Simpson in complete control, leads by seven at Players

Kristopher Nichols
May 13, 2018

Woods, a two-time victor of The Players, started the day 14 shots off the pace.

Jason Dufner, Jimmy Walker, Xander Schauffele and Jason Day lay one shot further back.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla.

Even better is playing the way Simpson has this week. "You're going to need to do what Tiger did on that front side tomorrow; you're going to need to be 6 under through nine". He birdied half of his holes - six of them on the back nine, including the last three holes - for 65. Spieth needed just 24 putts to get around the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.

"I've holed out a few times from off the green and made some long putts, and to get to (19-under), I think you've got to do that", he said. But it doesn't surprise me at the same time because I feel like I've been confident, I've been working hard, and I'm really hungry.

"[Simpson] may handle it a little bit differently to me".

"I didn't have to worry about that for 10, 12 years".

Fans should get a thrill out of watching Woods and Spieth play together Sunday.

Simpson's fellow first-round leader, American world number one Dustin Johnson, is now eight shots back after a 71, one behind the world's seventh-ranked player, Jason Day of Australia (67).

"Not to be negative, but I think Martin Kaymer had a 10-shot lead in Abu Dhabi and didn't win [in 2015], so you can never be completely comfortable - especially on this course".

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

McIlroy's run of six pars ended at seven after he pulled his tee shot into water and did well to limit damage to a bogey, and a bunkered tee shot at eight led to another dropped shot before he picked up his first birdie of the day at nine with a well-judged two-putt from 65 feet. And that island green on the 17th was no problem. That vexing locale was no match on Saturday for the player who is dominating The Players.

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And it will be there over the next two rounds.

Others cut: Brian Gay, Tom Hoge, Zach Johnson, Ollie Schniederjans, Ryan Blaum, Keith Mitchell, Nick Taylor and Brendan Steele.

Should a miracle chase down from Lee on Simpson's seven-shot lead occur, he would become the first Kiwi since Craig Perks in 2002 to win the Players Championship. This year, he's a distant second.

No player on the PGA Tour has lost a tournament when leading by seven going into the final round.

"Just got to keep my hat down and play my own game", Lee said.

Jordan Spieth (68) and Justin Thomas (70), also squeaked into the weekend, while Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson all missed out.

"It was a good solid round", Lee said. "If it's windy tomorrow like it was today and you're not very sharp, you're going to struggle around here". It got really windy out there in the afternoon, and it wasn't anything like the morning guys' golf in the afternoon. "I was just trying to shoot something in the mid-60s today, and managed to do it".

Ian Poulter also deserves a mention in dispatches. Several minutes later, the Englishman was still shaking his head in disgust while talking about making a double bogey at the par-4 finishing hole.

"I wanted to have clean mindset and stick to my routine", Simpson said on Golf Channel after his round. Not happy. Extremely disappointing from the position I was in on 18. I don't make birdie at 16.

Poulter's approach shot from the right rough landed in a greenside bunker.

Schwartzel never came close to a bogey, only missing two greens, and just barely.

The leader said he had gone unrecognised in a local coffee shop on Saturday. He made just his second bogey of the week on the par-3 8th hole but followed that with birdie at the 9th and went out in 34.

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