Johnson remains on top at Junior Players

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. –  Michael Johnson of Birmingham, Ala., shot even-par 72 Saturday to retain his first-round lead with a two-day total of 4-under-par 140. Sharing the second-place position is Emiliano Grillo of Bradenton, Fla., and Billy Kennerly of Alpharetta, Ga., who sit one shot back of Johnson.

In cooperation with the PGA TOUR, the American Junior Golf Association has brought 78 players, ages 12-18, from 20 states and 13 foreign countries to The Players Stadium Course for a special junior golf experience. The Junior Players Championship is mirrored after The Players, and the 7,215-yard, par-72 layout matches the set-up used at the PGA TOUR event. For the first time in The Junior PLAYERS Championship history, the 2010 champion will be given a sponsor's exemption to the Nationwide Tour's Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open Presented by Planters, which will be played Oct. 18-24 at TPC Sawgrass – Dye's Valley Course.

With two bogeys in his first four holes, Johnson had an inauspicious start to the day. It didn’t take long to right his second-round ship, and with back-to-back birdies on Nos. 5 and 6, he made the turn at even par.

“It (the round) didn’t start out very well, ,” Johnson said. “I bogeyed No. 8, but then I chipped-in on No. 9, so that put a smile on my face.”

A steady back nine was the key to success for Johnson, who only deviated from par with a birdie on the par-5 16th and a bogey on No. 18. He will look to carry his steady play into the final round.

“I like to play steady golf, I don’t like the roller coasters,” the Auburn commit said. “I haven’t thought about being in the lead, I’m just trying to play my best.”

Grillo, who began the day in seventh, shot 3-under on the day to climb to second, while Kennerly posted a 1-under-par round to join Grillo. They will begin the final round at 3-under-par 141, one stroke behind Johnson.

Alone in fourth is Jordan Spieth of Dallas, who posted a two-day total of 2-under-par 142. In a three-way tie for fifth is Patrick Rodgers of Avon, Ind., Wyndham Clark of Greenwood Village, Colo., and Gavin Hall of Pittsford, N.Y., each with a two-day total of 1-over-par 145. After a first-round 6-over-par 78, Rodgers climbed 37 spots up the leaderboard with a 5-under-par 67.