You need a bit of luck in this game. Even now, as you read this, there will be a golfer down at your local club muttering ‘you jammy little so-and-so’ as their playing partner duffs one to three inches.

A wee break now and again from those golfing gods is par for the course but those bouts of good fortune can’t be taken for granted. As Jack Nicklaus said, "if you find yourself in a position where you hope for luck to pull you through, you're in serious trouble."

Bryson DeChambeau is well aware of that. “I've been pretty lucky, for the most part,” he said after keeping himself in contention at the halfway point of The Players Championship at Sawgrass. “But I don't think that'll happen this weekend."

DeChambeau’s second round three-under 69 for a six-under aggregate tucked him in the upper echelons but golf’s man of the moment knows there is plenty of room for improvement.

Boasting a bigger drive than the Paris-Dakar Rally, DeChambeau has been trying to throttle back his howitzers this week but they have still been veering here, there and everywhere over the past couple of days. In 36-holes, the reigning US Open champion, fresh from victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational last weekend, has found just 12 of 28 fairways. DeChambeau has been getting away with it, though.

A wayward tee-shot which spawned a double-bogey on his opening hole of the day – he started on the 10th – was hardly a rousing start but the 27-year-old began a repair job like a panel beater clattering out the dents. Birdies at 11, 16 and 17 got him back in red figures and further gains at the sixth and ninth bolstered his assault on a ninth PGA Tour title.


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“I’ve got to make sure that my game is good off the tee,” DeChambeau added. “I have to get it in the fairway so I don’t have to rely on luck.” What was it Nicklaus said again?

His driving may have required pace notes rather than a stroke saver but his irons and, importantly, the putter have been salvaging many a situation. He found the putting surface 13 times in regulation yesterday and only needed to get up-and-down for par once. “The iron play is a B to A minus and putting is an A,” was his self-assessment. “The driving is a C.”

DeChambeau was one of the early starters trying to chase down the first round pace of seven-under set by Sergio Garcia. Denny McCarthy was up and and at it before the larks had even had time to flap a dozing wing at the snooze button and, out in the very first group of the day, he illuminated his 69 with a hole-in-one on the third – his 12th – as he hoisted himself on to the six-under mark.

“It was a slow start, I wasn’t that awake, and it wasn’t that flashy,” he said. All that changed, of course, when he flighted a lovely 8-iron into that third green and watched it hop in.

If McCarthy pulled out the ace in the pack, Chris Kirk certainly played his cards right as he pieced together a thrilling 65 which thrust him to seven-under. The 35-year-old former Walker Cup player,  who won the first of his four PGA Tour titles a decade ago, has endured well-documented off-course troubles in recent years and had to take a break from the circuit to deal with issues involving alcohol and depression.

This was another significant step in Kirk’s rehabilitation and a telling thrust around the turn featured a fine run comprised of birdie, birdie, birdie, par, eagle.

“There were months where I didn't think that I really had any interest in playing golf at all again, much less competitive golf,” said Kirk, as he reflected on those dark days. “Thankfully my mindset has changed a lot now in numerous ways, and I'm back to really truly enjoying playing and really enjoying competing. Days like today are a lot of fun.”

On an intriguing second day, Lee Westwood, runner-up at Bay Hill last weekend, had reached the turn at the head of the pack while overnight leader Garcia re-ignited a stuttering round with an eagle on his 11th as a busy leaderboard just about raised questions about social distancing. Sungjae Im’s sizzling run of six birdies in a row was the kind of burst Rory McIlroy could have done with but, after his ruinous opening 79, the defending champion missed the cut by a country mile.