Tuesday, 22 May, 2018

Simpson leads Players Championship by seven strokes

Simpson ties course record for five-shot lead as Tiger survives but McIlroy misses cut Players Championship: Webb Simpson leads by five at TPC Sawgrass
Cassandra Gardner | 13 May, 2018, 14:44

McIlroy knocked his third from the drop zone to six feet, but he missed the putt which effectively ended his tournament before a lacklustre par at the last closed left him two over for the day, while playing partners Jordan Spieth (68) and Justin Thomas (70) both scraped through with nothing to spare.

Every other golfer will be playing for second on Sunday after Simpson fired a 4-under 68 on Saturday to finish at 19-under-par 197 after three rounds on the Players Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Danny Lee is leading the bunched-up pack chasing Simpson at 12-under, while Johnson is solo third at 10-under and five players are locked at nine under. Five players are tied for fourth at nine under: Jason Dufner (after a six-under 66), Jimmy Walker (70), Xander Schauffele (71), Jason Day (71), and Charl Schwartzel (73). This is, after all, where Alex Cejka rode a five-stroke lead into the final round in 2009 only to leave town with a ninth-place check and an abundance of scar tissue.

The 29-year-old joined a lengthy list of star names to bow out at the halfway stage, which included former champions Martin Kaymer and Rickie Fowler, who also finished at one over.

No one in PGA Tour history has failed to win an event with a seven-stroke lead entering the final 18 holes. The Great White Shark went on to post 24 under in his victory that year, a number that is certainly within reach for Simpson with the way he's been playing this week.

"I'm trying to just look forward, you know, do what I always do on a Saturday night of a golf tournament and get ready tomorrow morning", he said. "Today was a little more survival feeling". "I'm hungry to get back in the winner's circle".

This was no more evident when Simpson pulled off his "shot of the day" at the par-5 11th hole.

"I just need to focus on the good progress I made and try and take it into the weekend".

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"I hope he doesn't putt too well with that thing up the arm or they'll ban that next", joked Adam Scott, who has also dealt with his share of putting demons since the anchoring ban. "But when you are making half of them, like I was the first round, then it's a harder game". That's sometimes unsustainable, but Simpson delivered answers with his iron play and approach shots.

The 27-year-old Kiwi, with a combined score of 204, would have led The Players in all but three of the years since it moved to May in 2007.

Woods' round featured eight birdies over his first 12 holes and a lone bogey at the 14th.

But then in yet another stroke of brilliance this week from the current World No. 41 as Simpson proceeded to hole his third shot for an eagle "3".

It was his lowest round on the PGA Tour since a 65 in the second round of the Wyndham Championship at the end of the 2015 regular season. He was in range of the course record that eluded Simpson on Saturday.

"I finally got off to a good start in birdieing the first couple of holes and I just kept it rolling from here", he said. That's why I had no idea where it was going.

It's not over, I suppose, but man it feels over. "I managed to stay very patient out there". That was a month before he was sidelined with three more back surgeries. The 2011 U.S. Open champion fist-pumped as he drained a 17-footer for par at the last, proof that finishing a round on a high note is of paramount importance no matter the scoreboard.

"I'm telling you, if you don't miss a putt inside of 15 feet, golf is pretty easy", Spieth.

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