Second-ranked Scottie Scheffler is in a familiar position, on top of the leaderboard.
The 26-year-old Scheffler, who can regain the No. 1 spot in the World Golf Rankings, shot 7-under-par 65 to take a two-stroke lead over Min Woo Lee of Australia heading to the final round of the 49th edition of The Players Championship on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
After 71 players returned early Saturday morning to complete the second round because it was halted by rain the day before, the cut was made and the 75 players who were still on the course finished their round and everyone in the field played the entire third round.
Perhaps opening the door for Scheffler to return to No. 1 in the world, top-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain withdrew because of an illness before the second round and third-ranked Rory McIlroy finished at 76-73—149 to miss the cut by three shots.
Rahm, Scheffler and McIlroy have traded the No. 1 spot for much of the last year.
“I think the ranking is just an algorithm,” said Scheffler, who has claimed all five of his PGA Tour victories in the last 13 months. “For me, I would much rather just win the tournament than get back to No. 1 in the world. So that will be my focus going into tomorrow, is just going out and having a solid round of golf, and the rankings will be the rankings.
“I just think (the Stadium Course) is a good test tee to green. I think what makes me a little nervous is the stuff kind of around. You don’t really know if you’re going to get a good or bad break. Anytime you’re hitting fairways and greens out here it’s pretty scorable, but the minute you miss a fairway, depending on where you end up in one of these little hollows or pot bunkers or something like that, you can get in weird spots pretty quick.
“I just want to keep the ball in play tomorrow and that will be my best chance to win.”
Scheffler, the reigning Masters champion, chipped in from 10 feet for an eagle on the second hole, added four birdies against his lone bogey on the front nine and birdied two of the last three holes to record a 54-hole total of 14-under 202.
Lee, who has won twice on the DP World Tour and is seeking his first PGA Tour victory as he tries to catch up with his sister, Minjee Lee, a star on the LPGA Tour, holed out from 112 yards for an eagle on the first hole, made five birdies and his only bogey on the No. 18 in a 66.
“I thinned a nice 55 (degree wedge) in there and one-hopped and back-spun in the hole for the eagle,” said Lee, who qualified for The Players shooting 66 in the final round the Arnold Palmer Invitational to tie for 26th and climb to No. 50 in the World Golf Rankings. “So it wasn’t a perfect shot, but it looked good on TV. I won’t say I thinned it; let’s keep it between us.
“It would have been guttering to come 51st in the rankings and not get into The Players. I think it ended up being one eighth of a shot with the ranking points. Things did favor in my way, and you got to make the most of it.
“It’s so much fun out here, I just want to keep doing it every week.”
Cam Davis of Australia holed out from 60 yards for an eagle on the 10th hole and added three birdies in a bogey-free 67 and is four behind in in solo third, while Aaron Rai of England made a hole-in-one from 122 yards on the famed par-3, 17th hole with the island green while playing the last three holes of a 65 in in four-under and is five down in a tie for fourth with Tommy Fleetwood, who had four straight birdies through the turn in another 65, Chad Ramey, who bounced back from a 75 with a 68 that included five birdies, and Christiaan Bezuidenhout of South Africa, who had a bogey-free 69.
Tom Hoge broke the Players scoring record by one stroke with a brilliant, bogey-free 62 that included five birdies on each nine and is six strokes back in a tie for eighth with Sungjae Im of South Korea, who had five birdies on his first seven holes but closed his 64 with two bogeys, and David Lingmerth of Sweden, who had five birdies on the front nine in a second straight 68.
Fourth-ranked Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA shot 68 and is in a tie for 14th that includes Collin Morikawa of La Canada Flintridge and Cal, who had two late birdies in a 72, while seventh-ranked Max Homa of Valencia and Cal collected five birdies in a 67 and is tied for 26th, sixth-ranked Xander Schauffele is tied for 47th after a 69, ninth-ranked Justin Thomas holed out for an eagle on No. 18 and is tied for 63rd after a 71, and eighth-ranked Will Zalatoris of San Francisco is tied for 70th after a 74.
For complete results, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard