Splash on No. 17 doesn't keep Simpson from lead

May JohnsonMay 13, 2018

Shane Lowry bounced back from a disappointing opening round to shoot 68 and move to -1, a score which should be just good enough to see him make the cut. He spoke about putting together two mid-60s rounds on the weekend and did so with an understated confidence that suggested he believed it was possible.

The 14-time major champion was at his breath-taking best early in the third round and was six under at the turn at TPC Sawgrass. It's his lowest round ever at the Players, his lowest round since he returned from spinal fusion surgery and his lowest round in relation to par since a 61 at the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. "So that was nice". His previous best score at the Stadium Course was a 66 in the third round in 2001, when he won the first of his two Players titles. Simpson couldn't miss putts he wasn't even trying to make, whether it was a 35-foot eagle putt on his second hole or a 30-foot birdie putt up the slope and into the cup on the 15th.

He then built on that momentum on the par-5 2, where he got up and down from left of the green to get to two-under after 2.

"So I'm just looking forward to getting some good dinner and some rest and coming out and enjoying it tomorrow". I think the mental side of golf is way more important than the physical. He hit one more into the water on No. 16 for another bogey.

On a day when the course was scorable, with temperatures over 90 degrees seeing the ball travel further and land on softer than usual greens, McIlroy was lost in the haze. Woods poured that in, then added yet another birdie at the hard fifth. Woods' 72 was right at the scoring average on Thursday at the time he finished.

Back to the main event: Tiger.

Woods' iron play was spot on and his putter red hot as he birdied four of the first five holes.

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"Just the wrong club", he said.

"I didn't quite swing it right today", he told reporters.

Spieth hit 14 of 18 greens and needed just 24 putts. He hit his fourth onto the green and had a one-putt to finish the hole.

Woods walked off the course in a tie for eighth place at eight under. He was still seven back of Simpson even after posting the 65.

"When you're out there competing in a big tournament, you're as focused as can be, but then at a certain point, maybe on 13 today, you start just - like a kid, just kind of laughing", said Simpson, whose run of six straight birdies also matched a tournament record. But surely one marker for Woods' long-term hopes was his ability to finally go low - really low - when favorable conditions and a cooperative game finally converged. For Woods, there was a tinge of what might have been, but the realist in him knew that shooting 65 on one of the Tour's most demanding layouts was another sign of progress.

Tiger Woods at least gets to return on the weekend.

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