PONTE VEDRA BEACH (AP) - David Toms has gone five years without winning, and 10 years since his lone major at the PGA Championship. Now he has to fend off a host of players who have won big events a lot more recently.
Toms went 25 holes before making a bogey Friday and countered with enough good shots for a 4-under 68, giving him a one-shot lead over Nick Watney going into what figures to be another wild weekend on the TPC Sawgrass.
Watney won a World Golf Championship two months ago at Doral, punctuated by a birdie on the tough closing hole. Despite missing four birdie putts inside 12 feet on his last seven holes, he got into the final group.
Luke Donald, the World Golf Championship winner at Arizona in February, became the first player since 2004 to make it around Sawgrass without a bogey for the first 36 holes. He birdied the island-green 17th and shot 67 to finish two shots behind.
Also two shots behind:
U.S. Open champion and Ryder Cup star Graeme McDowell, who is back on track after a dismal April.
Former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover, riding high after his win last week at Quail Hollow.
Steve Stricker, who has won two FedEx Cup playoff events and has become a regular among the top 10 in the world.
Toms quit trying to be perfect on a course that looks like it demands no less. It led to nearly perfect play over two days at The Players, and pole position going into the weekend.
Toms doesn't have a great record at TPC Sawgrass. In 18 previous attempts, he has missed the cut 10 times and only once has finished in the top 10. He just couldn't figure out the right angle into the greens, and always believed it had to be just right.
Looming particularly large was Donald, the Englishman who can go to No. 1 in the world with a victory. He has only been out of the top 10 once since last September. Perhaps even more impressive this week is that Donald hasn't made a bogey all week.
Four major champions are among the top 10 - one of them is Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III, a two-time winner of The Players who was three back going into the weekend. All but Toms among the top six have won tournaments in the last year.
Even with Tiger Woods long departed after withdrawing Thursday, there was no shortage of drama.
A fan offered to be lifted down into the lake off the 18th tee to retrieve Michael Bradley's driver when it came out of his hands. Mark Wilson called a two-shot penalty on himself for a double-hit - even though video evidence was inconclusive - which caused him to miss the cut.
The cut came at even-par 144, and even that featured some tough moments. Ernie Els, inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame on Monday, was in front of the par-5 ninth in two, flubbed a chip and missed a four-foot putt to make bogey and miss the cut by one.
Then there was the scorecard of Phil Mickelson - a 31 on the front to get within two shots of the lead, a 40 on the back to settle for a 71 and linger eight shots out of the lead.