Simpson leads Players Championship by seven strokes

No golfer has surrendered a lead of more than six strokes in the final round of a PGA Tour event, though Simpson will be keen to avoid the same fate at Alex Cejka here nine years ago.

The North Carolina native, and victor of the U.S. Open in 2012, had 248-yards to the flag at 11 but sent his second shot some 33-yards past the hole and into a rear greenside bunker.

In sports there are no guarantees - it's why they prefer to go all 72 before doling out crystal on the PGA Tour - but consider that Simpson could spot his closest challenger a stroke a hole on the front nine on Sunday and still likely ease into the closing loop with a comfortable lead. He still tied the record with a nine-under 63, and he had a five-shot lead, the largest in the 45 years of this tournament. The Great White Shark went on to post 24 under in his victory that year, a number that is certainly within reach for Simpson with the way he's been playing this week.

Simpson had a plan and didn't back off until he holed an 18-foot par on the final hole for a 4-under 68. Different feeling today. A little more survival feeling. "I didn't make many birdies".

Still, the 2012 U.S. Open champion could hardly complain after equalling the 63 previously shot by Fred Couples, Greg Norman, Robert Castro, Martin Kaymer, Jason Day and Colt Knost.

Danny Lee was leading the B-Flight with a bogey-free round of 70, but with birdies only on the two par 5s on the back nine. He striped a driver off the first tee then stuck a sand wedge to 15 feet below the hole, and hit a attractive right-to-left putt that fell right into the center of the hole.

Simpson had put his tee shot into the water there on Friday, making double bogey and missing out on setting the course record.

McIlroy made his worse score of the week at the 137-yard par three, a trip to dropzone and two-putt from 8 feet, moved him to 2 over for his round. "I felt I had better control of hitting it right-to-left and left-to-right".

Simpson was between a hard gap wedge and an easy pitching wedge, and after a long conversation with Tesori, made a decision to go with the gap wedge, aiming for a spot 138 yards away, up the slope of the green, short of the back-center hole placement.

Tiger Woods teed off when the leaders were having breakfast prior to the third round of Saturday's Players Championship. 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' round featured eight birdies over his first 12 holes and a lone bogey at the 14th. The 65 overall was also Woods' best score on this course (where he's won twice).

That's true, but Simpson commands respect for his record-setting performance thus far this week. "If we were able to put all of our facets of the game together, I think there would be a lot more tournament winners out here".

"It's a bummer but I wanted to play 18 pretty solid, just to end the day well, and I think I did that", said the four-time PGA Tour victor and 2012 U.S. Open champion from Wake Forest. I didn't feel like I had my best game out there, by any means, but still managed to shoot two under. He drove onto the 12th green to 10 feet for eagle.

"I know I have tied records but I don't think it matters until I win".

  • Rosalie Stanley