McIlroy 'ready' to win the Players Championship

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He kept backing off, trying to decide between sand wedge and pitching wedge.

Once the richest tournament in golf despite not being one of the four Majors, the Players Championship's financial offering has fallen behind the US Open in recent years but still remains one of the most lucrative events in the sport.

"He's definitely played a role in some of my thinking and what I should be doing", Stricker said.

"It was disappointing I didn't get the result I wanted but I took a lot of positives from the fact that I didn't have my best stuff at Augusta and I was still able to play my way into the final group and contend. But at the same time, you're at the TPC Sawgrass, so you know that trouble is everywhere, as you guys saw with me on 17".

Schwartzel now lies tied second heading into the weekend on 10-under par but five strokes adrift of runaway leader Webb Simpson, who tied the TPC Sawgrass course record with a blistering 9-under 63 that included a double-bogey at the island green 17th.

His nearest challengers, at five back, are fellow American Patrick Cantlay and South African Charl Schwartzel.

Tiger Woods barely survived the cut at The Players Championship, but he's making the most of surviving to play the weekend. Mickelson suggested they put away the tournament and just let the two veterans go head to head.

"I hopefully give myself more looks", he said.

"We would all like to be grinding around the lead, but sometimes that's not the case and you've got to get around the cut line", said Spieth, who needed every bit of a second-round 68 to sneak into the weekend at 1 under. “I dont think any lead is safe.

McIlroy endured just the second winless season of his career in 2017 and although victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational ensured that would not happen again this year, the world number eight failed to complete the career grand slam in the Masters last month.

Simpson was the seventh player to shoot 63, the last five since 2013.

But the 2016 Players victor showed signs of fatigue with three sloppy bogeys, two of which came from prime positions in the fairway. The course record at TPC Sawgrass is 63, shared by multiple players; if Simpson could have managed a two par finish, he'd have shot a 61 for a new record. But 17 is a hard hole to get through. I'm playing well, my game's in good shape.

"It's a lovely course in that there are birdie holes out there, but you can make bogeys or double bogeys just as easy".

Mickelson, like Matsuyama, had opened with a 79, admitting his battle for a share of fifth at Quail Hollow last week had left him exhausted.

Stricker nailed three birdies between holes 13 and 16 of his round, with a bogey on 15. Tommy Fleetwood (71) and Justin Rose (72) are a further shot back.

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