Johnson headlined the leading pack on six-under par 66 - his lowest opening round PGA Tour score in 13 months.Joining Johnson atop the leaderboard at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, were fellow US Open victor Webb Simpson, Chesson Hadley, Matt Kuchar, Patrick Cantlay and in-form Swede Alex Noren.
While runaway leader Webb Simpson blistered around in a course record-tying 63, McIlroy's hopes of making the weekend ended when his ball spun back into the drink at the penultimate hole.
Webb Simpson plays his shot from the ninth tee during the second round of The Players Championship golf tournament at TPC Sawgrass - Stadium Course.
Charl Schwartzel (66), Patrick Cantlay (68) and Danny Lee (66) were five shots behind.
And then his tee shot kicked off the side of a bunker and went into the water on the par-3 13th for a double bogey.
"On 1, 2 and 3 I missed by a total of 6 feet", Spieth said, feeling as though he was a product of a quick shift in wind or a bounce that was a foot from going the proper direction. To be 11-under par, it's a shame he doesn't finish it off.
Former world number one and 2016 victor Jason Day recorded a five-under-par 67 to be seven shots adrift of Simpson.
"I think if I can keep pushing but be smart about it, I feel like can I win in bunches".
Simpson's nine-under, 63 tied for lowest round at The Players Championship. So, I'm sticking with the strategy of playing guys who have work to do to get themselves into contention on Sunday.
There are always fireworks with the former world number one, yesterday that came when he drove the green at the 12th to pick up his second birdie of the day.
"I was in-between clubs", he said.
Late birdies saw Stuart Grehan shoot 71 and Chris Selfridge a 73 to make the two-over cut on the mark but Cormac Sharvin followed his opening 69 with a 78 to miss out by one stroke as Jonny Caldwell (5-over), Conor O'Rourke (9-over) and Jack Hume (10-over) also came up short.
It was an action-packed day for Lee, who shot eight birdies, an eagle, two bogeys, and a double bogey. Spieth three-putted from 35 feet, though he shot 68 and ended three straight years of missing the cut.
Kuchar, fueled by a birdie-eagle-birdie run at the 10th, 11th and 12th, moved to seven-under with birdies at 15 and 16, but a bogey at the last dropped him into the leading group.A further six players, including defending champion Kim Si-woo of South Korea and were a stroke back on 67.
Tiger Woods, who shot a 1-under 71 to get to 1-under for the tournament, had to wait all afternoon to see if he would make the cut or not as it fluctuated from 1-under to 2-under and finally landed on 1-under.
"It wasn't a mistake", Simpson said.
A five-shot lead is better than not having a five-shot lead, but it's certainly not safe; the field is even deeper than the water at #17, and the weekend should be a lot of fun. Rory McIlroy wasn't so fortunate.