Already the leading money winner in Players Championship history, Spain's Sergio Garcia is in pole position to pocket another $1.1million from the event after the second round at Sawgrass.
Garcia, winner of golf's so-called unofficial fifth major in 2008, added a 65 to his opening 68 to lie 11 under par, one shot clear of world number one Tiger Woods who carded a second consecutive 67.
England's Lee Westwood, level par after 14 holes of his first round, was a shot further back on nine under alongside American Kevin Chappell after both players returned a 66 in perfect scoring conditions.
Sweden's Henrik Stenson, the 2009 winner, was also nine under after he chipped in on his final hole for a second eagle in the space of eight holes in a 67.
Rory McIlroy, whose opening 66 was his lowest score by at Sawgrass by six shots, could only add a 72 to finish five off the pace on six under, one behind playing partner and Masters champion Adam Scott (68).
"I'm only one back, I have put myself there but 36 holes on this golf course is a long way to go," - Tiger Woods
Starting from the 10th, Garcia opened with six straight pars before birdies at the 16th and 18th, and after a bogey on the first picked up five birdies in succession from the second.
Another birdie on the eighth saw the world number 15 home in 31 and primed to add to the $2.2million he has earned from 13 previous appearances in the event.
Garcia told Sky Sports 2: "It was good. Yesterday (Thursday) I felt like I scored well and did not play that great. Today I played very very well. I managed to make a whole bunch of putts on the back nine and it was nice to get a good round in. I am looking forward to the weekend.
"(This event) means a lot, it's the Players, it's our tournament and I have had the honour of winning it before and have done fairly well here throughout my career. It's one of my favourite golf courses and that usually helps.
"I feel like the game is good, maybe not spectacular, but I have had a pretty consistent year this year. If I can manage to get as many wins as possible it will be great, if I get one it will be great, if I don't the only thing I can do is try as hard as I can."
Westwood also started from the 10th and got off to an ideal start when his pitch to the par-five 11th took once bounce and dived into the hole for an eagle three.
The 40-year-old then birdied the next two holes, the treacherous 18th for the second day running and picked up another shot on the par-five second.
"I played well, I haven't made any bogeys yet this week so that's a feat in itself round this golf course," said Westwood, who is sporting a new goatee beard to cover the injuries suffered from diving into a swimming pool at his Florida home. "I've given myself a chance at the weekend, I'm in a good position.
"Yesterday I played nicely and gave myself a lot of chances in the first 14 holes and had to be very patient. It would have been easy to get frustrated but I birdied three of the last four holes and picked up in the same vein today, although I missed from four feet on the first.
"I have been playing well for a while and had a chance to win last week. I'll just keep going through the same things and be patient and wait for good things to happen."
Woods, who has won three times this year but only once in his professional career at Sawgrass, said: "I thought I did really well today.
"I thought I hit the ball a little better than I did yesterday and again I missed all the shots on the correct side. I had some funky up-and-downs but at least I had some room.
"I'm only one back, I have put myself there but 36 holes on this golf course is a long way to go."
The cut fell at level par and claimed a number of high-profile victims, including Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Graeme McDowell and Open champion Ernie Els.
First-round leader Roberto Castro followed up his course record-equalling 63 on Thursday with a 78, but made the cut on three under.
Padraig Harrington, after a first-round 68, carded a very disappointing 76, which included two birdies, four bogeys and one double-bogey. His level par total was just enough to make the cut.