March 15-- PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla.-For the second straight week, Tommy Fleetwood has the lead going into the weekend.
This time, he hopes to keep it and pick up his first PGA Tour win.
Fleetwood carded a 5-under par 67 during Friday's second round at The Players Championship to build his 18-hole lead to 12-under-par 132 total after two days to share a three-shot lead with Rory McIlroy.
Last Friday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Fleetwood ended the day sharing a four-shot lead with Keegan Bradley but carded a 4-over-par 76 during the third round to squander his chance.
The 27-year-old Englishman prefers to focus on the positives of the past two weeks.
"I've just played two really, really good rounds of golf," he said. "And I played three really, really good rounds of golf last week. I just need to keep doing what I'm doing and see where it goes from there."
Fleetwood looked as if he might run away with the PGA Tour's showcase event following what he called "a perfect, perfect start" to his second round.
The world's 13th-ranked player was 4-under after his first three holes but lowered his score only one more stroke the rest of the day-with a rare birdie on the closing par-4 18th hole.
"My game clearly is in a good place," Fleetwood said.
McIlroy knows the feeling.
The world's sixth-ranked player began his day with a bogey on the par-4 first hole but did not make another mistake on his way to a 7-under 65.
McIlroy capped his day with an eagle on the par-5 16th hole, a birdie on the par-3 17th island green and a routine par on the difficult 18th hole.
Last week at Bay Hill, McIlroy was in the weekend mix but shot just even par on Sunday. It marked the ninth time he has been in the final group and failed to win.
"Winning is a byproduct of doing all the right things," he said. "I feel like if I can continue to do those things well, hopefully I do end up with the trophy on Sunday. But there's a lot of golf to play before that."
McIlroy has three top-10 finishes in nine previous appearances at TPC Sawgrass but also has missed the cut four times, including in 2018.
Tour veteran Jim Furyk did not realize until earlier this week he even was in the field for the Players Championship.
On Friday, made the most of his surprise appearance, shooting a bogey-free 8-under-par 64 to get into the mix for his first win since 2015 and just his second since 2010.
"I thought I was off this week," he said. "It's a nice gift, an opportunity."
A final-round 67 two weeks ago at the Honda Classic tied Furky for ninth place and earned him enough FedEx Cup points for him to slip into the Players.
Furyk's lowest score in 25 years and 80 rounds at TPC Sawgrass leaves him three shots behind Fleetwood and McIlroy-two explosive players in the 20s. Meanwhile, the 48-year-old Furyk worked the course with incredible efficiency.
He hit all 14 fairways, missed just three of 18 greens and needed just 25 putts. Furyk, a longtime resident of Ponte Vedra Beach, used to play TPC Sawgrass all the time but cannot recall a better round.
"'I've lived here now for 23 years," he said. "I'd say the first 12 years of that I played predominantly at this golf course and played a lot of golf here. I think I've shot 64 before. I'm not sure I've gotten any lower than that. Not by memory, put it that way.
"I think I'd remember a 62 if I shot it."
Jason Day walked off the course last week at Bay Hill after just six holes. After 36 holes at TPC Sawgrass, Day is in position to walk away with his second Players title in four years.
A week after he withdrew from the Arnold Palmer Invitational due to back pain, Day shot a 6-under-par 66 that included eight birdies and two bogeys.
"I'm pleased," said Day, the 2016 winner at TPC Sawgrass. "I'm just trying to be as patient as I can."
Day left Orlando last week unsure if he even would be able to play this week. But four cortisone injections into his back have put the 12-time PGA Tour winner in contention for his first victory since the Wells Fargo Championship last May.
"Obviously I know how much it hurt last week," said Day, 31. "But then given the injections and the cortisone and all that stuff that went in there, I know that we have hit the spot because I can't feel a thing, which is good."
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