Golf

Wyndham Clark holding off Xander Schauffele on day three at Players Championship

Olympic champion Schauffele moved to within one stroke heading into the turn

Wyndham Clark is looking to keep himself ahead of the chasing pack on moving day at Sawgrass (Lynne Sladky/AP)
Wyndham Clark smiles as he walks off the second green Wyndham Clark is looking to keep himself ahead of the chasing pack on moving day at Sawgrass (Lynne Sladky/AP) (Lynne Sladky/AP)

Wyndham Clark looked to maintain his slender lead over Xander Schauffele as moving day got into full swing at the third round of the Players Championship at Sawgrass.

The US Open champion – who was four ahead of Olympic champion Schauffele and Canada’s Nick Taylor overnight at 14-under par – started his round by digging out of the rough to make a birdie.

However, Schauffele continued to chase him down, sinking a 14-foot birdie on the sixth to close within two shots which was down to just one stroke at the turn.

Clark, though, promptly picked up another birdie on the seventh, only to drop it straight back on the next and went into the turn one under for the day.

World number one Scottie Scheffler was playing through the pain barrier, having received treatment from a PGA Tour physio during his second round, and started Saturday with black tape on his neck.

Scheffler is bidding to become the first player to successfully defend the Players Championship title in its 50-year history and came to Sawgrass on the back of an impressive five-shot win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Scottie Scheffler was playing the third round with tape on his neck (Lynne Sladky/AP)
Scottie Scheffler Scottie Scheffler was playing the third round with tape on his neck (Lynne Sladky/AP) (Lynne Sladky/AP)

A birdie at the par-five second was followed by a bogey at the fifth before Scheffler recovered another stroke on the next and headed into the turn at one under, missing a birdie chance from six feet.

Schauffele, though, kept the pressure on as he sunk his to move within one at 14 under overall.

Rory McIlroy’s bid for a second Players Championship victory had been dented by a second round of 73 to drop eight shots off the pace, having shared the first-round lead following an opening 65.

The Northern Irishman started Saturday’s round brightly, picking up a birdie on the second only to then drop a shot straight away on the par-three third.

Rory McIlroy faces a battle to work his way back into contention (Marta Lavandier/AP)
Rory McIlroy waves to the gallery Rory McIlroy faces a battle to work his way back into contention (Marta Lavandier/AP) (Marta Lavandier/AP)

Although he made successive birdies from the 11th, a double bogey at the 14th saw his hopes fade further after finishing the far greenside bunker.

Taylor, meanwhile, dropped down the leaderboard after a bogey on the fourth was followed by a six at the par-four sixth and another at the ninth to go into the turn at four over for the day.

England’s Matt Fitzpatrick had started the day in a tie for third. He made a good start, picking up a birdie from two feet on the first hole but then suffered a double bogey on the fourth and dropped another stroke at both the sixth and ninth.

Open champion Brian Harman was enjoying a solid round to move into contention, having built on being two under through the first four holes.

Harman found the trees at the par-five ninth, which resulted in him making a six, but he then picked up successive birdies to sit at five under for the day through 11 holes.

Sweden’s Ludvig Aberg climbed up the leaderboard after a five-under 67, which could have been lower but for a bogey on the first and last holes, while Doug Ghim was also in the clubhouse at nine under after his 66.

Americans Sam Burns and Adam Schenk had been among the biggest movers of the early starters to both sit at eight under.

Burns – who just survived the cut – carded a seven-under-par 65, which saw him land a 38-foot birdie putt on the 17th, while Schenk hit a 66, including an eagle on the 16th.

Rickie Fowler finished at four over after a round of 76 saw him drop down the leaderboard – the American having shouted at a fan on the 16th tee for apparently disturbing his swing with noise of their camera clicking.