A weather delay caused Round 3 of the 2013 Players Championship to be suspended by darkness on Saturday, and little-known David Lingmerth emerged as the leader at 12 under par when he completed his 17th hole with a birdie.
Lingmerth has a two-stroke advantage over final group competitors Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia, as well as Henrik Stenson.
Mother Nature seems to have it in for the Tour this season, as PGA Tour Media's Twitter page points out:
Play resumed Sunday morning, where the top stars this weekend looked to be in top form despite the early start.
Below is a look at the competitors most prominently in the hunt following the completion of Round 3.
|T1||Sergio Garcia ||68-65||E||F||-11|
|T1||Tiger Woods ||67-67 ||-1||F||-11|
|T4 ||Casey Wittenberg ||67-69 ||-2||F||-10|
|T4||Ryan Palmer ||67-69||-2||F||-10|
|7||Jeff Maggert ||70-71 ||-6||F||-9|
|T8||Hunter Mahan||67-70||-1||F ||-8|
The 25-year-old Lingmerth is in just his 13th PGA Tour event and has the chance to be the 20th different champion in as many years at this prestigious event at TPC Sawgrass.
For those who partake in fantasy, picking Lingmerth certainly wasn't a popular choice in fans' lineups, as Golf Channel's Will Gray highlighted:
That makes perfect sense, because the rookie missed eight of his previous 10 cuts—including the last five—and finished no better than 50th in the other two events.
Four birdies and three bogeys preceded a scintillating finish from the Swede, who capitalized on a downwind breeze at the par-five 16th hole to stiff his second shot pin high, and he nailed the subsequent eagle putt.
Deliberating what to do as play was about to be suspended, Lingmerth decided to pull the trigger at No. 17—a daunting par three with an island green. Like a seasoned veteran, he stuck it below the hole and then rolled it in to get to minus-12.
Stenson, a compatriot of Lingmerth, won the 2009 Players Championship and is flashing the form that saw him rise as high as No. 4 in the world.
Being first in total driving and greens in regulation on the PGA Tour in 2013 has definitely enhanced Stenson's game. However, he struggled after turning in three-under 33, capped by this nifty 20-foot birdie putt.
Two dropped shots at Nos. 11 and 15 knocked Stenson out of sole possession of the lead, which he held earlier in the day.
As for the pairing of Woods and Garcia, it wasn't short on drama. They led the other storylines that made this showcase in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., all the more memorable.
Garcia accuses Woods of distracting him at No. 2
The par-five second hole was the site of controversy, which isn't abnormal for Garcia. The Spaniard accused Woods of pulling a club at the improper time, and the crowd appeared to react right in the middle of Garcia's backswing.
When the delay occurred, Garcia spoke to the media, and his comments were logged by Kyle Porter of CBS Sports:
I wouldn't say he didn't see that I was ready, but you do have a feel when the other guy is going to hit. Right as I was on top of the backswing, he pulled a 5-wood or 3-wood out of the rough and, obviously, everybody started screaming, so that didn't help very much.
After play concluded on Saturday, Woods responded to reporters (h/t Bob Harig of ESPN):
Obviously, he doesn't know all the facts. The marshals told me he had already hit. I pulled the club and played my shot. Then I hear his comments afterward. Not really surprising that he's complaining about something.
Golf Channel's Jason Sobel provided some commentary on Garcia's decision to take his displeasure with the development public:
Garcia wound up bogeying the hole, relinquishing his one-stroke overnight lead to Woods after the World No. 1 made birdie.
Neither ultimately had his respective A-game on Saturday, though. Woods gave that birdie right back at the par-three third hole with a disappointing three-putt and made a string of 11 consecutive pars from there.
Credit has to go to Garcia for hanging tough since holding the lead hasn't been his strong suit in the past (h/t ESPN Stats & Info):
Garcia won this event in 2008, and his familiarity, past success and improved putting may allow him to hold the trophy on Sunday for the second time.
One name you might have noticed near the top of the leaderboard is 49-year-old Jeff Maggert.
Forget the Champions Tour—the three-time PGA Tour winner can still clearly hang with the relative youngsters on this circuit. Golfweek's Adam Schupak asked Maggert what still kept him going, and he responded with competitive zest:
Maggert made the turn in five-under 31 without a bogey, and other than a blemish at the difficult final hole, he had a mistake-free round of 66.
Hitting over 85 percent of fairways in regulation certainly helped Maggert's cause. A venue like TPC Sawgrass allows the not-so-powerful players to hang around as long as they're precise, and Maggert capitalized on the vast majority of his opportunities to establish himself as a surprise contender.
David Lynn rising
Many remember Rory McIlroy's dominant, eight-stroke victory at the 2012 PGA Championship. What they may not remember is Lynn's finish as runner-up.
The late-blooming Englishman also entered the weekend at the Masters just three strokes off the lead, and now he's continuing his stellar play in golf's most important events.
Lynn fired a second consecutive 68 to get to eight under overall, as he was able to finish his third round before officials called off play for the day. The momentum he generated with a strong showing at the Wells Fargo Championship—where he lost in a playoff to Derek Ernst—is clearly carrying over now.
There's never a dull moment for Lynn, who frequently jokes around. He posted a humorous photo on Twitter earlier in the week, indicating he had to go back to the drawing board after his close call in Charlotte:
Whatever he did to prepare for the Players, it's clearly working for Lynn, and it will be interesting to see how he finishes.