Simpson ties course record, takes 5-shot lead at Players Championship

Simpson ties course record, takes 5-shot lead at Players Championship

Simpson entered the third round five shots up on the field, and a 4-under 68 allowed him to extend that lead to seven shots ahead of Sunday's final round.

Simpson had been five strokes clear of three players after his second-round 63.

Despite water here and there, the challenging bunkering and the possibilities for quirky bounces off the many mounds, there were times when Simpson looked like he was just showing off. Different feeling today. A little more survival feeling.

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"It's rare as a golfer where everything is working well - driving, iron play, chipping and putting - and today everything came together", Simpson, the 2012 U.S. Open victor said.

He recovered with what was an expected birdie at the par-five ninth, only to immediately give the shot back at the 10th.

But at the par-three 17th, where he took a double-bogey after finding the water on Friday, Simpson brought a huge crowd to their feet in sinking a three-footer for birdie that moved him back to 19-under. A day after making just one putt longer than 6 feet, he missed only one inside 13 feet in the third round.

"I played a lot of good shots out there today, and it was nice to see a few putts go in".

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On the 10th I three-putted for bogey and on the first putt I felt like I barely touched it and it went six feet past so I felt quite unlucky there. Spieth had missed the cut in his previous three Players Championships and has struggled to get much going this year, especially on the greens.

Jordan Spieth was also among the early starters and, like Woods, sprinted up the leaderboard thanks also to a seven-under 65. It was a particularly tough finish for the Englishman, who has a pair of runner-up finishes at The Players and knows as well as anyone how uphill the climb can be when you're trying to play catch-up on a Sunday.

Woods hit 11 of 14 fairways, 15 of 18 greens and needed just 27 putts.

Rory McIlroy's challenge started with a middling one-under-par round of 71, his lowest opening score at Ponte Vedra Beach. The course record? Simpson couldn't resist thinking about a 59.

"I wish I could repeat it more often, but honestly it was just a better start", Woods said. "Eventually I was going to put all the pieces together". "I didn't try and do too much, I recognised that my game is actually in a really good place right now", the three-times major victor said. "I managed to stay very patient out there".

The 2012 U.S. Open champion, who posted a 66 on Thursday, also tied the course record for consecutive birdies as he made six in a row from the 11th to the 16th holes. He drove onto the 12th green to 10 feet for eagle.

"It can make you think some of the best parts of your game are some of the worst parts of your game when really it's so close". He birdied the 11th and, ultimately, the 18th.

And if there was any disappointment in his round, Woods said it was getting himself to eight-under through 12 holes but then finished at seven-under. He parred the final three holes for as disappointing a 65 as he's probably ever shot, given the start he got off to. Simpson is in the territory whereby conceding this tournament would be wounding enough were it not the PGA Tour's flagship event.