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Early-late wave with significant advantage as second round finally ends at The Players

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The luck of the draw is as much a part of professional golf as pro-ams and courtesy cars. But this week’s split hit a little harder than normal.

The result of four consecutive days of weather delays and fragmented play is a scoring split that’s normally only seen at The Open Championship. The early-late wave to start the week was able to complete Round 1 on Thursday before storms halted play and that half of the field largely watched as the late-early wave struggled through three days of wind, rain and bitterly cold temperatures.

“I know I got the lucky side of the draw. I'm very aware of that,” admitted Paul Casey, who followed his opening 70 with a 3-under 69 for a share of fifth. “It's been interesting watching the guys battle on the other side. I believe in the golfing gods and karma, so I don't sit there gleefully watching it.”

The scoring split for the first two rounds was 72.43 for the early-late side compared to 73.93 for the late-early draw. The Round 2 split was even more one-sided with the late-early side averaging 75.34 strokes compared to 73.63 for the early-late said.

Full-field scores from The Players Championship

The top of the leaderboard was dominated by players from the early-late wave, including front-runners Sam Burns and Tom Hoge. Of the top 34 players through two rounds, 25 came from the early-late wave.

The late-early wave had to restart their opening rounds in the worst of the week’s conditions Saturday morning when winds gusted to 35 mph in the wake of a cold front. The same side of the draw then had to start Round 2 in increasingly frigid conditions.

“We've had it amazing for two days, we really, really have, and I consider myself very lucky. It's nice to make the most of it,” said Tommy Fleetwood, who was tied with Casey at 5 under and two shots off the lead.

Because of Saturday’s conditions, officials had to be careful setting up TPC Sawgrass for Round 2 with the best example of this being the use of the forward tee at the par-4 18th hole, which was shortened by nearly 30 yards. By the time the early-late wave completed their rounds on Sunday, the winds had subsided to a more manageable 10 to 20 mph and the hole was much more inviting.

“I felt comfortable hitting that low draw that could start outright, I had a lot more room with a 3-iron clearly,” Fleetwood said. “It was nothing like yesterday. We didn't have wind at all.”