It was a day of scrambling for Jordan Spieth and a day of surviving for Martin Kaymer, but when it was all over the two golfers found themselves tied atop the leaderboard at 12-under par after the third round of The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL. Neither player could claim he got the best of TPC Sawgrass on Saturday–Spieth was only one under par for the day and Kaymer shot even par 72—but their totals are still three shots ahead of the nearest challengers.
Spieth had called his second round on Friday “stress-free” and said he hoped that he would have rounds just like it on the weekend. His round on Saturday was the opposite of that, but it was a good performance nonetheless, “It was very different. I was all over the place and really got a lot of good breaks today.” Spieth told the Golf Channel after his round. He said in order to win on Sunday “I’m going to have to drive the ball better and give myself more looks at birdie.” Despite being “all over the place,” Spieth still did not have any score worse than par on Saturday, and has now played 54 straight holes of bogey-free golf in The Players Championship.
Martin Kaymer went into Saturday’s round with a one-shot lead over Spieth and at the end of the day found himself in a tie. Kaymer’s round, however, was markedly different from Spieth’s. While his playing partner was racking up pars on the front nine, Kaymer was creating all of the movement. He dropped into a tie with a bogey on No. 4, and took the lead again with a birdie two holes later. A birdie on the ninth hole gave him a two-stroke lead which lasted until Spieth carded his only birdie of the day at 11. A bogey for Kaymer on No. 18 coupled with a clutch 12-foot putt for par by Spieth tied the match again, and the two will begin even-up when the final round tees off on Sunday. The 29-year-old from Dusseldorf, Germany said after the match that it was tricky out there on Saturday, “You didn’t have as many birdie chances as the first two days. Even when you hit fairways it was gusty and therefore a little bit difficult to attack the flags.”
The next closest to the leaders at The Players Championship are Sergio Garcia of Spain and John Senden of Australia, three shots back at 9-under. Garcia had six birdies and three bogies for a 3-under 69, and Senden had an eagle on the par-5 ninth hole to help him to a 68 on Saturday. One more shot back at 8-under are Australian Matt Jones and Americans George McNeill and Gary Woodland.
The stage is set for Sunday at golf’s “5th major,” The Players Championship. As it was on Saturday, Kaymer and Spieth will play together in the final group. Kaymer outlined his game plan for the final round, saying “I think you need to take advantage of the par-fives if possible, and then stay cool and calm on 17 and 18. It’s very important that you enjoy the day [Sunday] as well because it’s a rare opportunity that you are in the leading group of one of the biggest events that we play all year.” For Spieth, Sunday will be a day when he finds out how much he learned from playing in the final group at the Masters just a month ago, “It’ll probably feel similar to the way it felt at Augusta and I can draw a lot off of that day, I think, and hopefully it goes my way.”
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Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky