Rory McIlroy was not pleased with his 72 but knows he’s still not out of contention for The PlayersRory McIlroy showed his growing maturity and patience but Pádraig Harrington could be forgiven for rapidly losing after barely scraping into the last two rounds of The Players at Sawgrass.

Having chiselled out a super 68 on Thursday, holing putts from all angles with the belly putter and missing just two fairways to put himself in contention, the three time major winner was all at sea again in round two with an inexplicable double bogey give at his 17th hole summed up another trying day

The Dubliner’s tee shot came up 54 yards short in a pond at the par-three eighth and he signed for a second round 76, eventually making the level par cut with nothing to spare after an anxious afternoon wait.

Graeme McDowell missed by two strokes following a laborious and frustrating 76 while Rory McIlroy had to chill outbattled his way to a 72 to trail leader Sergio Garcia (65) by six shots on five under.

“I thought it was a lot more difficult for us today,” McIlroy said. “The greens definitely got a lot firmer when the wind got up and the course definitey played a lot different that it did yesterday morning. I am a little disappointed in the 72, I thought it could have been a lot better, but I am still there or thereabouts for the weekend so I have to take the positives from that.”

After an early birdie at the second, McIlroy dropped three shots in a row from the seventh but bounced back with birdies at the 10th and 12th before parring home.

As for Harrington, his day was always going to be a long one from the moment he tugged his tee shot into the trees at the 10th, took a penalty drop and bogeyed.

Two birdies quickly followed but the rest was a grind and after bogeys at the 15th, 18th and second left him back on two under, the 41-year old complicated life with a shocking tee shot.

At least he has another two rounds to get his competitive juices flowing but one wonder right now what can ease the Dubliner’s jumpiness between the ropes, not just with the putter, but through the bag.

At the other end of the leaderboard, Garcia shot a second round 65 for 133, seven-under, that gave him a one shot lead over world number one Tiger Woods.

“Everything seems kind of clearer in your head when you’re putting well, you seem to see the break,” said Garcia, who birdied the 16th and 18th to turn in two under and followed a bogey at the first with five successive birdies and another at the par-three eighth that almost cost Harrington dear.

“You seem to feel like everything is a little bit easier, a little bit smoother and you hit the putt and it goes in. It’s good to enjoy them. Unfortunately, if it was easy, we would have plenty of those. But it’s not. You enjoy them while you have them.”

Kevin Chappell (66), Lee Westwood (66)  and Henrik Stenson (67) are tied third, just two behind Garcia on nine under.

As for Woods, he looks confident after another controlled round of ball-striking.

“Even though, over the years, I haven’t played my best here, I’ve still won here. Twice, technically,” said Woods, referring to that Players win and his 1994 US Amateur.

““I know how to get around this golf course. This course, more than most, really tests every facet of your game. You have to drive the ball well. You have to hit your irons in correct spots … . it’s about trying to manage the ball in the correct spots, (and) I’ve don that the first two days.”