David Toms made six birdies and kept his mistakes to a minimum as he shot a four-under-par 68 at the Players Championship on Friday to take a one-shot lead over Nick Watney.
US Open champion Graeme McDowell shot a 69 that put him two shots behind, along with Steve Stricker, Lucas Glover and Luke Donald, who can go to No. 1 in the world rankings with a win.
Toms has missed the cut 10 times in 18 previous attempts at the TPC Sawgrass course and only once has finished in the top 10. He said he could never figure out the right angle into the greens and always believed it had to be just right.
After a bogey-free opening round on Thursday, he made his first mistake on the par-three eighth when he missed the green to the left. He also dropped a shot on the 15th when he was between clubs and ended up hitting into a plugged lie on the bunker right of the green.
Watney started the back nine with back-to-back birdies, but missed four birdie putts inside 12 feet during his final seven holes, settling for 71 after opening with a 64.
McDowell has struggled so far this year after a superb showing last year in which he captured the US Open, won the decisive singles match in the Ryder Cup to lead Europe to another victory and then came from four shots behind to beat Tiger Woods in the Chevron World Challenge in a playoff.
Donald, who has only been out of the top 10 once since September last year, became the first player since 2004 to play the first 36 holes without a bogey at the TPC Sawgrass course.
Stricker had five birdies on the back nine, as well as a tough par save on the 18th, for a 67.
Glover, who won the Wells Fargo Championship last week at Quail Hollow, traded birdies with bogeys for a 71.
US Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III, a two-time winner of the Players, was in a group at seven-under 137, along with Aaron Baddeley of Australia and Hunter Mahan, who both had 67s.
Missing from the top of the leaderboard, at least for now, was Phil Mickelson.
He was within two shots of the lead at one point Friday when he holed a 20-foot eagle putt on the 16th hole and birdied the 18th for a 31 on his opening nine holes. However, he bogeyed three of his final four holes, including the par-five ninth, and had to settle for a 71.
That left him eight shots behind at two-under 142.
Meanwhile, Bubba Watson shot a 66 to easily make the cut and Spain’s Sergio Garcia rallied for a 68 to make it to the weekend.
Ernie Els, inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame on Monday, flubbed a chip and missed a 4-foot putt on the ninth to make bogey and missed the cut by one.
Defending champion Tim Clark of South Africa was forced to withdraw midway through the second round with pain in his right elbow.