Associated Press Webb Simpson hits from the second hole fairway at the The Players Championship on Saturday in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Associated Press Tiger Woods reacts to missing a putt on the ninth green Saturday in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Sunday, May 13, 2018 1:00 am
Simpson extends lead at Players
Up by record 7 shots on Lee; Woods, Spieth each make late charges
DOUG FERGUSON | Associated Press
At TPC Sawgrass
Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Yardage: 7,189 Par 72
Webb Simpson 66-63-68 – 197
Danny Lee 68-66-70 – 204
Dustin Johnson 66-71-69 – 206
Jason Dufner 72-69-66 – 207
Jimmy Walker 69-68-70 – 207
Xander Schauffele 68-68-71 – 207
Jason Day 69-67-71 – 207
Charl Schwartzel 68-66-73 – 207
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Webb Simpson isn't aware of the records he has tied or broken at The Players Championship. He saw that Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth each made a big charge before he teed off Saturday, and it didn't rattle him at all.
“I think it helped me a little bit continue to think about making birdies,” he said.
Simpson had a plan and didn't back off until he holed an 18-foot par putt on the final hole for a 4-under 68. He stretched his lead to a record seven shots, tied Greg Norman's 54-hole score at The Players that had not been touched in 24 years and left himself one more round to capture the richest prize in golf. Simpson started with an 8-foot birdie. He holed a 100-foot bunker shot for eagle.
And that island green on the par-3 17th that ruined his bid for the record score at the TPC Sawgrass the previous day? With a front pin in the bowl, he hit sand wedge and listened to thousands of fans surrounding the green cheer as the ball trickled down the slope to three feet for birdie. It added to a 19-under 197, the score Norman had after three rounds in 1994 on a rain-softened course.
And the 32-year-old Simpson has history on his side: No one has ever lost a seven-shot lead in the final round in PGA Tour history.
“All those things that have happened, I'd love to know them if I win tomorrow,” Simpson said. “But I'm trying not to dwell there. I'm trying to just look forward, do what I always do on a Saturday night of a golf tournament and get ready tomorrow morning. And that's kind of where I'm at.”
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 will be in the final group.
“Just got to keep my hat down and play my own game and ... I don't know, where is he at?” Lee asked. Told that Simpson was 19 under, Lee digested that and responded, “That's an impressive three rounds, I think. It's going very, very well for him.”
Woods had his best round on the Stadium Course with a 65 despite playing the final six holes in 1 over. Spieth made two bogeys in his round of 65 as both charged up the leaderboard in the morning with big crowds and loud cheers.
They went from a tie for 68th to a tie for ninth. But they made up only three shots on Simpson and were 11 shots behind.
Dustin Johnson at least improved his chances of staying for No. 1 with four birdies over his final 10 holes for a 69. He was in third place, nine shots behind and figured all he could do Sunday was go as low as he could and see where it led.
Johnson is among six players to lose a six-shot lead in the final round, last fall in Shanghai.
And with danger lurking at every corner on the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course, that would suggest that the crystal and largest paycheck in golf – just shy of $2 million – doesn't belong to Simpson just yet.
He just hasn't shown any signs of cracking.
Lee was at 204, a score that would have led The Players in all but three of the years since it moved to May in 2007.
“If you take Webb out of the equation, the golf course is playing about like it always does,” Johnson said. “He's the only one that's going really low.”
Jason Day, among those at 9-under 207, had a four-shot lead when he won The Players two years ago.