Tiger Woods just managed to make the cut after a 71, but Rory McIlroy wasn't so fortunate after a double bogey on 17 saw him crash out.
"Eventually I was going to put all the pieces together", Woods said.
"I just never hit it close enough", he said. I had some chances that I didn't take advantage of, but I got up-and-down a couple of times and chipped in, so it was okay. "So this golf course won't be playing very long".
Jordan Spieth has gone the opposite direction. He made his lone bogey of the day at 14 after missing the fairway to the right for the third consecutive day. He tied for fourth.
He is 11 over in his last eight rounds at The Players.
"I just kind of assumed that it would come easy to me", Spieth said. That was a year ago, and he had to close with a 68 to finish that high. His five-stroke lead over the field is the largest in Players Championship history.
Woods' big-name playing partner, Phil Mickelson, wasn't even average. This is only the second time they have played with each other on the Stadium Course.
Woods missed the putt, made bogey after missing the green at the hard 14th and failed to birdie the par-5 16th after having only 225 yards into the green for his second shot. Sure, he's won twice on the 50-and-older circuit this year and only recently lost his lead in the Charles Schwab Cup.
He'll be able to look back on a steamy trip around the Stadium Course that nearly didn't happen, a day when the putts finally fell in bunches, as the latest example that an often-maddening game can sometimes seem easy. He has finished out of the top 20 in just over half his appearances, some of those when he was the most dominant player in golf. "You still have to play defensive around here whether you're five back or five ahead".
First, they have to figure out Sawgrass.
"It could have been better, but it could have been probably a little worse as well", McIlroy said afterwards.
"I think golf as a whole and sports as a whole, confidence is so big, and it can change the way you think".
"I didn't quite swing it right today, and I didn't quite have the shape, ball flight", said Woods, who made two birdies and a bogey.
Why is The Players considered the fifth major?
The forecast is for warm temperatures, which should translate into a firm, fast course.
Of course, that hole - the notorious 17th - is surrounded by water. "So it just shows you where it actually matters, and that's on the greens".
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