Players Championship: Scottie Scheffler battles neck injury – and Rory McIlroy a frog – as Wyndham Clark charges into lead

A stunning performance, mid-round physiotherapy, and a showdown with a frog; a chaotic second round of The Players Championship had a little bit of everything.

American Wyndham Clark blitzed through his final nine holes at TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course – rattling off four birdies in a row before adding two more – to card a second consecutive seven-under 65 and take a four shot cushion into the weekend in Florida.

At 14-under par overall, the reigning US Open champion and world No. 5 tied his career-low opening 36-hole performance on the PGA Tour with his 130, a score bettered by only two players in the 50-year history of The Players.

Jason Day and Webb Simpson each shot a 129 through the opening two rounds of the PGA Tour’s flagship event in 2016 and 2018 respectively.

Given both players went on to lift the trophy, the omens look good for the in-form Clark, who shattered the course record en route to being declared the winner of a storm-stricken Pebble Beach Pro-Am in California last month.

“I guess I’ve been breaking some records recently, which is pretty neat,” Clark, who started his second round from the 10th hole, told reporters after his round.

“More than anything I’m just super excited that kind of had a ho-hum front nine and then turned and really just got into a nice zone and felt really good on the greens and shot an awesome number.”

Clark was superb again on Friday. - Lynne Sladky/AP
Clark was superb again on Friday. - Lynne Sladky/AP

Four strokes behind the 30-year-old, compatriot Xander Schauffele and Canada’s Nick Taylor lead the chasing pack after shooting 69 and 68 respectively.

World No.6 Schauffele rebounded from a double bogey at the 11th with an eagle at the 16th, while Taylor – victor at the WM Phoenix Open last month – carded seven birdies.

Scheffler: ‘I didn’t know if I was going to be able to continue playing’

Clark, already chasing a fourth win on the PGA Tour despite not winning his first until May 2023, said he had been inspired by the consistency of compatriot Scottie Scheffler, yet it was the world No.1’s durability that took center stage on Friday.

Scheffler – bidding to become the first golfer to ever defend The Players title – admitted he had thought he would be unable to continue after sustaining an injury just a few shots into his second round, but endured the pain to shoot 67 and climb to within six strokes of Clark.

After feeling discomfort in his neck following a swing on his second hole, the seven-time PGA Tour winner “could barely get the club back” following his next drive. When playing partners Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler took their tee shots at the 14th hole (the group had started from the 10th), Scheffler watched on from a portable folding chair as a physiotherapist attended to him.

A physiotherapist treats Scheffler. - Ben Jared/PGA TOUR/Getty Images
A physiotherapist treats Scheffler. - Ben Jared/PGA TOUR/Getty Images

Golfers are permitted to receive mid-round treatment on the PGA Tour, and Scheffler returned to action a few minutes later to make par. Two-under through his first five holes, the 27-year-old tallied three birdies and two bogeys over the rest of the round.

“Maybe it [treatment] loosened it up a tiny bit, but most of the day I was pretty much laboring to get the club somehow away from me,” said Scheffler.

“I did what I could to stay in the tournament today, and hopefully it’ll loosen up and then I’ll be able to make somewhat normal swings tomorrow.”

Scheffler, who arrived at TPC Sawgrass off the back of a dominant victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, said he had not felt any pain in the lead-up to the tournament.

“The way I was getting around the course, the way my neck was feeling, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to continue playing, so yeah, good fight out there,” he added.

McIlroy’s amphibious ambush

World No. 2 Rory McIlroy waged a very different kind of battle during his second round.

The Northern Irishman was lining up a chip from the rough onto the par-three third hole green, when he suddenly flinched in surprise. The reason for his recoil was soon revealed as a frog bounded out of the long grass around his ball.

Comedy ensued as the amphibian jumped back in McIlroy’s direction, startling the four-time major champion again. Aided by caddie Harry Diamond, the golfer eventually ushered the frog away and continued playing.

After shooing away the frog, McIlroy plays his chip shot. - Gray Siegel/Cal Sport Media/AP
After shooing away the frog, McIlroy plays his chip shot. - Gray Siegel/Cal Sport Media/AP

It marks the second time in the space of a year that an amphibian has momentarily delayed a premier golfing event, after a tiny endangered toad temporarily paused play at the 2023 Open Championship.

McIlroy saw the funny side, but his amusement was short-lived as his subsequent chipped approach went sailing over the green, leading to his second bogey of the day.

The series of chaotic events epitomized the 34-year-old’s tournament so far.

A breathless opening 65 on Thursday had featured 10 birdies and two rules disputes with Jordan Spieth, both related to shots McIlroy had splashed into the water.

His second round was similarly frenzied, but not for the better. Despite making five birdies, McIlroy shot four bogeys and three-putted for a painful double bogey at the 14th hole to card a one-over 73 and fall to eight strokes behind leader Clark.

For more CNN news and newsletters create an account at