PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Florida
Phil Mickelson rarely found the fairway, twice knocked down flags and nearly holed out from the fairway. Despite all those thrills, what kept him in the lead on Friday at The Players Championship was a couple of pars.
Just about every player who had at least a share of the lead stumbled in the end, some worse than others.
Mickelson avoided water on the island-green 17th, then saved par from the right rough on the closing hole at TPC Sawgrass for an even-par 72 that gave him a one-shot lead over Aussie Nathan Green.
Peter Lonard took two double bogeys on his back nine, Carl Petterson finished bogey-bogey and Sean O'Hair three-putted the 18th to lose costly shots, leaving them two shots behind and chasing Mickelson, who was happy only with his position.
"It was a day that if I played well, I could have pulled away," Mickelson said after finishing at five-under 139, the first time he has had the lead at The Players going into the weekend.
"I'm half disappointed and half OK," he said.
Tiger Woods tried to fight back, but he did a better job with his words than his clubs.
Woods finally picked up a birdie on his second hole, but he spent most of the sunny afternoon wondering if he would make the cut. He wasn't in the clear until a two-putt birdie on the 16th hole, dry land on the 17th and another par save for a 73, leaving him at four-over 148 to make it by one stroke.
His best shot was directed at Rory Sabbatini, who said on Thursday that the world's No. 1 player looked "as beatable as ever" and that he likes the "new Tiger" who struggles with his swing.
"If I remember the quote correctly, he said he likes the new Tiger," Woods said. "I figure I've won nine of 12 [PGA Tour events], and I've won three times this year -- the same amount he's won in his career. So, I like the new Tiger, as well."
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