Alex Cejka must have destroyed about six packs of chewing gum while greedily hanging on to his lead at THE PLAYERS Championship. Spotted a four stroke lead heading into today's action, Cejka managed to add a shot to the cushion by carding even par 72, -11. A mob followed at -6 including Tiger Woods whose otherwise pedestrian -2, 70, actually gained him a stroke on a TPC Sawgrass course that dried and hardened, wreaking havoc on what had been a birdie fest for the better part of two rounds. Or maybe it was the 90+ degree heat that had contenders and pretenders wilting like convenience store flowers. Among the throng with Woods at -6 were Jonathan Byrd, 71, Ben Crane, E, Retief Goosen, -1, Ian Poulter, 75, and Henrik Stenson, 73. Stenson managed to remain fully clothed for the round to the delight of the PGA hosts.
The good news for Cejka tomorrow is that he has a five stroke head start. The bad is he's paired with Woods, who was the first in the clubhouse to post -6. More and tougher gum may be in order for Alex as he prepares to hang on to his advantage in the pressure cooker that is a round with Tiger. Average Golfer is of the opinion that the front nine will set the tone for the final. If Woods were to make up 2-3 strokes in the first six holes or so, then the vise on Cejka's mettle will tighten. Then again, if Cejka maintains the cushion over the front nine, and Woods continues to spray his tee shots, then Cejka should emerge with the biggest win of his substantial career. Don't discount Goosen, Stenson, or even Ben Crane. A misstep by Cejka would open a large door to these battle tested players. Poulter's 75 today put him in a death spiral that I don't believe he can pull out of. Other contenders this morning that shot themselves out of the tourney with 77s are David Toms, Angel Cabrera, and Jason Dufner. Trailing within shouting distance at -5 are Brian Davis, John Mallinger, and Kevin Na. Full field round 3 scores.
You can play your normal Sunday round tomorrow and be home for the turn, which by then should tell whether it's worth watching the rest of the tournament.