By Mark Lamport-Stokes
Ice-cool Martin Kaymer produced a controlled display to stay in front of the chasing pack at the Players Championship on Friday, but American Jordan Spieth was in hot pursuit just one shot behind.
Germany’s Kaymer — a former No.1 — who tied the course record with a sizzling nine-under-par 63 on Thursday, followed up with a second-round 69 to post a 12-under total of 132 in the PGA Tour’s flagship event widely regarded as the unofficial fifth major.
Young gun Spieth, at 20 one of the most exciting prospects in the game, fired a superb bogey-free 66 to occupy second place with compatriot Russell Henley (71) a further three strokes back at eight under. Breezy weather on another hot day at the TPC Sawgrass made the par-72 Stadium Course a more difficult prospect for the players, and Kaymer was delighted to remain at the top after mixing five birdies with two bogeys.
“I didn’t hit as many fairways as yesterday but I managed my way quite nicely around the golf course,” the 29-year-old from Dusseldorf told reporters after covering the back nine in two-under 34. “I had a couple of nice up-and-downs and two longer putts went in, so I kept it really well together. Overall, 12 under par. I’m very pleased. It was a little difficult today. I thought it was already gusty in the morning, and the pin positions were a little bit tougher than yesterday.”
Kaymer has not won a tournament since the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa at the end of 2012, but has gained confidence from his improving form over the past month.
“I have had a lot of good finishes,” said the former world No.1. “The way I have played golf, I am very happy over the last four or five weeks especially. The next step is just putting yourself in contention, and hopefully win.”
Kaymer, whose only PGA Tour victory came at the highest level with his playoff win at the 2010 PGA Championship, birdied two of the last four holes to seize an early five-stroke lead before that was trimmed by Spieth in the afternoon.
“Solid round from tee to green,” said Spieth, the 2013 PGA Tour rookie of the year who tied for second at last month’s Masters where he was bidding to eclipse Tiger Woods by becoming the event’s youngest champion.