This is quickly turning into the final group matchup that has been missing from THE PLAYERS in recent years.
In 2009, Alex Cejka teed off with Tiger Woods in the last group, but neither was heard from for the rest of the day, as Henrik Stenson blew past them with a 66. In 2008, Paul Goydos teed off with Kenny Perry, but Perry shot 81 and finished mid-pack. Goydos lost to Sergio Garcia in a playoff.
This year appears to be different. Lee Westwood and Robert Allenby have matched each other shot for shot through five holes, with Westwood pulling back into a share of the lead after draining a birdie putt on the fifth.
Is is very surprising that Westwood and Allenby have managed to score well so far, but both men have struck the ball perfectly on the front nine.
The twosome is three shots clear of Tim Clark and Ben Crane, who are each 12 under.
UPDATE: Scratch the earlier statement. Tim Clark has birdied his last four holes to take sole possession of the lead, and Allenby has bogeyed two of the last five to fall down the leaderboard. It was tough to see the sensational scoring seen in the last hour.
-- Ryan Smithson
One way to erase an opening-hole bogey? Make eagle on the par-5 second, which is what Robert Allenby did a little a while ago. See video of the shot below.
Robert Allenby chips in for eagle on the par-5 second.
Robert Allenby just came up with probably the shot of the week so far. On the short par-5 second, he blew his approach left into the thick rough, setting up a difficult chip into a back pin placement.
Allenby's chip rolled onto the green ... and straight into the cup for an eagle and a tie for the lead at 14 under with Lee Westwood. More proof the course is playing much tougher: Allenby's eagle is only the second of the day for the field. Alvaro Quiros eagled the hole early this morning when he rolled in a 30-foot putt. -- Ryan Smithson
The top 15 names on the leaderboard right now are just a collective 5 under -- and that includes Scott Verplank’s round of 4 under through his first 14 holes. Just a couple of days ago, that same number of players at one point during the second round was a collective 45 under.
That’s made for a very crowded leaderboard with Lee Westwood holding on to a one-shot lead, though he’s 1 over after a bogey on the opening hole, where he missed the green left then missed a par putt from 10 feet.
Robert Allenby is also 1 over after missing the green right and leaving his chip shot some 30 feet short of the hole before two putting for bogey. -- Brian Wacker
Regardless of whether he wins THE PLAYERS today, Robert Allenby will relax and compete in a fishing tournament next week in Palm Beach Gardens.
The event is run by former Philadelphia Phillies third baseman Mike Schmidt and benefits cystic fibrosis research, which has been one of Allenby's favored charities in recent years. In fact, he's been able to donate in the high six figures to the cause through his participation in The Presidents Cup and Tavistock Cup.
Schmidt, an avid golfer, and Allenby live in the same South Florida community and have become good friends. Allenby says his boat is always the loudest in the tournament -- "If you're not going to join me, here are some ear plugs,” he said. “We have a good time, let's put it that way."
Contestants are trying to catch a dolphin, a wahoo and a tuna but sailfish and marlin can be substituted. The highest combined weight of the three fish determines the winner. Allenby says he normally comes in "about last."
"It's a good way to unwind, especially for me, because I spend a lot of time out here playing 30-odd weeks a year around the world," the Aussie said. "So to take a week off and really, really enjoy myself is quite rare. So I do try to go fishing a lot, but next week's a special week." -- Helen Ross
Robert Allenby just blazed his way through the final holes in 3 under to finish with a 67 to put him in position for his first PLAYERS title.
"I played really well all day," Allenby said. "Just tried to get myself as many opportunities as I could. You know, there were a few mistakes out there but it's going to happen around this golf course."
Allenby rolled in a putt from the fringe for eagle on No. 16, sank a 12-footer for birdie on No. 17 and finished with an easy two-putt par on No. 18.
The Aussie, long regarded as one of the best ball-strikers in the world, is tied for second in greens in regulation this week (80 percent). If he can get the putter going Sunday, he will be tough to beat. He'll be playing in the final group with Lee Westwood.
"I can only go out there and just do my best," Allenby said. "Hopefully, it's good enough. But obviously there are some unbelievable players around me, in front of me and behind me.
"So you know someone's going to come out tomorrow and shoot a low score and probably win the tournament."
From the stat-mentioned-way-too-much department: Allenby is winless on TOUR since the 2001 Marconi Pennsylvania Classic. He's finished second four times since 2008. -- Ryan Smithson
After birdieing two of three holes midway through his round, Heath Slocum has seen what was once a two-shot lead slip away thanks to bogeys on to of his last three holes with black numbers on the par-3 13th and the par-4 15th. The bogey on No. 13 was particularly tough with Slocum, a usually very solid putter, missing from just inside 6 feet. On No. 15, he missed from just over 8 feet.
Meanwhile, Robert Allenby went eagle-birdie on Nos. 16 and 17 to pull into a tie for the lead. Lee Westwood, on the other hand, has made nothing but pars the last six holes. -- Brian Wacker
First-round co-leader Robert Allenby still has plenty of golf to navigate this week before THE PLAYERS Championship is determined, but if history means anything, he should finish in the top 10 at the very least.
Allenby, who shared the 18-hole lead with J.B. Holmes after shooting a 6-under 66 Thursday, has held or shared the lead at the end of the first round in five previous TOUR events. Although he failed to win any of those tournament, he did finish inside the top 10 each of the five times.
Allenby has moved to 7 under through his first six holes in Friday's round, although he's dropped behind Ryuji Imada and Ryan Moore on the leaderboard.
You can follow Allenby's round on Shot Tracker by clicking here.
ROBERT ALLENBY'S CAREER RESULTS WITH 18-HOLE LEAD
|Year||Tournament||Round 1 position||Eventual finish|
|2007||Bob Hope Chrysler Classic||1||Tied for 8th|
|2007||WGC-CA Championship||T1||Tied for 3rd|
|2008||British Open||T1||Tied for 7th|
|2009||Honda Classic||1||Tied for 5th|
|2010||Sony Open in Hawaii||T1||Second|
Robert Allenby on his 6-under 66 that ties him for the lead: "I played well all day. Drove it well. Hit my irons well into the greens. I think I hit 16 greens, and the two greens I actually missed I was still putting because I was only like a foot off the green. So pretty close to 18 greens.
"But I putted well, I did everything well today. I was a bit unlucky with my tee shot on 8 where I hit a 3‑iron in there. But I just left myself an impossible putt. But look, overall I'm very happy with the way I played."
For a while it looked like Robert Allenby could hold the overnight lead by himself, but a hiccup bogey at the par-3 eighth dropped the Aussie into a share of the lead with J.B. Holmes at 6 under.
Allenby closed by two-putting from 14 feet at the ninth for his 66.
Kenny Perry and Lee Westwood are the next best on the course, one shot back at 5 under and in the midst of the 16-17-18 stretch.
Meanwhile, Davis Love III headed in the wrong direction on the back nine. The 1992 and 2003 PLAYERS champion bogeyed Nos. 14, 16 and 18 after converting six birdies on his first 11 holes. He's still in good shape, however, just completing a round of 3-under 69.
Tiger Woods lurks at 3 under and is playing the 18th. -- Nick Zaccardi