Players Championship 2017: JB Holmes and Kyle Stanley lead at Sawgrass

Kyle Stanley
Stanley bogeyed three of the first four holes before finishing with a 72
Players Championship third-round leaderboard
-9 JB Holmes (US), K Stanley (US); -8 L Oosthuizen (SA); -7 S Kim (Kor); -6 I Poulter (Eng), E Grillo (Arg); -5 S Garcia (Spa), P Cantley (US), A Noren (Swe)
Selected: -3 A Scott (Aus); -1 R McIlroy (NI), J Day (Aus); Level J Rose (Eng) +1 T Fleetwood (Eng), G McDowell (NI), T Hatton (Eng), P Casey (Eng) +2 D Johnson (US)
Full leaderboard

JB Holmes and Kyle Stanley will take a one-shot lead into the final round of the Players Championship at Sawgrass.

Holmes carded a 70 to reach nine under at the end of a tough third round and fellow American Stanley shot a par 72.

They lead South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen by one, while South Korea's Kim Si-woo is a further shot back.

Ian Poulter made a bogey-free 71 and is on six under alongside Emiliano Grillo, while Masters champion Sergio Garcia fired a superb 67 to reach five under.

In-form American Pat Perez produced the day's best round of 66 to climb more than 50 places up the leaderboard. The world number 42 made seven birdies before a bogey on the 18th left him on four under.

Rory McIlroy is one under after a 71 and will play alongside defending champion Jason Day on Sunday after the Australian recorded a 73.

World number one Dustin Johnson is two over after a 74 that included five dropped shots in the last six holes.

Patient Poulter keeps it steady

Ian Poulter
Poulter has not won a tournament since 2012

Defying the early windy conditions, Poulter birdied the second hole and from there on did not drop a shot in the day's only bogey-free round.

The Englishman is looking to capitalise on retaining his PGA Tour card after a discrepancy was spotted in the points structure used for players competing on medical extensions.

The 41-year-old only played 13 tournaments last season because of a foot injury and slipped to 197th in the world.

"It was a relief to get the call to say you're good, you did enough to secure your card," Poulter said.

"It was extremely difficult today. It was very gusty. But I was patient and told myself not to go pin hunting because it was a day that would catch people out.

"I said to myself before teeing off 'be smart and don't take on silly positions'.

"I had a lot of opportunities over the closing holes. I didn't take them but I am in a great position."

Garcia had Augusta on his mind

Sergio Garcia
Garcia is playing his first event since winning his first major at the Masters

Garcia carded a hat-trick of birdies from the 11th and an eagle on the par-five 16th to surge into contention.

A three-putt bogey on the 18th took some of the gloss off a superb round but the Spaniard is in a strong position.

Afterwards the 37-year-old revealed he brought his Masters Green Jacket with him to Sawgrass and admitted that thoughts of Augusta hampered his first two rounds.

"I felt rusty probably head-wise," said the 2008 Players champion. "There were lots of thoughts going through my head, and the first day I was still thinking about the Masters.

"I was thinking, come on, you have to play well after winning the Masters, you have to, you have to, you have to, and I probably put too much pressure on myself."

McIlroy struggles to make an impression

Rory McIlroy
McIlroy is eight shots behind the leaders

McIlroy, who will have an MRI scan on Monday after suffering a recurrence of the back problem which ruled him out for seven weeks earlier this season, could not find any consistency during his round.

The Northern Irishman made the ideal start with a birdie on the first, but the four-time major winner then bogeyed the fifth.

And although he did birdie the ninth for the third day running, birdies on the 16th and 17th were cancelled out by bogeys on the 14th and 18th.

Analysis - Experience helps Poulter challenge

BBC golf correspondent Iain Carter at Sawgrass

Ian Poulter's bogey-free 71 was an exceptional round. The only player not to drop a shot, the Englishman displayed his huge experience by dealing with hostile winds that swept the course for most of his round.

His putter was relatively cold, but Poulter patiently aimed for the middle of greens rather than chasing pins. This eliminated the prospect of being short-sided which can be ruinous on the firm greens of Sawgrass.

Converting this promising position into the biggest win of his career remains a huge challenge but at least he has given himself a chance.

This is all the more remarkable given that it took an unexpected recalculation of FedEx Cup points before he became eligible for this championship.

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