Simpson ties course record, leads by five

Webb Simpson remained in total command of The Players Championship as he extended his lead to seven shots on day three at TPC Sawgrass.

"I heard he kind of got lucky and unlucky on 17, to draw back, but what an incredible round it was".

Woods struggled mightily off the tee over the first two days and couldn't hit his approaches close enough to the hole to give himself realistic birdie chances, but he hit six of his first seven fairways Saturday and seven of his first eight greens in regulation. "I'll have no problem blocking out what happened on the 17". His shot from the back bunker to a front pin on the par-5 11th raced across the green and into the cup for an unlikely eagle.

Left in Simpson's wake are South Africa's Charl Schwartzel (66), American youngster Patrick Cantlay (68) and New Zealand's Danny Lee (66) sharing second at 10 under.

A trio of PGA champions - Jason Dufner (66), Jimmy Walker (70) and Jason Day (71) were at 9-under 207, along with Xander Schauffele (71).

However, he allowed too much break with his 15-footer for birdie and settled for a 65 - the same score posted by Spieth earlier - with both eight under for the tournament and seven shots behind halfway leader Webb Simpson, who was still over an hour and a half away from his tee time when Woods holed out at 18.

Mickelson, like Matsuyama, had opened with a 79, admitting his battle for a share of fifth at Quail Hollow last week had left him exhausted.

- After a sleepy 72-71 start saw Tiger Woods squeak by the 36-hole cut at the Players Championship, Woods remained optimistic as ever.

His reprieve was in contrast to events surrounding Rory McIlroy.

"I didn't quite swing it right today", Woods admitted. "I tried to smash a sand wedge and blocked it a little bit".

It was very unlike Simpson's day. This moved him to even for the round. "Driving, iron play, chipping and putting, and today everything came together". "I grew up on an easy golf course, so it reminded me of being back home, shooting low numbers".

On a day when the course was scorable, with temperatures over 90 degrees seeing the ball travel further and land on softer than usual greens, McIlroy was lost in the haze.

"Tyrrell wanted me to touch his putter for him on 15, which I think is within the rules", Simpson said jokingly. They were acting normal.

"I was in between clubs", he said. "I hit a lot of good shots and it was nice to see a few putts go in", said Woods.

"I think I was ideal inside of 12, 15". I enjoy it. There's no defensiveness in my game [Saturday].

"Obviously, when you're out there competing in a big tournament, you're as focused as can be, but then at a certain point. you just kind of start laughing", said Simpson, 32, a four-time victor on the PGA Tour.

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

Simpson, whose unique putting action is described by his caddie as the (Matt) Kuchar-claw, has converted 39 of 41 putts from 10 feet and in, and punctuated his round with a17-footer for par at the last hole.

  • Julie Sanders