Webb Simpson extends lead, Woods vaults up leaderboard at TPC

American Webb Simpson tied a course record

American Webb Simpson tied a course record

Even with that double bogey, Simpson tied the Stadium Course record with a 9-under 63 and had a five-shot lead after 36 holes, the largest in the 45 years of this tournament.

Webb Simpson started the third round at The Players Championship with a five-stroke lead over the best field in professional golf and played fearlessly to expand that advantage to seven strokes while all but lulling to sleep the competition after 54 holes.

He pointed to his tee shot at the 242-yard, par-3 eighth, which landed a little more than 30 feet from the hole; his second shot at the par-5 ninth, which stopped on the fringe from almost 270 yards out; and his towering approach shot at the par-5 11th, which carried two bunkers and part of a pond before landing on the putting surface and leaving him a lengthy eagle putt. He tapped in for birdie. No one has ever lost a seven-shot lead in the final round on the PGA Tour.

Simpson's three-round total matched the tournament record set by Australian Greg Norman in 1994 en route to a four-stroke victory.

Hours after Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth charged up the leaderboard with morning 65s that moved them to eight-under, Simpson showed now sign of bowing to pressure from any quarter.

"I was just a touch off today", he said.

"The good thing about Webb is he's played well, he doesn't have to do too much out there, he has to keep it in front of him", Day said. "I dropped a couple shots but overall, I felt like we had a great game plan and we stuck to it". That's sometimes unsustainable, but Simpson delivered answers with his iron play and approach shots.

Tiger Woods settled for a one-under par 71 and then endured an anxious afternoon wait before knowing he had made the cut on the number of one-under.

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

On the 177-yard par-3 third, Cantlay's tee shot went 148 yards to the right side of the fairway and his chip went 12 yards to the green where he rolled a two-putt for bogey.

Simpson, who has not tasted Tour success since capturing a fourth title in late 2014, will not want reminding that in the four times he has made the Players cut, he has never bettered a third-round 74.

"That water is going to taste like acid in a minute when I finally have a drink", Poulter said. Also, I'm here for Poulter trying to burn Sawgrass to the ground on Sunday as he racks up more Ryder Cup, FedEx Cup and OWGR points and tries to snag that $1.2 million second place money. He drained putts of 15, 5, 10 and 17 feet, regaining a scoring touch that eluded him last week at the Wells Fargo Championship and in the opening two rounds in Ponte Vedra Beach.

Dustin Johnson at least improved his chances of staying No. 1 with four birdies over his final 10 holes for a 69. "He's the only one that's going really low".

Lee shot a 2-under 70 in the third round and trails Simpson by seven strokes heading into Sunday.

"I said to my caddie I would like to play the golf course he's playing", Jason Day said.

"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. Eventually I'm going to put all the pieces together, and I did that today for the most part.

Meanwhile, Spieth had three birdies and a bogey on the front nine, three more birdies on holes 11-13, a bogey on the 14th and three straight birdies to close the round. He played only one PGA Tour event since then until returning this year.

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