Published May 11, 2012
Ponte Vedra Beach, FL – Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Kevin Na were tied atop the leaderboard after Friday's second round of The Players Championship.
Johnson played in the morning Friday and fired a six-under 66 at the TPC Sawgrass. Kuchar followed with a four-under 68 and Na posted a 69 to finish 36 holes at eight-under 136.
Harris English carded a five-under 67 and is alone in fourth at minus-seven.
Tiger Woods rebounded from a two-over 74 on Thursday with a four-under 68 and was in at two-under 142, only six strokes back.
"I really played well today," said Woods. "I was very consistent. Nothing spectacular, just real solid golf."
After a broken lace forced a change of shoes, Woods birdied four in a row from the eighth. He made a bogey at 14, but got the stroke back with a birdie at No. 16.
"I'm still in it with a good chance," he said.
Woods will be in the hunt on the weekend, but the No. 1-ranked player in the world will get some time off.
Rory McIlroy struggled to a four-over 76 and finished well outside the cut line at four-over 148. He has missed the cut in all three of his appearances at this championship and it was his first weekend off worldwide in almost a year.
"I'm not getting down on myself about it," said McIlroy, who lost a playoff last week at the Wells Fargo Championship. "I played well last week, and I've got a big part of the season coming up and looking forward to that."
Luke Donald, Wells Fargo Championship winner Rickie Fowler and Lee Westwood are part of a group at three-under, while Phil Mickelson is one shot further back in a pack with Woods.
They're all lurking, and at Sawgrass a good round can instantly move you into contention.
But the trio on top was steady through two rounds.
Johnson started beautifully with three birdies in his first four holes. He dropped a shot with a bogey at seven, but played spectacular golf on the back side.
Johnson, the 2007 Masters champion, birdied 10 and 11, then hit a six-iron to tap-in range at the par-three 13th. He knocked a seven-iron to four feet to set up birdie at 14 and was eight-under for the championship.
He reached the par-five 16th with a three-iron and misread his 18-foot eagle try. Johnson tapped in for birdie to get to minus-nine, but he missed a seven- foot par putt at the last that cost him first place to himself.
"When you shoot that kind of score around this golf course any day in the year, or any week, you're putting well," said Johnson, a seven-time winner on the PGA Tour. "Clearly that's what I've been doing the best."
Kuchar birdied the second and third, but bogeyed No. 5. He made his leap up the board around the turn with an eight-foot birdie at nine and a three-foot birdie at 10.
He tied for the lead with a 45-foot birdie putt at the par-three 13th and then parred out, including an impressive five at the 16th after he hit tree limbs with his drive.
Kuchar is just a month removed from contending for his first major title at the Masters. He is a three-time winner on the PGA Tour, but is gunning for one of the sport's bigger victories.
"I think it's a matter of just keeping yourself in position, having the opportunities, and before long, you find yourself in that winner's circle," said Kuchar.
Na had an up-and-down round on Friday. He mixed three birdies and two bogeys on his front nine, but rattled off three consecutive birdies from the 10th.
Na was alone in first, but things fell apart quickly. He missed the green right at the 13th and made bogey, then saved par from a bunker at No. 14. Na drove into a fairway trap at 15 and came up well short with his approach. That led to another bogey, but once again, Na staved off serious trouble with a great par at 16 after his second landed in the water.
"I was very happy to get away with a five," said Na, whose only PGA Tour win came late last year at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
Na got back to eight-under thanks to a great tee ball at the famous island green 17th. He rolled in a seven-footer for birdie to join the mix atop the leaderboard.
"I've won before, so that win last year did a lot for me for confidence-wise, and being a lot more relaxed out there when I'm in contention," said Na.
Adam Scott, the 2004 winner, shot a two-under 70 and is tied for fifth place with first-round co-leader Martin Laird (73), Charlie Wi (67), Jonathan Byrd (70) and Brian Davis (70). The group finished at six-under 138.
Ian Poulter, the other first-round co-leader, struggled to a four-over 76 and is tied for 17th at three-under 141.
NOTES: The 36-hole cut fell at even-par 144 and Steve Stricker's tour-leading streak of 49 consecutive cuts made ended on Friday when he missed the weekend by six shots...Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen, Jason Day, Webb Simpson, Ernie Els, Hunter Mahan and defending champion K.J. Choi all missed the cut as well...Scott Verplank and Briny Baird withdrew on Friday.