PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLA.
Jordan Spieth couldn’t see any of the 240 yards to the green on the toughest hole at the TPC Sawgrass. He was in the rough so far right of the 14th fairway that he was closer to a water hazard on No. 12 that he didn’t know even existed. His ball was on the back side of a mound. One wrong move could have led to a big number.
“Probably the best shot I’ve hit here this week,” Spieth said Saturday.
The contact was perfect. The ball landed about pin-high in a bunker, setting up another par.
It was like that all day at The Players Championship.
Every time the 20-year-old Texan landed in trouble, he answered with a recovery shot, a chip-and-run, and always a putt that kept him without a bogey through 54 holes and gave him a share of the lead with Martin Kaymer going into the final round.
Spieth’s final act was an escape through the trees on the 18th hole and a 12-foot par putt from the fringe for a 1-under 71. Kaymer missed his par putt from just inside 10 feet on the final hole and had to settle for a 72.
They were at 12-under 204, three shots clear of former Players winner Sergio Garcia (69) and John Senden (68).
Not since Greg Norman won The Players in 1994 has anyone gone through the opening three rounds without a bogey. Then again, Spieth has shown over the last year that he is capable of remarkable feats.
“I didn’t play with him the first two days, but there were a couple today where you think it’s a tough one to save par, and he always pulled it off,” Kaymer said. “If it wasn’t a brilliant chip, it was a good putt. So it’s very tough to beat those guys that don’t make mistakes. ... Seems like he doesn’t make many mistakes.”
Kaymer wasn’t too shabby on the toughest day all week at Sawgrass — warm, humid, blustery and increasingly frightening. He picked up a pair of birdies on the front nine to build a two-shot lead, only to lost two birdie opportunities on the par 5s on the back nine.
Even when he heard a few cheers after missing his par putt on the 18th, which allowed Spieth to share the lead, Kaymer was in a good spot. A former world No. 1 and major champion, Kaymer is trying to end more than two years without winning.
“It’s very important that you enjoy the day,” Kaymer said. “It’s a rare opportunity that you’re in the leading group one of the biggest tournaments we play all year.”