PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- A year ago, Wyndham Clark was ranked 116th in the Official World Golf Ranking and had rarely contended in a tournament on the PGA Tour, let alone won one.

Now, Clark is among the most dangerous big-trophy hunters on tour. He captured his first PGA Tour victory at the Wells Fargo Championship in May and his first major at the U.S. Open the next month. This season, he added another win at a signature event, the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February, and finished second at last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Clark, 30, might not be done. After grabbing a share of the first-round lead in the 50th Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, Clark followed with a second straight 7-under 65 to open up a 4-stroke lead over Xander Schauffele and Canada's Nick Taylor.

"More than anything, I'm just super excited that I kind of had a ho-hum front nine and then turned and really just got into a nice zone and felt really good on the greens and shot an awesome number," Clark said.

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Clark's lead ties Jason Day (2016) for the second-largest in Players Championship history. Webb Simpson led by 5 at the halfway point in 2018.

"All you're trying to do is put some pressure on someone," said Schauffele, who posted a 3-under 69 on Friday to stay close. "He's been playing incredible golf for quite a few months now, and he's got the power and precision and he's very confident right now. So it's important to be in that final group just to try and put some pressure on him and try and get going."

England's Matt Fitzpatrick and Maverick McNealy are 5 shots back, and world No. 1 golfer Scottie Scheffler, who labored through neck pain much of his round Friday, is the biggest name among four golfers who are 6 behind.

Saying Clark was in a nice zone on the front nine at TPC Sawgrass, his last nine holes of the round, would be an understatement. After making the turn at 1-under 35, Clark posted four straight birdies to start the front.

On the par-4 first hole, he knocked his approach shot to 1½ feet and tapped in for birdie. On the par-5 second, he missed the green from 244 yards, but then chipped to 1½ feet from 60 yards and made another birdie. He made a 12-footer for birdie on the par-3 third. His approach shot on the par-4 fourth nearly hit the hole before settling 4 feet away.

He picked up two more birdies with an 18-footer on No. 6 and a 9-footer on No. 9.

It wasn't long ago that Clark didn't trust his putter enough to contend in any PGA Tour tournament, much less in a signature event against many of the best players in the world. He said the low point with his putting came at last year's Players Championship, in which he tied for 27th after ranking fourth in strokes gained: off the tee and 43rd in putting.

When things didn't improve much on the greens at the Valspar Championship the next week, Clark switched to an Odyssey Versa Jailbird putter.

"When I switched to the putter I've been using, that Jailbird, I started really seeing a lot of putts go in," Clark said. "Then all the work that I did off the course in my mental game, I started seeing it on the course because I started making putts. So that's probably the biggest thing: combining the mental game with making putts, and now I've been shooting some good scores."

Now, Clark is ranked fifth in the world. He's 36 holes away from picking up a $4.5 million winner's purse, the richest in men's professional golf.

Scheffler, who is attempting to become the first back-to-back winner at the Players Championship, said he felt pain in his neck on the 11th hole, his second of the round.

"I tried to hit my tee shot on 12, and that's when I could barely get the club back," Scheffler said. "So I got some treatment, maybe it loosened up a tiny bit, but most of the day I was pretty much laboring to get the club somehow away from me."

After his tee shot on the 12th, Scheffler asked a rules official about getting treatment. He received a massage from a physical therapist on the 14th hole and again on the 16th.

Scheffler's round was off to a good start with birdies on two of his first four holes. He posted a bogey on the par-4 15th after pulling his drive into the trees, but bounced back by making a 15-footer for birdie on the 16th. He made the turn at 2-under 34.

Scheffler carded two more birdies on Nos. 2 and 3, the latter coming on a chip-in from 34 feet off the green. He made bogey on the par-4 sixth hole after his approach shot rolled off the green, and he couldn't get up and down for par.

For Scheffler, who won last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, it was more of a day of survival and staying within striking distance for the weekend. After his round, he immediately went to receive medical attention.

"I did what I could to kind of stay in the tournament today, and hopefully it'll loosen up and then I'll be able to make somewhat normal swings tomorrow," Scheffler said.

"I did enough I felt like today to keep myself somewhat in the tournament, and so that's really all I could ask for. The way I was getting around the course, the way my neck was feeling, I didn't know if I was going to be able to continue playing, so yeah, good fight out there."