Rickie Fowler carded another flawless 66 to set the clubhouse target in the Honda Classic as Rory McIlroy missed the cut at PGA National for the second year in succession.
Fowler carded four birdies and no bogeys for the second day running to reach the halfway mark at eight under par, one shot ahead of fellow American Jimmy Walker, who finished birdie, eagle in his own 66.
Overnight joint leader Sergio Garcia had three birdies and two bogeys in a 69 to lie six under, with former world number one Adam Scott a shot further back after a brilliant 65.
In contrast, former champion McIlroy - who became world number one for the first time following his win in 2012 - struggled to a 72 to finish four over par and miss the cut by a single shot.
McIlroy, who walked off the course in the defence of his title and also lost a play-off in 2014, carded four birdies but also found water on two par threes to run up a double bogey on the 15th and a triple bogey on the fifth.
Fowler is yet to drop a single shot, although the 27-year-old admitted he was fortunate to escape with a wild drive on the first, his 10th hole of the day.
“I got a nice break on one to continue that (bogey-free run) but kept myself in it with some good up and downs, made some good putts and it was a little bit of a bonus with a birdie on the last,” the world number five told PGA Tour Radio.
“I’m definitely pleased with the way I’ve played the last two days.”
Fowler won on the European Tour in Abu Dhabi in January and was pleased to bounce back from letting another victory slip from his grasp three weeks ago in Phoenix, where he had been two shots clear with two to play before losing in a play-off to Hideki Matsuyama.
“Nice to put together a couple of good rounds after Phoenix,” Fowler added. “I played really well there, played well down the stretch, it just didn’t go my way.
“I’m excited to be back in contention here. With the way I’ve been playing and how I feel on this golf course, being comfortable here with some good rounds in the past, I’m looking forward to this weekend.”
Garcia, who described his own play as “terrible” after missing the cut in the Northern Trust Open last week, was pleased with his 69 that could easily have been one better after finishing millimetres away from a hole-in-one on the seventh.
“When I saw it rolling up the hill I thought it had a great chance and unfortunately it didn’t go in,” Garcia told PGA Tour Radio.
“Making two there was already a good thing, but a one would have been amazing.
“Overall I felt like I played quite well. Obviously the course is not getting any easier as the week goes on. The wind was not up as much as yesterday but it was still challenging.
“Tomorrow is going to be an important day. Rickie is playing really, really well so I am going to have to play extremely well to keep up with him and hopefully we’ll have a good chance on Sunday.”
Scott won the Masters in 2013 using a long putter but has successfully reverted to a conventional club in order to comply with the ban on anchored strokes which came into effect on January 1.
“I think I have putted well with the short one since the Presidents Cup (in October last year),” Scott told Sky Sports 4.
“Again today I didn’t make a lot, but I made the ones that you expect to make.”
The 35-year-old, who finished second in the Northern Trust Open last week after a closing 67, added: “The confidence is continuing to build and my goal is to be the best putter out here.”
Defending champion Padraig Harrington recovered from playing his first two holes in three over par to card a 68 and finish one over par, with compatriot Shane Lowry a shot behind after adding a 75 to his opening 67.
Over on the European Tour Cormac Sharvin made his first cut as a professional at the ISPA Handa Perth International.
The Ardglass golfer is tied for 50th after carding a second round three over par 75.
A second-round 65 from Brett Rumford allowed the Australian to take a share of the lead.
Rumford sits alongside Peter Uihlein on 18 under par going into the weekend as he chases a sixth victory on the European Tour.
In amateur news, World Number One, Leona Maguire has been named as one of six amateur golfers to play in the LPGA ANA Inspiration that will take place from March 28 - April 3 in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
The event will be played at the Dinah Shore Tournament Course. The Cavan born star, currently studying at Duke University was awarded the Mark H. McCormack Medal, 2014-15 ANNIKA Award and WGCA National Player of the Year.