Kirk leads Players after second 68

Chris Kirk birdied three straight birdies down the stretch to post a second consecutive 4-under-par 68 and take a one-stroke lead over Bill Haas, Kevin Kisner and Ben Martin into the final round of the Players Championship on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, Fla.

The 30-year-old Kirk, who has won three times on the PGA Tour, bounced back from his only two bogeys of the day on the 13th and 14th holes with birdies on the next three before holing a clutch five-foot putt for par at No. 18.

“I had a chance to sort of lose it a little bit today,” said Kirk, whose last victory came in the 2014 Deutsche Bank Championship during the PGA Tour playoffs. “But I didn’t let it bother me, and thankfully was able to birdie the next three to pull out a great round.

“I was really happy with the way I played today. I said after my round yesterday that I was going to have to drive the ball better to stay in contention and I did. I definitely hit my driver a lot better than I have the last couple days. The rest of my game was still pretty sharp.

“I’m looking forward to a chance to win tomorrow.”

Haas made his only bogey of the day at No. 14 and also shot 68, while Kisner birdied six of the first 11 hole en route to a 67, and Martin would have had a share of the lead if not for a bogey on the final hole that left him a 68.

Rookie Justin Thomas carded a 65 that was the low score of the day and was two shots behind in a tie for fifth that included Sergio Garcia (67) of Spain, David Hearn (70) of Canada, Scott Brown (69), and 36-hole co-leaders Kevin Na and Jerry Kelly, who both shot 72.

Reigning FedEx Cup champion Billy Horschel finished at 69 and was three strokes behind in a tie for 11th that included Rickie Fowler, who had a 71, while top-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland recorded a 70 and was four shots back in a tie for 17th that included Bubba Watson (69) and Adam Scott (69) of Australia.

Tiger Woods, after making the cut on the number, posted a 75 that included two double bogeys and was tied for 68th.

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