Zach Johnson (Getty Images)
Zach Johnson capitalised on Martin Laird’s disappointing finish to seize the lead in The Players Championship at Sawgrass in Florida.
Laird, whose opening 65 matched that of England’s Ian Poulter, moved his score to 10 over after carding five birdies and two bogeys in his opening 15 holes.
However, a poor finish - the Scot dropped four shots on the last three - paved the way for Johnson to set the clubhouse target.
Johnson, winner of the Masters tournament in 2007, followed up his opening 70 with an outstanding 66 to finish eight under - one shot ahead of Poulter and Brian Davis.
Davis enjoyed another solid day, carding just two bogeys to leave him narrowly adrift after 16, while Poulter was yet to tee off.
English duo Luke Donald and Lee Westwood were scenting the opportunity to move to the summit of the World Rankings after current leader Rory McIlroy carded 76.
The Ulsterman began with a solid 72, but ended today on four over - a score that ensured he would not be around tomorrow with the projected cut at level par.
That gives Westwood and Donald the opportunity to become World Number One; the latter would manage that with a top four finish, while the former needs to emerge victorious and hope his current playing partner does not come second.
Donald, beginning on the tenth hole, looked imperious as he eagled the 16th and second, though his joy was tempered by bogeys on three of the next five.
That run derailed a round that promised much, yet he did finish three under after birdying the last - an effort that Westwood matched to close on the same score.
Meanwhile, Padraig Harrington started with a double-bogey to fall to one under alongside this year’s the Masters runner-up Louis Oosthuizen, who was yet to tee off.
They were a shot behind Martin Kaymer, who made 69 to atone for yesterday’s 73.