He made it, but not by much.
With his back feeling better than it did at the start of play Thursday, Love shot 68 to finish at 1 over and make the cut with a shot to spare.
I wouldnt say I kicked it into another gear, he said. I just went back to playing the way Id been playing.
Love, who made five birdies including one off a chip in from the sand trap on No. 6, said it was easier without having to worry about his back. He hurt himself hitting on the driving range before the first round and never got into a flow, always fearing an awkward swing would cause the injury to flare up. He spent Thursday afternoon getting a massage and stretching, and that eased his pain.
Happy to be feeling better, Love still didnt think making the cut was much to celebrate.
Its a little disappointing, he said. Yeah, Ill get to play the weekend. But I wanted to at least get to under par and have a chance.
Daly Doing Much Better
He has trashed a hotel room, hurt his hip and thrown his driver into the water. This time, John Daly is doing something different during Players Championship week.
Hes playing well.
After extending his streak to 27 holes without a bogey, Daly struggled over the final nine holes of his second round March 26, but his 1-over-par 73 still left him at 2 under, in a tie for 21st.
Daly needs a 19th-place finish or better to qualify for the Masters, although he claims thats not on his mind as he goes around the Stadium Course.
Its a matter of just trying to concentrate on each hole here, Daly said. The outside goal is to get in the Masters, but I cant think about it when Im playing here.
Daly has had his difficulties both in and around the Sawgrass resort in years past.
In 1997, he withdrew from the tournament after going on a drinking binge and trashing his hotel room, an episode that compelled him to enter a rehab clinic.
In 1999, he withdrew with an injured hip.
Two years ago, in a much lighter moment, Daly broke his driver while teeing off on the 14th hole and tossed the club in the lake that runs aside the fairway, a made-for-TV moment that probably looked worse than it really was.
On Friday, Daly opened on the back nine and made two birdies to get to 5 under, just three strokes off the lead. But the putting touch that got him there left him on the front nine. He made four bogeys -- his first four of the tournament -- and wound up seven strokes behind leaders Kevin Sutherland and Jerry Kelly.
Daly has never finished better than 16th in 12 appearances here.
Kucher Makes a Cut
A difficult year got a little better for Matt Kuchar, who opened his day with a pair of birdies to shoot 67 and make his first cut in seven weeks.
Its just a next step, Kuchar said of the round that also included three consecutive birdies on Nos. 1-3, the start of his second nine. I dont want to call it a breakthrough. It just happens that things are coming together now.
Before Friday, Kuchar had broken 70 just once on Tour this year -- in the first round at Pebble Beach. He made the cut that week and finished 48th, but it was the only time he played the weekend in six events.
One Reason to Smile
This week included 35 holes of agony, and only one hole to smile about for Jose Maria Olazabal.
Olazabal became the first player to record a hole-in-one at this years Players Championship when he used a 7-iron to ace the 171-yard 13th hole.
It wasnt nearly enough to save his round, though. He shot 74 to finish at 6 over and miss the cut.
I dont feel good around the greens. I dont feel good about my short game. Im struggling, said Olazabal, whose best finish this year was a 32nd in the Nissan Open.
Charles Howell looked like a good bet to play this weekend. Then, he got to the island.
Howell dunked two balls in the water on No. 17 en route to a 7. He went from 1 over, one ahead of the cut line, to 5 over, which wasnt even close. Another bogey on No. 18 left him with 75 and a 150 total.
With the pin in the front left corner of the green on 17, Howells shot landed in a decent spot, but it had too much backspin and it rolled back into the water. His next shot, from the drop area, flew the island completely, and after hitting another shot, he two-putted from 30 feet.
Others going home include Stuart Appleby, who has three top-3 finishes this year, 2002 champion Craig Perks and 2000 winner Hal Sutton.
Meanwhile, Greg Norman shot 73 and made the cut at 1 over. He hasnt played four rounds on the PGA Tour since last September, when he tied for 24th at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
Sergio Garcia holed out on No. 9, his final hole, for eagle to finish at 3 under. It was part of a round that included four bogeys, one double bogey, three birdies and the eagle. Painful, was how Garcia described it. ...Brent Geiberger withdrew before play began with an injured back. ...After surrendering a record 43 birdies in the opening round, No. 18 gave up only 14 Friday and played to an average of 4.326, the toughest hole on the course. ...Todd Hamilton, who picked up his first Tour victory two weeks ago at the Honda Classic, closed with three consecutive birdies to finish at 1 under.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.