Historically, there is no such thing as “moving day” at the Players Championship. You merely hope to survive long enough to give yourself a chance on Sunday. But the past 12 months have been no ordinary year. And the early markings at TPC Sawgrass Saturday morning show that moves can be made.
(Scroll down for the latest updates)
Though the leaders don’t go off for another hour, there is plenty of red on the Players scoreboard. Cam Smith, who made the cut on the number, turned in a seven-under 65. Harry Higgs and Adam Long, both who came in at even par, posted 67s and Lanto Griffin wasn’t far behind with a 68. Justin Thomas started out with four straight birdies to get to six under and three back of the lead. Things are happening.
Everyone is chasing Lee Westwood, as the 47-year-old sits atop at nine under. Fellow Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick is paired with Westwood in the final group at minus eight. Chris Kirk and Sergio Garcia are at seven, and a certain beefy golfer who won at Bay Hill last week is in shouting distance.
Of course, what makes Sawgrass a beautiful beast is the good can turn bad in two winks of a coal miner’s eye and vice versa, which is why we’ll be here Saturday afternoon to guide you through Round 3 of the 2021 Players Championship.
Live updates from the Players (all times eastern):
6:14 p.m.: Westwood's approach goes long, and his putt from the drainage area wasn't great...but he cleans up the seven feet for par. Four-under 68, 13 under, two shot lead over Bryson. Let's run it back tomorrow!
6:08 p.m.: Garcia bogeys the 18th. That looked a heck of a lot better 15 minutes ago. Instead he's going to need something special tomorrow to contend.
6:06 p.m.: I am terrified what the Brits will do if Bryson beats Westwood for the second straight week.
6:00 p.m.: Westwood drops a 25-footer going straight downhill for birdie at the 17th! What a putt. Moves Westy to two shots ahead of Bryson with just one to play.
5:58 p.m.: Brian Harman birdies the 18th to move to nine under. For those scoring at home Harman eagled the first, birdied the last, and even through the rest.
5:52 p.m.: Whoops. Sergio misses the two-footer for birdie. Put that one on us, Sergio.
5:47 p.m.: Sergio! The former Masters champ puts his tee shot at the 17th to tap-in range, moving him to 10 under. Things are heating up as the sun goes down at Sawgrass. Behind, Westwood, a good 10 yards off the green, lags his putt to six feet, six feet that will get him to 12.
5:44 p.m.: Westwood's second comes up just short on the 16th. Still has not made a bogey today, and a birdie here gets him to 12 under. Ahead, Bryson's sinks a 14-footer to save par. That keeps him at 11 under, a 67, and puts him in the last group tomorrow. Clutch.
5:37 p.m.: Sergio flubs his chip from the rough at the 16th, and suddenly a gimmie birdie opportunity will have him scrambling to save par. At the 18th, Bryson again goes iron off the tee but sprays it right and into the rough. From 248 yards, DeChambeau is able to muscle out to just short of the green. Not the up-and-down he wants, though.
5:33 p.m.: Ghim misses his birdie at the 18th. Still, four-under 68, leaving him at 10 under heading into Saturday, is a damn fine performance for a guy making his Players debut.
5:30 p.m.: Was not a great lag from Bryson, leaving a testy five feet. But it's five feet Bryson cleans up. Eleven under with one hole to go.
5:26 p.m.: After being taken off the broadcast Sergo Garcia birdies the 15th to move to nine under with the easy 16th ahead. Need, NEED Sergio around the fire for Sunday.
5:22 p.m.: After making birdie at the 16th, Bryson takes a share of the lead at 11 under. But he plays his tee shot a little too safe at the 17th, leaving a dangerous putt ahead.
5:20 p.m.: Ghim bounces back with par after the bogey at 16th. You better believe he'll take another one at the 18th.
5:11 p.m.: Rahm can't convert on the 18th but no shame in a five-under 67. At nine under he'll be in the mix on Sunday. Also right there is Paul Casey, also sitting at nine under after a 67.
5:10 p.m.: Tough bogey for Ghim at the par-5 16th, easiest hole on the course. Needs to shake that off in a hurry with the island green ahead.
5:06 p.m.: Westwood misses a birdie at the 13th but taps in for his par. It's astonishing he's managed to keep the lead despite having his B game and the rest of the field going stupid low.
5:04 p.m.: Jon Rahm puts his approach at the 18th to 15 feet, giving himself a chance to finish at 10 under.
4:54 p.m.: Lee Westwood birdies the short par-4 12th hole to tie Doug Ghim atop the lead. That's two birdies in his past three holes—he's quietly holding serve atop the lead. Two birdies, 10 pars ... a solid Westy kind of day and that's good enough for the lead still.
Meanwhile Bryson DeChambeau looked like he might be in some trouble in a deep lie at the par-4 15th, putting his chip to within 2 feet—as he remains one back of Doug Ghim and Westwood.
4:46 p.m.: Bryson DeChambeau makes his first bogey of his round—and his first bogey in 31 holes—so Doug Ghim now leads outright. Say that again: Doug Ghim is a solo leader at the Players Championship. Even with all these great names on the leader board ... marvelous play from the 24-year-old thus far, and he has a chance to make another one at the 15th. Ah, Ghim just misses the birdie try, so the lead remains one.
Jon Rahm just hit a terrific shot at the iconic peninsula-green 17th, exactly pin high about 15 feet away. A birdie would be big for him after a disappointing par at the par-5 16th hole. Rahm is 9-under and two back of Doug Ghim's lead.
4:41 p.m.: Bryson DeChambeau is in a sticky situation at 14. He could only reach the long greenside bunker from the grassy moguls, and his third shot just stuck up on the green—instead of releasing like he would've expected.
And Lee Westwood has missed an opportunity to make a birdie at the par-5 11th hole, hitting a below average chip, leaving himself with a long birdie, which he two-putts. Westwood remains 1-under on his round and at 10-under overall.
4:39 p.m.: Oh boy, Matthew Fitzpatrick, at 8-under and just three back, won't be there for long. He just chunked an approach from 157 yards in the fairway at the par-5 11th hole. Fitzy does get up and down for a bogey, but there have been some low scores on Saturday at Sawgrass, yet Fitzy has been on the struggle bus.
4:34 p.m.: Doug Ghim pays off the tremendous approach at the 14th hole and buries the four-footer, tieing Bryson DeChambeau atop the leader board.
Bryson's in a tough spot off the tee at the 14th hole, finding the grassy, thick rough in the moguls to the right of the fairway.
4:29 p.m.: Bryson DeChambeau has the rare two-putt on Day 3, as he just misses his latest birdie try at the par-3 13th hole from 21 feet. Bryson remains 11-under and one up on Justin Thomas, Lee Westwood and Doug Ghim. Ghim just hit a FANTASTIC second shot at the par-4 14th shot around the trees to four feet, so Ghim is likely to tie Bryson atop the lead at 11-under.
4:21 p.m.: Lee Westwood finally makes his first birdie of the round after nine straight pars—the 47-year-old nails the 11-footer at the 10th hole to get within one of Bryson's lead. Westy gave a funny little fist pump as he celebrated with his fiancee, Helen Storey. The veteran is clearly having fun while contending for a second straight week.
4:18 p.m.: It seems like Bryson DeChambeau has been on top of the golf world, and now he's on top of the leader board by himself at one of golf's biggest events.
Bryson gets up and down at the short par-4 12th hole to make his third birdie in a row—his sixth one-putt in a row. Bryson is the first player to get to 11-under—he now leads Justin Thomas and Doug Ghim by one.
4:08 p.m.: Doug Ghim hit a bit of a squirrely second shot right of the par-4 12th hole, but he manages to get up and down for par to stay tied for the lead.
Chris Kirk has had a great championship thus far but he drops a shot at the 10th hole, falling to two back at 8-under.
4:03 p.m.: Bryson DeChambeau's putter is HOT—he has taken only 13 putts in his first 11 holes, and his latest one-putt comes at the par-5 11th hole after playing that tricky shot from the pot bunker short of the green. Bryson is now tied with Justin Thomas and Doug Ghim for the lead at 10-under. Bryson's four under on his round.
Paul Casey makes the 14-footer to save his bogey at 14 and avoid utter disaster. Just a little disaster. Casey is now two back of the lead of JT, Ghim and Bryson.
4:00 p.m.: Paul Casey is making a mess of the 14th hole now. His tee shot went milessss right—nearly making it to the tee box at 12. He now left his third shot in the bunker ... so he's going to have to scramble just to make bogey (he was 9-under and one back before this adventure).
3:55 p.m.: Bryson DeChambeau absolutely smoked his tee shot at the par-5 11th hole, leaving just 229 yards (and a 6-iron, no big deal). But the 2020 U.S. Open champion comes up way short, finding the pot bunker that's positioned about 25 yards short of the green. That'll leave a finesse shot upcoming, but we know that's a strength of Bryson's as he looks to birdie and tie the lead.
3:49 p.m.: Paul Casey bricks his seven-footer for par at the par-3 13th hole, so he falls out of the lead, moving to 9-under and one back of Justin Thomas and ...
Doug Ghim! Ghim two-putts for a birdie at the par-5 11th hole to move the 24-year-old to 10-under. Ghim is in some heady territory right now thus far amidst a crowded leader board of world-class players.
3:46 p.m.: Bryson DeChambeau keeps up his hot stretch, birdieing the par-4 10th now to get within one shot with the par-5 11th upcoming. Some people didn't think the Incredible Bulk's game would translate to TPC Sawgrass, but he's proving that his game is just too good to tame right now.
Jon Rahm also joins the growing pack at 9-under with a birdie at the par-4 12th hole. This is shaping up to be a fantastic leader board.
3:44 p.m.: Ah, that's a brutal miss for Matthew Fitzpatrick at the difficult par-3 eighth hole. The Englishman hit a fantastic fairway wood to 10 feet, but the great putter missed this one. He'll stay at 8-under, two back of Paul Casey and Justin Thomas.
3:34 p.m.: Justin Thomas nearly holed his 31-footer for birdie, which would've tied the course record, but he makes his comebacker for a third-round, 8-under 64. That gives Thomas the lead for the moment at 10-under, as he has vaulted way up the leader board, giving him a chance to win this championship.
JT was seven back starting the day—he would join Tim Clark (2010) as the only players to win the Players when being seven back after 36 holes. What a day by JT.
Paul Casey has a fantastic day going as well, two-putting the par-5 11th hole to tie JT at 10-under. Casey is 6-under through his first 12 holes ... a remarkable round. Apparently Casey missed a one-foot putt (ala Sergio Garcia) last night as he was finishing up his round ... or else Casey would be in the lead alone right now. Wow...
Doug Ghim is now firmly in the mix after a fantastic approach at the par-4 10th, giving him his third birdie of the day. The young 24-year-old is now one back of JT.
Ghim has a fantastic pedigree as the runner-up of the 2017 U.S. Amateur, but this is the biggest spot of his young professional career.
3:28 p.m.: Justin Thomas smoked his 5-wood off the tee at the 18th hole, hitting a tight draw that rolled onto the left side of the fairway. His pitching wedge from 167 hits the right side of the green, giving him a two-putt for a tremendous 8-under 64. He has the lead at 10-under right now ... which likely won't remain, but he should be within one or two of the lead, at least, by the end of the day.
Bryson DeChambeau was a bit unfortunate at the par-5 ninth, with his approach rolling off the back of hte green. His chip shot scooted over the green and into the bunker, so he got up and down to save par. Disappointing for Bryson to par a par 5, but he remains at 8-under, two back of JT.
3:19 p.m.: Justin Thomas managed to two-putt from the top of the ledge at the par-3 17th, so he heads to the 18th hole at 10-under, in the lead by himself. JT is 8-under on the day, so a birdie at the 18th hole would tie the course record (63) at TPC Sawgrass, last shot by Brooks Koepka in 2018.
Matthew Fitzpatrick got back the shot he lost at the fourth hole with a nice, 27-footer for birdie to get back within two shots of JT's lead.
3:12 p.m.: Our new solo leader, Justin Thomas, has found the putting surface at the par-3 17th hole—his ball sitting up top the ledge, leaving him with a tough putt upcoming to the 'Better than Most' pin position.
We've seen some carnage behind JT ... Jon Rahm just made a mess from the fairway at the 10th hole, missing the green left even though his approach hit right at the pin ... it just trickled off the green. He moves back to 8-under after his nice run, he's still 4-under on the day.
Brian Harman left one in the bunker at the par-4 seventh hole, but he makes a long bogey putt to avoid dropping two. He stays at 8-under, now two back of JT.
3:02 p.m.: Justin Thomas just hit one of the shots of the tournament thus far—and he is without a doubt in this golf tournament. The 2017 PGA champion just hit a 5-iron to seven inches at the par-5 16th hole—a tap-in EAGLE to get to 10-under, now claiming the lead all by himself.
JT is now 8-under on his round ... what an incredible day he is having. JT has had a heckuva last month with the backlash after his homophobic slur was caught on a mic at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, then he lost his father before the final round of the Waste Management. This is the best golf we've seen from JT in 2021.
2:52 p.m.: Fitzpatrick duck-hocks his drive at the fourth then proceeds to dump his approach into the creek in front of the green. He saves bogey, but the man needs to get right, and get right now.
2:46 p.m.: Westwood and Fitzpatrick are off to such a sluggish start that they're almost daring Paul Azinger to break out his "Winning over here is different than Europe" routine. Luckily Westwood sticks his approach at the fourth to 10 feet.
2:39 p.m.: Paul Casey birdies the ninth to shoot 31 on the front and take a share of the lead. Casey has been sneaky good in 2021, and is more than overdue for a big-time trophy on his mantle.
2:32 p.m.: Jon Rahm with another birdie, this from a bombed 35-foot putt at the seventh. Now at eight under with the easy par-5 ninth ahead. With Westwood and Fitzpatrick off to a sluggish start, things are about to get real interesting.
2:28 p.m.: Westwood and Fitzpatrick open with par-par. That is not going to get it done today.
2:20 p.m.: Just a brutal break. Dustin Johnson hits the flagstick at the par-3 17th, only for his ball to ricochet into the water. Meanwhile Adam Scott puts it within two feet for the third straight day at the island green. Golf, she is a fickle mistress.
2:11 p.m.: Fitzpatrick misses a 10-footer at the first for birdie. Ahead, Jon Rahm makes his third birdie in five holes to move to seven under. A 64, even 63 seems to be in play this afternoon.
2:01 p.m.: Paul Casey makes a birdie at the sixth to move to four under on the day, eight for the tournament. Honestly, too much is happening.
1:55 p.m.: Thomas makes a sensible lag for birdie at the par-5 11th, moving him to eight under. Bryson makes birdie at the second to move to seven, while Hoffman goes birdie-birdie to get to eight. Westy and Fitz better be keen on going low.
1:49 p.m.: Now that's how you start! Brian Harman holes out from the fairway on the first for eagle, going from six to eight under. That is getting it done.
1:41 p.m.: Charley Hoffman, playing with Bryson, birdies the first to get to seven under while Bryson gets up-and-down just off the green for par. Casey birdies the fourth to get to three under on his round, also in the in the seven-under pack. No idea what the over/under on scoring average was, but really, really wished I would have taken the under.
1:34 p.m.: Spieth cleans up on the 18th for a four-under 68. Justin Thomas nearly dunks his approach at the par-4 10th to move to five under on his day and two back of Westwood. Bryson DeChambeau gets his round started with a strong drive in the fairway at the first. And if that seems scattered, we were thrown off by Dan Hicks calling the 17th "the most photographed hole in the world." Think the 18th at St. Andrews and 13th at Augusta National might have something to say about that.
1:24 p.m.: We jinxed Spieth, who bailed out left with his drive and put his approach way over the green. We blame ourselves. (He would put his chip to six feet to give himself a chance at par.) On the other side, Paul Casey eagles the second to get to six under.
1:15 p.m.: Mentioned above, guys are going low. It's a nice day with not much wind, and the pin locations are certainly gettable ... wrapping up, Jordan Spieth makes birdie at the par-3 17th to move to four under on his day, jumping nearly 30 spots on the board.
1:05 p.m.: Justin Thomas is en fuego. After starting with four birdies, Thomas took a bogey at the fifth. But he bounced back with a par then made another birdie from 60 feet at the seventh, putting Thomas back in the mix. It's been a rough year on and off the course for Thomas. A good day could right his season's course.