Day leads Players by four through 54 holes


Jason Day started the third round with a four-shot lead and will take that same advantage into the final-round of The Players Championship after a 1-over 73. Here's where things stand through 54 holes at a suddenly much tougher TPC Sawgrass:

Leaderboard: Day (-14), Hideki Matsuyama (-10), Ken Duke (-10), Alex Cejka (-10), Francesco Molinari (-9)

What it means: After two rounds of unusually favorable scoring conditions, Sawgrass showed its teeth Saturday as the greens quickened and scores ballooned to an average over 75. After a front-nine 39 cut his lead to just two, Day played a bogey-free back nine in 34 to post 1-over 73. He'll be chased on Sunday by Matsuyama, who has already won this year, and two journeymen in Cejka and Duke.  The 18-, 36-, and 54-hole leader, Day already went wire-to-wire earlier this year at Bay Hill. If he closes tomorrow, he'll be only the fourth player since 1970 to twice win wire-to-wire with no ties in the same season, joining Tiger Woods, Tom Watson and Johnny Miller. A win tomorrow would give him his third win this season and his seventh victory in his last 17 starts.

Round of the day: On a day when only six players broke par, Duke started on the back nine, went out in 35, and then birdied six of his final seven holes to shoot 7-under 65, the day's low score by two. Given the conditions and the speed of the greens, it was a score more impressive than either of the course-record-tying 63s posted by Day and Colt Knost earlier in the week. 

Best of the rest: Matsuyama was one of only two other playes to break 70 in Round 3. He raced up the board to tie Duke for second with a score of 5-under 67. The Phoenix Open champion didn't make a par until the seventh hole (four birdies, two bogeys) and played the rest of the golf course 3 under with nine pars and three straight birdies on Nos. 10-12.

Biggest disappointments: Shane Lowry ended the second round as Day's closest challenger and started the third just four back. He didn't stay there for long. Lowry got off to a disastrous start, playing the first four holes bogey-bogey-double bogey-bogey. He played the remainder of his round 1 over to shoot 78 and fall nine back.

Disaster of the day at 17: Russell Knox was 8 under for the week when he put his first tee shot at the par-3 17th in the water. He proceeded to re-tee and shank his second ball in the water. He played from the tee again and put his third ball (and fifth shot) once again in the water. Finally, mercifully, he moved to the drop zone, found the green and saluted the cheering crowd. He went on to two-putt for a nine. Thanks to a closing bogey at 18, Knox dropped seven shots over his final two holes to shoot 8-over 80.

Shot of the day: After finding trouble off the tee at  the par-4 15th, Day kept his round together and his momentum going with this chip-in for par from in front of the green.

Quote of the day: "Somehow, overnight, [these greens] got two or three feet faster." - Duke