PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Heading into Sunday’s final round J.B. Holmes and Kyle Stanley share the lead at The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.
With rounds of 68-69-70, Holmes, 35, is the only player in the field to card three rounds under par. He is playing in his 11th Players Championship.
“Everything is so hard — you have to be so focused on each shot or it’ll jump up and get you,” Holmes said. “You can stay present, and that’s the main thing. You can get some squirrelly lies on chips and the ball come out funny — everybody is going to get some bad breaks.”
The four-time PGA Tour winner’s last victory came at the 2014 Wells Fargo Championship. When Holmes has been a third-round leader, he has carded an under-par final round two out of six times.
“I’ve hit a lot of good putts, and a lot of them went in,” Holmes said. “I’ve been working on my putting stroke and it’s been getting better, and the speeds of these greens have suited me, and my feel has been good on them. When you start hitting putts where you’re aiming at the right speed, you’re going to get a few to go in.”
Holmes previously led The Players after 18 holes in 2010 when he opened with a 6-under 66, his lowest score in 35 rounds at TPC Sawgrass. He went on to finish 13th.
Stanley, the 36-hole co-leader, posted even-par 72. Stanley is making his fourth start in the tournament, where has made three of four cuts. His best finish came in 2013 with a finish in 33rd.
“I’m very happy with even par,” Stanley said. “I thought it played quite difficult out there, especially the first nine. You just kind of must remind yourself that even though you’re a little bit over par, on the leaderboard I was still in a pretty good spot.
Stanley, in search of his second career PGA Tour victory, has birdied the par-3 17th hole each of the first three rounds. Paul Azinger, in 1987, is the only player to birdie No. 17 all four rounds in the tournament.
“I just tried to focus on giving myself chances. That’s kind of been my mindset all week. That’s a little easier said than done, but a shot at a time,” Stanley added. “I feel like we have a fairly good game plan for this golf course, so just stick to that and be really patient.”
Stanley, 29, has held the 54-hole lead on one other occasion at the 2012 Farmers Insurance Open.
Second round co-leader Louis Oosthuizen shot a 73 for third at 208 after a round that included three birdies and four bogeys including one of the first hole.
Si Woo Kim fired a 68 and is alone in fourth at 209. Emiliano Grillo and Ian Poulter are three strokes back and tied for fifth at 210.
“Key to me playing well today was just to be patient, don’t go pin hunting. I had a lot of opportunities. Over those closing holes, I didn’t take those opportunities, but I’m in a great position,” Coulter said.
FOREIGN AFFAIR: Entering Sunday’s final round, seven foreign countries are represented in the top-10. Since 1982, the most foreign countries represented in the top-10 after the tournament is six, which has happened on six times. In 2006, a record eight foreign players finished in the top-10, 13 total players were in the top-10). Since 1982, only once has the top-10 featured all Americans.
STREAKING: Ian Poulter is on a streak of 28 consecutive holes without a bogey, as he turned in the only bogey-free round Saturday and he didn’t record a bogey over his final 10 holes Friday. In this span, he has one birdie, one eagle and 26 pars, and he has hit 20 of 28 greens in regulation. In 11 starts this season, his best finish is a tie for 11th at the RBC Heritage.
GARCIA IN THE HUNT: Following rounds of 73-71, 2008 Players champion and current Masters champion Sergio Garcia made a move with a 5-under 67 in the third round. Garcia mixed three bogeys, with six birdies and an eagle, at the par-5 16th hole. “Today in those conditions I hit some really good shots… I’m going to need a good round tomorrow, but at least I’m putting myself back in there. We’ll see what we’re able to do,” Garcia said. He is tied for seventh with Patrick Cantlay and Alex Noren at 211.
NOTABLES: First-round co-leader William McGirt, Adam Scott and Lucas Glover are at 213. Rory McIlroy and defending champion Jason Day are among those at 215. Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler are in the group at par 216 and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson is 11 strokes off the lead at 218 after a 74. Pat Perez, who shot the low round of the day with a 66, is tied for 10th with Francesco Molinari and Rafa Cabrera Bello at 212. Vijay Singh is 11 strokes back.
BY THE NUMBERS: Last year, the field made 40 triple bogeys or worse, the third most in the 2015-16 season. The field has already surpassed that total this year, as 46 triple bogeys or worse have been recorded through three rounds. So far during the 2016-17 season, the highest total is 34 triple bogeys or worse at the Arnold Palmer Invitational….seven players have had bogey-free rounds…46 players went for the green, hitting a 3-wood or driver, on the par-4 12th hole in round two compared to 26 in round one and 39 in round two….eleven players hit the green on Saturday, with Cody Gribble making the lone eagle in round three from 7 feet, 5 inches….there were 10 balls in the water at the par-3 17th hole Saturday.
RECORD CUT: With more than 78 players making the 36-hole cut on Friday, a 54-hole cut to the low 70 and ties was made with 71 players at 5-over or better advancing to Sunday’s final round. It marks the third time in the last 10 tournaments where a 54-hole cut was required. In 2014, 82 players made the 36-hole cut before the field was reduced to 71 players after Saturday. In 2009, the field of 83 was reduced to 71 following the 54-hole cut. Friday’s 36-hole cut of 2-over 146 was the highest since 2008 when the cut came at 4-over 148.