Count Jon Rahm among those players who prefer TPC Sawgrass in March, rather than May.
The 24-year-old Spaniard carded an 8-under-par 64 to take a one-stroke lead over Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and Tommy Fleetwood of England heading to the final round of The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass https://tpc.com/sawgrass.
“Earlier in the year, it’s cooler and the course plays longer, which is to my advantage,” said the 10th-ranked Rahm, who has six victories as a pro, but none as big as the Players. “It’s a bit easier this year. You can hit the ball out of the rough with more control. It’s predictable.
“I hit the ball really well today. I had my iron game dialed in. I knew all I had to do was drive it in the fairway and I had a chance. I hit it stiff three or four times in a row and had short putts for birdie.
“ … To win here would be huge.”
Rahm collected seven birdies and had a three-foot eagle putt on the 11th hole against a single bogey, and recorded a 54-hole score of 15-under 201 in the first Players contested in March since 2006.
McIlroy and Fleetwood, the 36-hole co-leaders, bounced back from slow starts to shoot 70s in the third round.
“I didn’t hit really bad shots early but the ball wound up in some tricky spots,” said the sixth-ranked McIlroy, trying to win for the first time in more than a year, who made bogeys on the first two holes. “I made a nice birdie on the third hole that settled things down and I played steady golf the rest of the way.
“Now I just hope to turn in my best Sunday of the year.”
Said Fleetwood, who played the front nine in 2-over 38: “I didn’t have the swing I had the first two days, but I hung in there and played well on the back nine. This course is tough and any score under par is good. It tests every aspect of your game.
“I’m in contention in one of the biggest tournaments we play and hope I can play my best. I just want to enjoy it.”
Jason Day of Australia, the 2016 Players champion, is three shots back in solo fourth after a 68, followed another stroke back by Abraham Ancer of Mexico, who had a 70.
Top-ranked Dustin Johnson shot 69 and is five down in a tie for sixth with Jim Furyk (71), Ollie Schneiderjans (65), Brandt Snedeker (65), Keegan Bradley (68) and Brian Harman (71).
Second-ranked Justin Rose of England carded a 68 and is in a tie for 16th that includes
fifth-ranked Bryson DeChambeau of Clovis, who had a 69, while ninth-ranked Rickie Fowler of Murrieta, the 2015 Players champion, finished at 68 and is tied for 22nd.
Defending champion Webb Simpson had a third straight 70 and is tied for 24th, two-time Players champion Tiger Woods wound up at 72 and is in a tie for 43rd that includes fourth-ranked Justin Thomas, who had a 70, and 2008 Players champion Sergio Garcia of Spain, who came in at 74.
Seventh-ranked Francesco Molinari is tied for 54th following a 72, third-ranked Brooks Koepka is tied for 69th after a 73.
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