PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Florida (Reuters) - World number one Rory McIlroy missed the cut at the Players Championship after shooting a four-over 76 in Friday’s second round which ended with a trio of Americans sharing the lead.
Zach Johnson, Kevin Na and Matt Kuchar were all on eight-under par, a shot clear of compatriot Harris English.
But with five players sitting a further shot back and the course likely to get tougher over the weekend, the event widely known as golf’s unofficial fifth major remains up for grabs.
One player who will not be able to make a move on Saturday is McIlroy, who has had a miserable record at the TPC Sawgrass course, where he missed the cut in his previous two appearances at the venue before skipping the event last year.
The Northern Irishman, who had not missed a cut since last year’s Wells Fargo Championship, carded five bogeys and one birdie on Friday for a two-day total of 148.
“There is something about this place I just can’t get to grips with,” McIlroy told reporters. “I just need to try and get the hang of this golf course somehow, it’s just - I find it pretty difficult but it’s just one of those weeks.”
Woods had to fight to avoid missing successive cuts for the first time in his professional career after shooting a two-over-par 74 in his opening round.
The former world number one, who failed to make the weekend at Quail Hollow last week, rose to the challenge by posting a four-under 68 that included a string of four birdies around the turn that put him clear of trouble.
Johnson, the 2007 Masters winner, got off to a great start with three birdies in the opening four holes but he will be disappointed to have ended with a bogey on the 18th for a six-under 66 that tied for the lowest round of the day.
“I never really gave the golf course much - in other words, I kept it where you need to keep it. My misses were proper. I was aggressive when I could be aggressive. And I caught a couple nice saves in there, too,” said the 36-year-old.
“But when you shoot that kind of score around this golf course any day in the year, or any week, you’re putting well. Clearly that’s what I’ve been doing the best.”
Britain’s Martin Laird, who shared the overnight lead with England’s Ian Poulter, dropped to two shots off the pace after returning a one-over 73, his solid effort undone by a double-bogey on the ‘island green’ 17th where he found water and then a bogey on the 18th.
Poulter opened his second round on the back nine with a double-bogey on his first hole and went on to card a four-over 76 that left him five shots back of the leaders.
Defending champion K.J. Choi missed the cut after a four-over 76 on Friday left him with a two-day total of 151.
Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Frank Pingue