PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – For his 16th straight appearance, Tiger Woods will play the weekend at The Players Championship. Woods needed a birdie on his final hole of the day, number nine, and rolled in a nine-foot putt to finish 36 holes at even par, guaranteeing he'll play the weekend. "I had my chance to get on these runs and I just didn't stuff my iron shots in there. I felt like I drove it pretty good today overall, but I just wasn't hitting the ball close enough," he said after his round. With the leader at -8, Woods says he still has a chance to win. "Absolutely. Anyone does. Anyone who makes the cut certainly has a chance on this golf course."
While Tiger will play the weekend, for the third straight year Phil Mickelson will miss the cut and go home. Mickelson shot a 4 over 76 today with a triple bogey on 18 (5 over for two rounds on that hole) and a double on six. "It's a hard golf course. I was walking out there amazed that I won here." The rest of the round was pretty good but as every player knows, your misses can lead to big numbers at the Stadium. "I made nine birdies in two days, that's not bad. But I would put it in some bad spots this week. I made quite a few mistakes to shoot 5 over." But he's not overly discouraged. "I hit a lot of good shots. It's just that when I hit bad ones it led to huge scores."
First round co-leader Kevin Na continued his good play with a -3 69 today and was the leader midway through the day at 8 under. Na battled the "yips" in 2012 when he lead at the 54 hole mark but says he's not in that situation any longer. He still has "5 percent in me" but clearly doesn't struggle the way he was. "I learned a lot," he said in a post-round press conference. "I was dealing with a lot of stuff a few years ago. So I'm trying to think positive here. I'm thinking that I think I've got a better shot this time."
The cut is at even par for the 4th straight year, which amazed Na as he looked at the leaderboard. "The field is so deep and the guys so good it's amazing there are that many guys within 8 shots."
Very different than the first day, the wind almost completely died down late in the afternoon and Jerry Kelly took advantage of it. In his 20th appearance at The Players, Kelly started on the 10th hole and made three birdies including "2's" at 13 and 17. He continued his solid play on the front nine, making birdies at 2,3,5,6 and nine to shoot a 65 and grab a share of the lead. It's the second straight day that the last putt of the day put the final player at the top of the leaderboard. "It felt great coming down the stretch. I got some good breaks. I'm comfortable over the ball. I just love the adrenaline. It's like hockey playoff season. (Kelly's a former hockey player and a big hockey fan). It's what we live for in sport. I'm in the only spot I'd want to be in."
"Anyone that's playing the weekend has a chance," Rickie Fowler said after a 69 that put him two shots off the lead at 6 under. "Someone can go out and shoot 6,7,8 under tomorrow and be right back in it. Fowler was again asked about an anonymous poll of PGA Tour players ranking him as the ‘most overrated player." Can he use that as motivation? "Definitely. If I need something to kind of give me a kick in the butt, then I can think of that and it will put me in the right frame of mind to go out there and take care of business."
One player who will get plenty of attention on the weekend is world number one Rory McIlroy. A 71 on Friday put him at 4-under for the tournament, 4 shots off the lead with a very conservative round. "Steady, It was okay. I mean, I was pretty bored out there. I'm not sure how you guys felt about watching. Just try and hit fairways, hit greens, pick off my birdies when I could."
With a solid final round last year, hometown favorite Jim Furyk finished second to Martin Kaymer and says a low round is what it takes to shoot up the leaderboard and put pressure on the guys at the top. His 4 under is what he called a "Good start" for the 2015 Players. "Hit a lot of fairways and greens. Didn't play that bad but I wasn't really in trouble today. I felt like I could have made a little better of it."
But that's the case with the stadium course in these conditions with this wind direction. Zach Johnson said you have to be ‘conservatively aggressive" out there, knowing when you have a chance to go for it and when to wait. Johnson posted a 68 today and is -5 for the tournament. Thirteen under has won the tournament for the last three years and Zach said that would be a good number. "I'd take it and relax," he joked.
While the Stadium Course seems to favor no particular kind of player, it usually does identify the guy who has control of his game all the way through his bag. Sergio Garcia is one of the purest ball strikers in the game and one of the finest iron players ever but his putter has held him back again this week. "I hit a lot of good shots, unfortunately when you miss seven putts inside seven feet, it's difficult to shoot anything lower than 72 on this golf course the way its playing." Garcia is three under after 36 holes.
Seventy-five players made the cut at even par or better. Joining Mickelson with the weekend off are Justin Rose, Keegan Bradley, Lee Westwood, Jimmy Walker and last week's Match Play Runner-up Gary Woodland. Matt Kuchar also won't play the weekend, missing the cut by one. He had to play a backhand shot from the walkway on 17, which lead to a bogey that put him just outside the cutline.
And after all of the high expectations for Jordan Spieth, he said he never had it this week, following up his first round 75 with an even par 72 but missed by three.