PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Florida: Spain’s Sergio Garcia fired a seven-under-par 65 on
Friday to seize the second-round lead at the Players Championship, with world number one Tiger Woods in hot pursuit.
Garcia’s eight birdies included five in a row in his storming second nine.
His 11-under total of 133 put him one stroke in front of Woods, who had five birdies and an eagle and two bogeys in a five-under-par 67 for 134.
“Wonderful day today,” said Garcia, who teed off on 10 at TPC Sawgrass’s Stadium Course and began to warm up with birdies at 16 and 18.
He responded to a bogey at the par-four first with five straight birdies starting at the par-five second, then added one more at the par-three eighth.
“Yesterday I scored very well,” said the Spaniard, winner of the Players Championship in 2008. “I didn’t play that great. But today I played much nicer. Couple of tee shots here and there that I would have loved to hit a little better, but other than that, it was nice. I hit the ball very well, hit a lot of good iron shots and gave myself a lot of good birdie opportunities.”
Woods pronounced himself “pleased with every facet” of his game.
“I feel like I’m driving it well, hitting it well with my irons, my distance control is good, short game is really solid, and I’m making my share of putts,” said Woods, already a three-time winner on the US PGA Tour this year.
Woods, making his first start since the Masters, has only one top-10 finish in the Players since he won the US PGA Tour’s flagship event in 2001.
“I know how to get around this golf course,” he said. “You have to drive the ball well. You have to hit your irons in the correct spots, and if you don’t hit your irons in the correct spots, you’re going to have some really funky up and downs.”
England’s Lee Westwood had four birdies and an eagle in a six-under 64 that put him tied for third with Sweden’s Henrik Stenson and American Kevin Chappell on 135. Chappell also posted a second-round 66, while Stenson carded a 67 that included two eagles, at the par-five second and ninth.
Westwood opened on the back nine and chipped in for eagle at the 11th hole then birdied his next two.
“It’s a big momentum swing if you pitch in,” Westwood said. “Eagle is a bonus, and then to follow it with a couple of birdies was a good way to start the day.”
McIlroy couldn’t build much on a first-round 76, posting three birdies and three bogeys in an even-par 72 that left him five shots adrift.
Roberto Castro, who launched his debut appearance in the tournament with a record-equalling 63 to grab the first-round lead on Thursday, endured a disastrous second round of six-over 78 that included five bogeys and a double-bogey six at the 12th.