Jordan Spieth, 20, one stroke behind leader Martin Kaymer at TPC

5/10/2014

By Edgar Thompson

By Edgar Thompson

Orlando Sentinel

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (MCT) — Martin Kaymer walked off the 18th green at TPC Sawgrass running away with the PGA Tour's showcase event.

It took the young, fresh legs of 20-year-old Jordan Spieth — the game's newest star — to chase down Kaymer and ensure some weekend drama at the Players Championship.

No one mounted a charge on Kaymer during Friday's second round, save Spieth, who shot a bogey-free 6-under 66. He sits 11-under 133 and one shot behind Kaymer, who carded 69 a day after he tied the course-record with a 63.

Russell Henley, at 8-under, is the only player within six shots of Kaymer.

"He's just a very, very solid player, doesn't do anything wrong," playing partner Graeme McDowell said of Spieth. "He's very mature beyond his years. He's got all the tools."

A pair of iron shots that led to birdies on consecutive holes highlighted Spieth's day.

Spieth nearly holed out with a 6-iron from 188 yards on the par-3 13th hole, the ball catching a down slope and drifting inches past the hole before resting four feet away.

From his vantage point on the tee box, Spieth felt the ball was traveling too quickly for an ace until the crowd's reaction gave him momentary hope.

"That would have been pretty exciting there," he said. "I would rather have it on 17 (the par-3 island green) though."

McDowell joked it was a good thing Spieth did not make a hole-in-one because he is not old enough to buy drinks — a tradition for a player who makes an ace.

On the next hole, Spieth striped another 6-iron — this time from 184 yards — to 2 { feet on the par-4 14th — the most-difficult this week at designer Pete Dye's Stadium Course.

"I felt like today was one of my best ball-striking days I've had in a long time," Spieth said. "Very stress-free."

The only hiccup for Spieth amid windy, difficult conditions was a missed 6-foot birdie putt on the par-5 16th hole.

The Dallas native still carded Friday's low round and was among just nine players to shoot better than 70 on par-72 TPC Sawgrass in the afternoon. None of the other eight players are within six shots of the lead.

Meanwhile, Phil Mickelson, the 2007 winner, carded a 70 in the afternoon to finish 1-over 139 and miss the cut by a shot. Rory McIlroy needed a 32 on the back nine to shoot 74 for an even-par 144, while world No. 2 Adam Scott also made the cut on the number.

"It was hard today," said Sergio Garcia, who shot 71 and is 6-under 138. "There were a lot of very, very tough holes out there."

As he warmed up on the practice range, Spieth anticipated a difficult day ahead, and little chance to close too much ground on Kaymer.

"I saw he was at 12 (under,)" Spieth said. "I didn't think that it was going to be possible to catch that, especially warming up when the wind started picking up."

Spieth said the wind let up a bit, but he never did.

Spieth finished the day just the 10th player at the Players Championship since 1983 in to complete 36 holes without a bogey.

"I don't think it's going to be possible to stay bogey-free for two more rounds with the greens firming up," Spieth said. "That a nice goal to have, I think. When bogeys come, it's going to be how I rebound."

Spieth could not shake off a few costly bogeys during the final round of a surprising runner-up finish to Bubba Watson at the Masters. But Spieth has proven to be a fast learner and is not intimidated to be in contention again, this time during his first trip to golf's so-called "fifth" major.

"I don't see that it's necessarily a first-time thing," he said. "It's just normal."

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