "Alex Cejka bar" in America.


5:53 p.m. ET: Blog Jinx!

Just as I start comparing Alex Cejka to the 2006 version of Stephen Ames, he posts bogey on No. 13 to fall back to 11-under.

As I said after his par-par-par start to the round, Cejka would have loved 15 more of 'em. Well, it's not going to work out that way, but he may still shoot even-par 72 -- which would likely keep him in the lead by at least a few strokes.


5:48 p.m. ET: Getting a lot of e-mails/tweets like the following ...

benbuschmann@JasonSobel What did Cabrera complain about? Something Na did?

After Kevin Na's huge pull-hook on No. 11, he took about 12-15 minutes to figure out how to hit his third shot from the pine straw. According to NBC announcers, Cabrera complained to a rules official that the pace of play was "impossible."

Not too surprising. Na is known as a pretty slow player; Cabrera goes very quick.


5:45 p.m. ET: After that water-ball on 13, Kevin Na makes triple and falls all the way back to T-10 at 4-under.

And that means the trio of Tiger Woods, Retief Goosen and Jonathan Byrd -- each of whom is already in the clubhouse at 6-under -- are now in a share of third place.

Keep this in mind: If Henrik Stenson drops two or more strokes down the stretch, if Ian Poulter doesn't come in under par and if no one else farther down the leaderboard comes in at 2-under or better ... Tiger Woods will play in the final pairing tomorrow.

Remarkable.


5:42 p.m. ET: Random thought about Alex Cejka ...

What he's doing right now reminds me of Stephen Ames here at TPC Sawgrass in 2006. At that edition of the tourney, it seemed as if everyone was saying, "Ames can't keep this up. He's gotta come back to the pack at some point." And yet, he never did, winning by a half-dozen strokes over Retief Goosen.

It's amazing what happens when a guy keeps hitting fairways and greens all day.


5:40 p.m. ET: After being forced to lay up from the rough with his second shot, Henrik Stenson can't get up-and-down for par on No. 14.

He drops to 8-under, in sole possession of second place still, but 3 behind Alex Cejka.

Whoa. Not so fast -- make that 4 behind Cejka. The leader posts his second consecutive birdie on the 12th.

That's a huge 2-shot swing in a matter of about 10 seconds.


5:38 p.m. ET: Jonathan Byrd can't convert his birdie on the final hole, but he does clean up his par and joins Tiger Woods and Retief Goosen in the clubhouse at 6-under.


5:36 p.m. ET: Shankopotamous!

Two really bad pull jobs in the last three holes for Kevin Na, as he just hooked his tee shot on 13 into the water on the right.

That's the first ball in the water there all day.


5:34 p.m. ET: FYI ... with Ian Poulter dropping a shot on 11, Tiger Woods and Retief Goosen -- each already in the clubhouse at 6-under -- both just moved up to T-4 right now.

If it ends like this, Woods would play in tomorrow's penultimate pairing, thanks to the first-in, last-out rule.


5:28 p.m. ET: Of the final five groups on the course, only one player (Henrik Stenson at 2-under) is in the red today and one is even (Kevin Na).

Whoops -- make that two at even for the day.

Nice up-and-down from the bunker on 11 for Alex Cejka as he makes birdie to get right back to where he started at 11-under. Back to a 2-stroke lead once again.


5:25 p.m. ET: Blog Jinx!

Retief Goosen misses the lengthy left-to-right par attempt on 18 ... and he's in the clubhouse at 6-under, tied with Tiger Woods in fifth place.


5:22 p.m. ET: Remember: I told you earlier to beware of the Goose on these increasingly ultra-quick greens.

With two birdies and two pars on his last four holes, Retief Goosen is now 7-under while playing the final hole.

With a par here, he could be looking at a spot in the second-to-last or even last pairing in Sunday's final round.


5:19 p.m. ET: No birdies for Ian Poulter yet today. Maybe at No. 11? Maybe not.

Poulter hits 3-wood into the water on the right. Unless he can get up-and-down from pretty far back, he'll drop from his current position of 7-under.


5:10 p.m. ET: Henrik Stenson stiffs one into the 12th green and holes the short birdie putt.

Maybe it only seems like everyone is backing up today.

Of the top-10 on the leaderboard right now, Stenson is one of six who are currently under par for the day. He's 2-under and in solo second, 1 shot behind Cejka.


5:06 p.m. ET: One more Tiger Tweet ...

Dimonator@JasonSobel 1) will the field continue to come back to Tiger? and 2) where do you think he envisions himself being at the end of the day?

The way the leaders are playing right now -- and with the wind blowing harder and the greens getting more baked out -- it certainly doesn't look like they'll put any more distance between themselves and Woods. He's 4 back right now; I could definitely see that being more like 2 or 3 by the end of the day.


5:01 p.m. ET: Tweet, Tweet ...

vudochilde@JasonSobel Tiger posts -6, pops up on the 'boards and everyone trips & stops making putts. Very odd phenomena. Very odd indeed, no?

Are you intimating the oft-pondered "intimidation factor" of Woods? I'm not buying it. There's no way Alex Cejka and Kevin Na and Ian Poulter are checking out leaderboards, seeing Tiger's name and wilting under the pressure of contending with him. If they were paired together? Maybe. And that's just a maybe. But teeing off some two hours after him? Nah, it's not a factor at all.

By the way, here's Tiger to NBC's Jimmy Roberts on whether he's got a chance tomorrow ...

"It depends what the leaders do. ... As of right now, I'm in the ballgame."


4:55 p.m. ET: Tiger Woods does indeed get up-and-down from just next to the hazard on the final hole.

That's a roller-coaster 2-under 70 for TW, currently 4 strokes off the lead.

Hell, the way the guys on top of the leaderboard have been playing, Tiger could be leading this thing in a few hours.


4:54 p.m. ET: Does anyone want to reach out and grab this thing?

Kevin Na loses his hold on sole possession of second place, making bogey on 10 to drop to 2 strokes behind Alex Cejka.


4:48 p.m. ET: Tiger Woods hits a similar low-runner to yesterday's second shot on 18, but puts a little too much extra oomph into it as it heads toward the water hazard ... and stays just barely out.

Good break for Woods there, but it's going to be a difficult up-and-down to save par and remain at 6-under.


4:43 p.m. ET: The leaders are backing up.

Alex Cejka has made two bogeys in his last three holes to fall to 10-under, just a single stroke in front of Kevin Na. Meanwhile, Ian Poulter has bogeyed his last two in a row to drop to 7-under.

When was the last time we saw the two players in the final pairing each make bogey on a par-5 hole?


4:41 p.m. ET: The bad news for Tiger? He just blocked his tee shot on 18 into the right rough.

The good news? He's been there before. Hit his best shot of the day from the exact same spot yesterday, punching one under the tree branch, through the fairway, onto the green and to within 12 feet.


4:38 p.m. ET: Tiger Woods converts the 8-foot birdie putt on 17.

He's now at 6-under, 5 shots off the lead and -- as soon as David Toms finishes up his bogey on 11 -- in a share of fifth place.

That's the highest Tiger has been on the leaderboard all week.


4:31 p.m. ET: Unbelievable.

Somehow, Tiger Woods keeps treading water ... and keeps moving up the leaderboard.

Following bogey at 15 with a birdie on 16, Tiger gets back to 5-under and is now in a share of seventh place.

That's right. Seventh place! Think about it: If you watched nothing else today but Woods' shots, where do you think he'd be on the leaderboard? Definitely not seventh place.

And he may be moving even higher. Nice swing on 17, sticks it to about pin-high. Good birdie opportunity.


4:22 p.m. ET: Tweet, Tweet ...

Angry_Golfer@JasonSobel Your take on the lack of Americans on top of the leaderboard?

A little surprising, but not too much, considering how many great international players there are these days.

Is there any specific reason for it? I don't think so. I mean, perhaps you could make a case that more U.S.-born players partake in a bomb-and-gouge style of golf while more international players are accustomed to hitting fairways and greens, which of course is the preferred method of play here at TPC Sawgrass.

That's one theory, at least, but again -- I think it's more coincidence than anything else.


4:13 p.m. ET: Tiger Woods misses a 9-footer for par on the 15th hole.

Story of his week.

As I've written the past two days, it seems like Woods has had an inordinate amount of 8-12 foot putts this week and he's missed a whole lot more than he's made.


4:11 p.m. ET: Now this looks more like Moving Day ...

Kevin Na chips in on No. 8 for a second straight birdie and he joins Ian Poulter in a share of second place at 9-under.


4:03 p.m. ET: So much for Moving Day so far.

Here is the current top-eight, with their starting position entering the day in parenthesis:

1. Alex Cejka (1)
2. Ian Poulter (2)
T-3. Henrik Stenson (T-3)
T-3. Kevin Na (T-3)
5. David Toms (T-3)
T-6. Retief Goosen (T-13)
T-6. Tim Petrovic (T-9)
T-6. Richard S. Johnson (T-9)


3:55 p.m. ET: David Toms has missed a handful of short birdie putts in the early part of his round today.

He just made up for one of those misses by draining a 33-footer on No. 8 to move to 7-under, right back where he started this round.


3:47 p.m. ET: The Cejka boys in Portland are celebrating right now.

Birdie for their man on No. 5 and he extends the lead to 3 for the first time today.


3:41 p.m. ET: Another missed opportunity for Tiger Woods, as he misses the 11-foot birdie putt from the back fringe.

The good news? Without making birdie, he moved from T-12 into the top-10 at T-9. Had he made that putt, Woods would have been in a share of fifth place right now.


3:34 p.m. ET: Another pair of pars for Alex Cejka and Ian Poulter in the final pairing.

I always write about how patience is such an important part of remaining in contention at big tournaments and each of these players is showing an ability to remain patient so far today.

That's good news, considering these comments from Poulter after yesterday's round:

Q: Is this a golf course that can easily tempt you into making a rash decision?
Ian Poulter: Absolutely. There's going to be pin positions out there which have been there the last couple days, but you're going to see more of them over the weekend, which are going to tempt you into a risk and reward shot. And I think you're just going to have to evaluate which ones you want to go at and play sensible, because you can get bitten very hard out there if you don't hit the right shot at the right time.


3:26 p.m. ET: After nearly jarring a pitch shot for eagle, Tiger Woods cleans up for birdie on No. 12.

For as poorly as it seems like he's played today -- missing a few very makeable putts, having to hit lefty, etc. -- Woods is still very much in the mix. At 5-under, he's in a share of 12th place. If he can come in by playing the final six holes in 2-under or so, getting him to 7-under entering the final round, he could very well be a strong contender tomorrow.


3:19 p.m. ET: Par-par-par starts for both Alex Cejka and Ian Poulter.

I know they'd each like to mix in a few birdies, but there's a chance that 15 more pars for each player could land him right back in the final pairing again tomorrow afternoon.

Right now, only Henrik Stenson is making a run at that honor. He's 2-under for the day through five and tied with Poulter at 9-under for the tourney -- two behind Cejka.


3:14 p.m. ET: Retief Goosen just rolled in a birdie putt on No. 9 to move to 6-under.

These greens here are starting to get a bit baked out, thanks to the combination of hot sun and increasingly stronger winds. Well, the faster they get, the more it plays into the hands of Goosen, who has established himself as one of the world's top fast-greens putters over the years.

Remember: This is a guy who won at Shinnecock when the rest of the field was complaining about the green speeds.


3:11 p.m. ET: Tweet, Tweet ...

This one plays off my Silly Season idea earlier:

gswoods@JasonSobel Tiger just hit a great shot left-handed out of the trees. Who wins over 18 holes, Tiger playing lefty or Phil playing righty?

I'll take Phil. He's a natural righty -- does everything right-handed, but golf -- so I don't think he'd struggle as much as Woods playing lefty.

I'm serious about this idea, though. Like you wouldn't sit in front of the TV for an entire afternoon watching guys playing from the opposite side? It would instantly become one of the more popular events of the year.


3:07 p.m. ET: E-mail from Pat in Parts Unknown:

Could you remind us of the rules for the second cut?

From the PGA Tour: "With a total of 83 players making the 36-hole cut, a second cut will take place following third-round play to reduce the field to the low 70 and ties entering Sunday's final round."


3:01 p.m. ET: Where's Mickelson when you need him?

Stymied behind a tree on the left side of the 11th hole, Tiger Woods turns around one of his righty clubs and punches one from the pine straw through the fairway and into the first cut on the other side.

That was impressive.

For the record, though, if the PGA Tour ever held a tournament in which every player had to hit from the opposite side (and really, wouldn't this be the best Silly Season idea EVER?), my money is on Shingo Katayama, who actually warms up lefty before his rounds.


2:59 p.m. ET: Bogey-birdie start for Kevin Na, who just holed one from 18 feet on No. 2.

He's played really well this year, with four top-10s so far. Or, as he puts it, "And one 11. It's almost like five top-10s."

Or, uh, five top-11s.


2:56 p.m. ET: Latest Tweet from "half a minute ago" from Stewart Cink:

stewartcink I stink. Literally and figuratively. Shot 77 and it's hot down here. Hot under the collar too.

At T-76 right now, it looks like Cink will be spending his Sunday tweeting instead of golfing. He likely won't make it through the second cut.


2:52 p.m. ET: Contenders? Or just pretenders?

We came into the third round with a half-dozen players tied for third place at 7-under. Right now, only one of those guys is under par for the day -- that's Henrik Stenson, who has gotten it to 8-under. One other, David Toms, is even today. The other four, which includes Jason Dufner, John Mallinger, Kevin Na and Angel Cabrera? They're all 1-over through either one or two holes already.


2:46 p.m. ET: Putting from off the green on No. 1, Alex Cejka leaves his 51-foot birdie attempt 9 feet short. Meat on that bone? That's like a flavorful spare rib.

And yet, Cejka calmly knocks in the par effort to stay at 11-under. That's a big one right there -- could have been leaking oil early.

Leads to this e-mail from Jeff Krebs, president of the U.S. Team Cejka fan club:

The Executive Team (President, CEO and CFO) has gathered at headquarters in Portland, Ore. It's a closed event. Amazing how many "fans" come out of the woodwork when someone plays well. We've been waiting seven years for this. Talked with [his caddie] T.J. last night and Alex is loose and in a great state of mind. Expect a solid round from him.

There must have been plenty of cheering in Portland when that putt found the bottom of the cup.


2:37 p.m. ET: Missed birdie putt for Tiger Woods on the par-5 ninth hole. He hasn't made any sort of noticeable move, playing the front side in 1-under 35 to move to 5-under for the first time all week.

So far, TW is being outplayed by playing partner Daniel Chopra, who made the turn at 3-under for the day. He's now played his last 27 holes in 10-under.

Leads to this e-mail from Cavan in Atlanta:

I seem to recall you openly wondering what has gone haywire with Daniel Chopra's game this season, even though he's looking to get the mojo going again this week. Seeing him on TV for the first time all year, it seems patently obvious to me; he's ditched the Guy Fieri look. Who signed off on that?!? When did this happen?!? I can see his scalp through this new Just For Men dye job!!!

Yeah, I don't like it, either. Used to be, you could pick out Chopra from 300 yards away, with his peroxide, spiked hair. Now he just looks like another brown-haired dude in a visor.


2:32 p.m. ET: Just a little while ago, TV cameras caught Alex Cejka and Ian Poulter having a conversation on the practice range.

What? They won't have enough time to talk during their round this afternoon?

Actually, the two know each other pretty well, having split time during their careers between both the PGA and European tours.

"I know him pretty good," Poulter said yesterday about his Saturday playing partner. "Obviously back home on the European Tour, he's played there a number of years. I'm very well aware of Alex and I know his golf game. He's in very good form. He barely missed the green yesterday and gone out today and played very, very well, so he's in good form."


2:27 p.m. ET: Blog Jinx!

Right after writing about Jonathan Byrd's two-birdie start, he drops a shot with a duffed chip on No. 5 that leads to bogey. Oops.


2:20 p.m. ET: Mentioned earlier that it's a bit windier here today than the past two days. Then again, it's not exactly British Open-like climes, either.

Here's the official weather report: "Sunny and hot with highs around 90 degrees. Light winds in the morning with expected 10-15 mph from the SE by mid-afternoon."

Well, I think we're getting pretty close to mid-afternoon. Even just 10-15 mph winds will play a few tricks on the ball for guys on the course throughout the remainder of the day.


2:14 p.m. ET: A couple of early birdies (Byrdies?) for Jonathan Byrd through four holes.

He's now at 7-under, in a share of third place. Coming off a T-5 at Quail Hollow that included a really strong Sunday, he's playing with a ton of confidence and should be a guy to keep an eye on throughout the weekend.


2:06 p.m. ET: First e-mail of the day from Jeff in East Brunswick, N.J.:

After looking at the scores for most of the early golfers, it seems that conditions seem a bit tougher today, although a good score can still be had. That being said, what do you think will be the leading score at the end of the round today?

Good question. I do think Alex Cejka will come back to earth a little bit today. My best guess is that his current total of 11-under may also be the leading score at the end of the day, which means he would shoot even-par 72, Ian Poulter would shoot 70 and none of the eight guys in a share of third would break 68. Could be 12- or 13-under, though, too.


2 p.m. ET: It's Moving Day! Good afternoon from TPC Sawgrass, where Round 3 of the Players Championship is well under way. Though leaders Alex Cejka and Ian Poulter don't tee off for another 35 minutes, some other big-name players are already on the course -- and off of it already.

Phil Mickelson went off early and has already completed his third round, shooting a second straight score of 1-under 71 that will keep him inside the number for the second cut at the end of today. (That's right -- with 83 players making the cut on Friday afternoon, there will be a second cutdown after today's round.) No surprise that Lefty didn't go low; he wore the white belt today, which still hasn't yielded a sub-70 score in seven stroke-play rounds.

Tiger Woods posted five consecutive scores of 4 to begin his round, remaining at even-par for the day through five holes, before draining a 47-foot bomb for birdie on the sixth hole. His round also includes a birdie at the par-5 second (he's done that every day) and a bogey at the par-3 third (for the second time this week).

So, who's making a move on Moving Day?

Foremost on the list is Woods' playing partner, Daniel Chopra, who's following a second-round 65 with a strong start so far, at 2-under through six holes. Same goes for Brian Davis through five. And further down the leaderboard, we find Woody Austin and Kenny Perry, each of whom posted 4-under 68 -- the best rounds of the day in the clubhouse to this point.

With hot temps and a little more wind than we've seen the first two days, expect scoring conditions to toughen up for the leaders throughout the afternoon. I'll be here all day, so hit me with any questions or comments at PlayersBlog@gmail.com or Twitter username JasonSobel. Let's get going ...

Jason Sobel | email

Golf Editor, ESPN.com
Jason Sobel, who joined ESPN in 1997, earned four Sports Emmy awards as a member of ESPN's Studio Production department. He became ESPN.com's golf editor in July 2004.

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