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Lefty stays out of trouble and takes the lead

Phil Mickelson Players Championship Second Round
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Phil Mickelson had an eagle on the par-5 16th hole.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — On a day when so many crucial shots found the water, Phil Mickelson wasn't sure whether his glass was half-empty or half-full at The Players Championship.

Based on where he hit some of his tee shots Friday, he was thrilled to be in the lead.

Considering that he twice hit the flag, nearly holed out from the fairway and hit a 6-iron on the par-5 16th hole that caught the perfect bounce and stopped 6 feet away for eagle, he was disappointed his one-shot lead wasn't greater.

"Had I played well, this is a day I could have shot 3 or 4 under and pulled away,'' Mickelson said after an even-par 72 that put him one shot ahead of Nathan Green of Australia. "A lot of guys shot under par. Unfortunately, I wasn't one of them. But by the same token, I didn't do well enough to shoot even par. So I'll take it.''

His logic might be confusing, but one thing was clear.

The best way to stay ahead on the TPC Sawgrass was to stay dry, even in an afternoon of steamy sunshine.

For all the thrills, two simple pars at the end of his round kept him atop the leaderboard at The Players for the first time going into the weekend. He found dry land on the island green at the par-3 17th, then saved par from the rough on the 18th to finish at 5-under 139.

Mickelson was among seven players who had at least a share of the lead Friday.

Peter Lonard took two double bogeys on his back nine, Carl Petterson finished bogey-bogey and Sean O'Hair three-putted the 18th to lose costly shots, leaving them two shots behind and chasing Mickelson.

Tiger Woods tried to fight back, but he did a better job with his words than his clubs.

Woods finally picked up a birdie on his second hole, but he spent most of the sunny afternoon wondering if he would make the cut. He wasn't in the clear until a two-putt birdie on the 16th hole, dry land on the 17th and another par save for a 73, leaving him at 4-over 148 to make it by one stroke.

His best shot was directed at Rory Sabbatini, who said Thursday that the world's No. 1 player looked "as beatable as ever'' and that he likes the "new Tiger'' who struggles with his swing.

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