(Reuters) – Jon Rahm stormed out of the pack with an eight-under-par 64 and took a one-stroke lead over Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood after the third round at the Players Championship in Florida on Saturday.
Spaniard Rahm used his prodigious power to plunder TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, matching the best score of the week on a day when a predicted stiff northerly wind did not materialise.
He posted a 15-under 201 total to edge ahead of Northern Irishman McIlroy and Englishman Fleetwood, who both recovered from poor starts after teeing off with a three-shot lead.
McIlroy bogeyed the first two holes while Fleetwood double-bogeyed the first, where he missed a two-foot putt that did not even touch the cup.
But they both worked their way back into contention and carded 70s, a particularly good return for McIlroy in light of his poor driving.
“It feels great. I knew I could post a number,” said Rahm, who could become the second Spanish winner of the PGA Tour flagship event after Sergio Garcia in 2008.
An eagle at the par-five 11th, where he roped a four-iron from 240 yards to two feet, was the highlight of Rahm’s day.
Rahm moved three shots ahead of 2016 champion Jason Day of Australia who stayed in the hunt with a tidy 68.
Tiger Woods started the day nine shots back, but went in the wrong direction with a 72 that included three bogeys on the front nine, and three birdies on the back to slip into a tie for 43rd at three under.
Woods appeared in good spirits, however, flashing his beaming smile on several occasions during his round.
“I struggled hitting the putts hard enough,” he said.
Irishman Seamus Power enjoyed an early St Patrick’s Day present when he made a hole-in-one at the 155-yard third.
There have been three aces this week, one each at the third, 13th and 17th holes.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, editing by Ed Osmond)