Woods, a two-time Players victor, started the day a whopping 14 shots back of overnight leader Webb Simpson (15 under). His previous best score at the Stadium Course was a 66 in the third round in 2001, when he won the first of his two Players titles.
However, he allowed too much break with his 15-footer for birdie and settled for a 65 - the same score posted by Spieth earlier - with both eight under for the tournament and seven shots behind halfway leader Webb Simpson, who was still over an hour and a half away from his tee time when Woods holed out at 18.
Woods made the cut on the number at The Players Championship, but only after getting a little help from two of the top players in the world.
"I just never hit it close enough", he said. "There are a few hard ones, but then again, there's a lot of birdie holes out there tomorrow, and if it stays calm in the morning, you'll see a bunch of guys go low".
McIlroy made his worse score of the week at the 137-yard par three, a trip to dropzone and two-putt from 8 feet, moved him to 2 over for his round.
"Overall, the whole day, I hit a lot of quality shots, and 65 was probably as high as I could have shot, which was kind of nice".
Woods nearly missed his opportunity to make a charge. Through Friday at Sawgrass, he had an eagle and just four birdies.More news: NASA wants to launch to Mars helicopter
Woods, who now shares fifth place at eight under, jumped out of the gates and had the enormous TPC Sawgrass galleries on the edge of their seats with a bogey-free front nine of six under 30.
Tiger is -4 thru 5. He managed to get on the green from there, but missed an 8-footer for par. "He attacks the golf course, he's very powerful off the tee". Woods didn't disappoint him.
"I'm sure the golf course will play a good amount faster tomorrow", Simpson said. "It's 90 degrees, but I can assure you I had some goose bumps and shivers at times out there". He hit his fourth onto the green and had a one-putt to finish the hole.
And it was welcome, given his struggles here of late and this year in general.
The third round of The Players' Championship is underway at Sawgrass. "I don't think any lead is safe". 10 to 15 feet today, and anywhere inside, which was probably the first time this year that's been the case, " Spieth said. Feel like I'm putting well.
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"I felt free. I came out feeling good and playing aggressively", Spieth told reporters. His other statistics were as impressive as you'd expect: 11/14 fairways, 15/18 greens and just 27 putts.