By Ben Everill
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Florida, (Reuters) - Americans Kevin Na and Jerry Kelly pushed their way to the lead and Tiger Woods sank a clutch birdie putt on his last hole to make the cut during the second round of the Players Championship on Friday.
Na backed up his opening round 67 with a three-under par 69 to move to eight under 136 at TPC Sawgrass.
Veteran Kelly, 48, surprised with an impressive 65 to join Na at the top while Americans Rickie Fowler (69) and Chris Kirk (68) plus South African Brenden Grace (67) and Canadian David Hearn (71) shared third, two shots back at six under.
Na held the 54-hole lead at the 2012 Players before fading into a tie for seventh.
The 31-year-old said he was much better equipped this time.
“I had the yips. It's pretty hard to play golf when you can't take the club back,” Na said.
“But I’m definitely a better golfer (now) ...
“I like this golf course. I always feel like when I come here that it's like, maybe this is my year again.”
Kelly said he had some breaks on the back side, some of which he created.
"I chipped in out of a tough little lie on the edge for par, hit a ball in the trees and had a nice little two-foot gap to hit through and hit a beautiful shot," said the three time Tour winner.
Woods slammed home a nine-foot birdie on the ninth green, his final hole, to card a round of 71 and get him in at even par, right on the cut line.
The 14-time major champion was loose at times as he battled his new swing, notching five bogeys but countering with six birdies.
“It felt good. Knowing that I had to make (a) four to move on, at least assure myself to move on, it felt good,” Woods said of the clutch putt.
“I feel like I'm playing well enough to get myself up there. I just need one good round and narrow up that gap between myself and the lead, and I feel like I can do that.”
World number one Rory McIlroy failed to bring his A game but scratched out a 71 to be four-under, just four off the pace.
Overnight leader Hideki Matsuyama of Japan fell five strokes off the lead after a 74.
A handful of big names crashed out with world number seven Jason Day (81) shooting the second worst score of his career to be six-over. Phil Mickelson (76) finished at five-over and Masters champion Jordan Spieth (72) was three over.
(Editing by Gene Cherry)