Webb Simpson to take imposing seven-shot lead into the final day in Florida

Webb Simpson took another giant stride towards victory at the Players Championship by ensuring he will take a commanding seven-shot lead into the final round at Sawgrass.

The American, who led by five shots going into the third day following his course record-equalling 63, could not quite hit those heights on Saturday, but still carded a 68 to move on to 19 under par overall.

He hit four birdies, two bogeys and an eagle three at the par-five 11th.

Speaking after his round in a video posted on the PGA Tour website, he said: “If you were to ask me: ‘Could someone get to 19 under?’, I would have said that would be really tough and the conditions have to be just right.

“On the first round, the greens are soft and gettable, yesterday was a little tougher but I had one of those magical rounds.

“Twelve under is in second, I would have taken that and run with it through three days.

“I feel like I’m playing good, solid golf, but so far I’ve holed out a few times from off the green and made some long putts, and to get to that score I think you need to do that.”

New Zealand’s Danny Lee was his closest challenger on 12 under after a 70, while Dustin Johnson sat in third place as a 69 left him 10 under.

Jason Dufner, Jimmy Walker, Xander Schauffele and Jason Day lay one shot further back.

The best rounds of the day, though, began to Tiger Woods, who catapulted himself up the leaderboard thanks to a dazzling seven-under 65, and Jordan Spieth, who matched that score.

Woods only beat the cut by one shot on Friday evening after posting a second-round 71, but was back to his best the following morning as he rose from tied 68th into a share of eighth place.

Woods was eight under through 12 holes and at one stage looked capable of threatening his career-best round of 61, or going even lower, but the birdies then dried up.

The 42-year-old said in a video released by the PGA Tour: “I birdied the first couple of holes and just kept it rolling. I hit a lot of good shots and it was nice to see a few putts go in. Over the whole day I hit a lot of quality shots – 65 was probably as high as I could have shot today, which was nice.

“To be eight under through 12, realistically, I could have got a couple more out of it and got to 10 for the day.

“I’ve got my playing feels back and it’s just executing and putting the shots together. I knew I had to be more aggressive today and I was able to convert.”

The 14-time major winner, rolled in birdies on the opening two holes – the first one from 15 feet – and the putter stayed hot on the fourth and fifth greens.

Woods drained a 17-footer on the fifth and further birdies followed at seven and nine, where he two-putted from 40 feet.

It saw Woods make the turn in 30, two shots better than his previous best front-nine score at Sawgrass and his lowest nine-hole score since 2009.

Woods picked up another shot at the par-five 11th and sank an eight-foot putt for birdie on 12.

But he made his first mistake at 14 when he caught an awful lie from a wild tee shot and an underwhelming chip resulted in a two-putt bogey.

Woods still had the course record of 63 in his sights as he began the tough last three-hole stretch.

But an eight-foot birdie chance at the 16th lipped out and his shot to the island green 17th ended 43 feet away, although he tidied up in par.

Another birdie chance slipped away at the last after he had hit a nine iron from 193 yards to within 17 feet.

Spieth, who has struggled at Sawgrass in recent years, had nine birdies and two bogeys in a similarly outstanding round.

The pair were in a group of seven players on eight under, including English pair Ian Poulter and Tommy Fleetwood.

Fleetwood carded a 68, while Poulter’s 69 could have been even better but for a double-bogey six at the 18th.

- Press Association

 

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