David Lingmerth eagles the 16th hole at TPC Sawgrass to take the lead in THE PLAYERS Championship.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- David Lingmerth was one of the first people on the range at TPC Sawgrass on Sunday when the practice facilities opened after several days of torrential rain.
The Swede, who moved to nearby Jacksonville Beach in December, had been looking forward to this week's PLAYERS Championship. For the first time all year, the PGA TOUR rookie actually knew the course he'd be playing on that week.
"So this one I knew I was going to have a pretty good idea what I was going to get into, so it made me feel good," Lingmerth said. "It's been helping me with the lines off the tee and where I can and cannot miss around the greens and stuff like that."
Indeed, it has. Lingmerth is one par 4 shy of his fourth straight round in the 60s on the always challenging Stadium Course. He's in heady company, too, leading a trio of former champions -- world No. 1 Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson -- by two strokes at THE PLAYERS Championship.
"I had a good feeling (about the week), but this is obviously great," Lingmerth said.
Lingmerth bolted into the lead as darkness approached Saturday with an 8-foot eagle putt at the 16th hole and a 10-footer for birdie at iconic 17th. The horn to suspend play sounded just after he hit his pitching wedge to the island green and he wasn't about to let the putt percolate overnight.
"I was feeling good about things, so I didn't want to sleep on it and try to start over tomorrow morning," Lingmerth said.
THE PLAYERS marks just the 13th event of Lingmerth's TOUR career. No rookie has ever won THE PLAYERS -- the highest finish by one is a tie for third -- and only two players have made it their breakthrough victory.
Lingmerth came close to his own first win in just his second TOUR start at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation where he lost in a playoff to Brian Gay. He's missed his last five cuts, although he's felt like he's on the verge of playing well.
"I don't know if I could predict that this was going to happen, but my game was feeling a lot better than missing five cuts in a row; I can promise you that," Lingmerth said. "It was kind of frustrating because I couldn't get anything out of my game really. But now this week I've been able to score, which obviously helped."
Lingmerth moved to Florida to escape the winters in Arkansas, where he went to college. He lives about 10 yards from the home of fellow Swede Jonas Blixt, who won the Frys.com Open as a rookie last season and is 17 strokes behind his friend.
"Jonas is a little influence for me coming down here," Lingmerth said. "He told me this place was great and practice and the weather was always good. It was nice to move somewhere where you knew you had a buddy you could practice with and hang out with off the course and everything. So, yeah, it's fun."
Lingmerth estimated that he hasn't played more than a dozen full rounds on the Stadium Course and says he's never shot lower than the 68s he's had in the first two rounds. Like most players who live in the area, though, he's quick to point out that Pete Dye's signature creation plays differently this week than the other 51 each year.
"Obviously, thrilled to be in this position," Lingmerth said. "It's going to be a fun day tomorrow."