PONTE VEDRA BEACH — As conditions toughened, Louis Oosthuizen and Kyle Stanley played even better.
Each shot 6-under 66 to share the lead at the Players Championship after Friday's second round, making it even more difficult for the top two players in the world to catch them.
Oosthuizen and his sweet swing were a good fit in any conditions at TPC Sawgrass, and he played bogey-free. Stanley had eight birdies as the wind increased and the firm putting surfaces became crusty.
"I definitely feel like I got the most that I could have out of that round," Stanley said.
Oosthuizen and Stanley were at 9-under 135, two shots ahead of J.B. Holmes (69).
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson and No. 2 Rory McIlroy scrapped it around in the morning, Johnson making only one birdie for 73 and McIlroy playing through nagging back pain for 71. They were at par 144.
The cut was at 2-over 146, and there will be another cut today because more than 78 players advanced to the weekend. That's when the tournament will finally start to take shape, and though Oosthuizen and Stanley stood out with the best scores of the second round, both know things can change quickly.
"We're in a pretty good spot going into this weekend," said Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion who still hasn't won in the United States. "A lot of golf to be played around this golf course."
Vijay Singh, 54, was making putts from everywhere until a three-putt bogey on the 18th. He still shot 68 and went into the weekend only three shots out of the lead. If he were to win, he would become the oldest player to win on the PGA Tour at 54 years, 2 months, the tour said. Sam Snead is the oldest winner at 52 years.
"I came here feeling good about my game," he said. "I was ready to play. I was ready to play well, too."
There was one awkward aspect. Four years ago this week, Singh sued the tour, claiming it exposed him to "public humiliation and ridicule" during a 12-week investigation into his use of deer antler spray, then classified as a performance-enhancing drug.
The case remains in a New York court.
"I don't want to talk about that," Singh said.
The pain is real
Rory McIlroy, dealing with back pain, said he will have an MRI exam Monday when he returns to Northern Ireland after the tournament. During tournament preparation, he said, he re-aggravated a rib injury that caused him to miss two months this season. "It's obviously not 100 percent, but it's good enough to get myself around here for the next couple of days," he said.
Spieth not a crusty guy
Jordan Spieth was headed home after missing the cut for the third straight year, yet he didn't sound terribly upset. "It's just been on and around the greens. I just haven't quite figured it out," Spieth said. "These greens get pretty crusty, and, historically, whenever firm Bermuda greens are crusty to where it's tough to set the putter down, I just struggle with my alignment and it just kind of throws me off. It happened again here." His 75 put him at 4 over for the tournament.
• First-round co-leaders William McGirt and rookie Mackenzie Hughes slid down the leaderboard in synch. Both shot 75 and were 2 under.
• Defending champion Jason Day didn't make up any ground, either, trading birdies and bogeys for 72. He was seven back.
• Ian Poulter, who got into the Players on a clerical mistake regarding his time away for injury, shot 67 and was in fourth with four others at 5 under.
"I don't really know what to stay about that round. It was so bizarre."
Justin Thomas, who had only one par in a 19-hole stretch that started on his 12th hole Thursday and ended with his 12th hole Friday. His rounds of 73-71 put him at par 144.