Wisconsin's Steve Stricker in contention at Players Championship

Players Championship 2018 Mackenzie Hughes finally introduces himself to Tiger Woods enjoys 'hanging with him&apos

Mackenzie Hughes finally introduces himself to Tiger Woods enjoys'hanging with him'More

Woods is back challenging on the PGA Tour after a fourth back surgery, recording top-five finishes at both the Valspar Championship and Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, while he was 32nd at the Masters.

The sand wedge in the water on the 17th ruined his round, but not his day.

But his astonishing performance elevated him five shots clear of the chasing pack, led by Charl Schwartzel, Patrick Cantlay and Danny Lee, while Tiger Woods scraped into the weekend with nothing to spare as late errors from various afternoon starters pushed the cut line back to one under.

After a two-putt double on 17, Webb rebounded for par on 18, finishing with a record-tying 63, and a five-shot lead heading into the weekend.

"I don't think any lead is safe; especially not through 36 holes", Simpson said. "You know, when I was trying to deal with the nerve in my back and trying to come back and trying to play and I wasn't very good, he always texted me some very encouraging words".

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"I think I started tidying up a few of the areas I had (trouble with) last (week) and I think the swing is coming along", Day said.

Johnson's position at the top of the rankings, which he has held since February previous year, is under threat from Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth and Rose. They can't tell you how many Nancy Lopez has or Hale Irwin has.

"It's a golf course that can frustrate you", McIlroy said.

The seventh and ninth saw birdies, too, to take Woods into the back nine within touching distance of the top 10 as he looks to build on a much-improved start to 2018.

It's the second time in as many years that the Stadium Course has been brought to its knees through two rounds, with the field combining for a subpar scoring average (71.647) that is more than a shot lower than last year's average.

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After going into the clubhouse at three over Thursday, Spieth sounded frustrated because every break he needed seemed to go against him.

But if Simpson should go onto to victory he needs only to win by eight shots to better the previous all-time winning margin by a stroke and set by Australia's Steve Elkington set in 1997. But 17 is a hard hole to get through. I've won out here numerous times not playing well but found a way to score and get the job done. He pitched it to within 23 feet of the hole, but was unable to make the par putt and carded his lone bogey through 14 holes.

Mickelson went 79-73 and missed the cut for the fifth time in the past six years.

Simpson was on the verge of smashing the mark after reeling off six straight birdies, but he came to grief with a double bogey at the island-green par-three 17th.

Martin Laird of Scotland also finished the opening day level, two shots ahead of compatriot Russell Knox.

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