PONTE VEDRA BEACH Florida (Reuters) - Martin Kaymer stretched his lead to a commanding five shots early in the Players Championship second round on Friday, despite having to contend with trickier conditions at the TPC Sawgrass.
The German, who tied the course record with a sizzling nine-under-par 63 on Thursday, followed up with a 69 to post a 12-under total of 132 in the PGA Tour’s flagship event widely regarded as the unofficial fifth major.
Breezy weather on another hot day at the TPC Sawgrass made the par-72 Stadium Course a more difficult prospect for the players, and Kaymer was delighted to increase his overnight lead after mixing five birdies with two bogeys.
“I didn’t hit as many fairways as yesterday but I managed my way quite nicely around the golf course,” the 29-year-old from Dusseldorf told reporters after covering the back nine in two-under 34.
”I had a couple of nice up-and-downs and two longer putts went in, so I think I kept it really well together. Overall, 12 under par. I‘m very pleased.
“It was a little difficult today. I thought it was already gusty in the morning, and the pin positions were a little bit tougher than yesterday.”
Kaymer, whose only PGA Tour victory came at the highest level with his playoff win at the 2010 PGA Championship, birdied two of the last four holes to finish five strokes in front of late starter Russell Henley, who was alone in second overnight.
Tour veteran Jim Furyk was a further shot back at six under after carding a 68 in the second round, one ahead of fellow American Bill Haas (71), Australia’s John Senden (69) and Englishman Brian Davis (67).
Kaymer has not won a tournament since the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa at the end of 2012, but has gained confidence from his improving form over the past month.
“I have had a lot of good finishes,” said the former world number one.
”The way I have played golf, I am very happy over the last four or five weeks especially, so the next step is just putting yourself in contention, and hopefully win.
“If not, it’s okay. But as long as you put yourself in contention for the next few weeks, especially now we’re coming up to the U.S. Open, British Open ... it would be nice to gain even more confidence.”
Australian world number two Adam Scott, one of four players competing at the Players Championship who could dislodge the absent Tiger Woods from the top spot after Sunday’s final round, flirted with the cutline after carding a 67.
Scott, who needs to finish no worse than joint 16th this week to become number one for the first time, rebounded from a dismal opening 77 but was one shot outside the projected cut, at level-par 144, when he finished the second round.
Woods, who won this event last year, is a notable absentee while continuing his recovery from back surgery.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Gene Cherry