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Players Championship 2018: Tee Times, Pairings and Predictions for Sunday

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistMay 13, 2018

Webb Simpson's red-hot play has been the top story at The Players Championship.
Webb Simpson's red-hot play has been the top story at The Players Championship.Associated Press

The pressure is supposed to be a significant factor on moving day at The Players Championship, but Webb Simpson is apparently immune to that factor.

Simpson began Saturday with a five-stroke lead, and as the third round at TPC Sawgrass progressed, he built his advantage to seven strokes after shooting a four-under 68.

Simpson tied Greg Norman's 54-hole record of 19-under par with his scintillating play. His seven-stroke lead at the end of the third round is the largest in Players Championship history.

Simpson birdied the island green hole at 17, and that brought him to 19-under. It was a huge confirmation of his overall play, and it came 24 hours after he hit the ball in the water on that famous hole.

"I wanted to have clean mindset and stick to my routine," Simpson said on Golf Channel after his round. "I thought the ball would stick on the hill (about 18 feet from the pin), but once it started to catch some speed, it was a very good feeling."

Simpson's shot on 17 rolled to within three feet of the cup, and he knocked home the birdie putt without any problem.

Danny Lee is in second place at 12 under par after shooting a two-under round of 70, while Dustin Johnson is in third place at 10 under, following his third-round score of 69.

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Tiger Woods shot a 7-under 65 in the 3rd round today at THE PLAYERS, the lowest round in his career at the event. Today was Tiger's career 66th round at THE PLAYERS. https://t.co/zutBRvod4A

The big moves came early in the day from Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth. They barely made the cut, but both stars shot seven-under rounds of 65.

Woods appeared to be on his way to a possible record-setting round when he reached the eight-under mark after 12 holes, but he gave one stroke back with a bogey at No. 14, and he also missed a relatively easy birdie putt at 16.

Tiger was very happy with his overall performance in the third round.

He answered questions from the media in a press conference after his round, per the Golf Channel broadcast.

"I hit a lot of quality shots," Woods said. "I felt more comfortable driving it and I was more aggressive. Eventually I'm going to put all the pieces together, and I did that today for the most part. It's just a matter of playing and executing. The difference is that I made some putts."

While Woods was hot early in the third round, Spieth was at his best as the round came to an end. He birdied 16, 17 and 18.

The key to Spieth's red-hot round was his putting, as he needed just 25 putts to get through the 18 holes.

"I think I was perfect inside of 12, 15 ... 10 to 15 feet today, and anywhere inside, which was probably the first time this year that's been the case," Spieth said, per Bob Harig of ESPN.com. "I started to feel really comfortable in my setup. ... This was really solid today with the putter inside 15 feet, and that just makes you more comfortable. It leads into the rest of the game."

While Woods and Spieth both played their best rounds of the tournament, The Players Championship almost certainly belongs to Simpson, barring a colossal collapse during Sunday's final round.

     

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

Both at T9? @TigerWoods and @JordanSpieth. Their 65s were the Rounds of the Day. (Oh and they'll play together on Sunday at #THEPLAYERS.) https://t.co/0lExuKuGgE

Sunday's tee times

Simpson and Lee will play in the final pairing of the day, and they will tee off at 2:45 p.m. ET. Johnson is paired with Jason Dufner, who shot a six-under 66, and they will tee off at 2:35 p.m.

Jimmy Walker and Xander Schauffele at 2:25 p.m., Jason Day and Charl Schwartzel at 2:15 p.m. and Spieth and Woods at 2:05 p.m. will precede Johnson and Dufner.

Here's a link to all the tee times for Sunday's final round.

     

Sunday's Players Championship predictions

Simpson has a seven-stroke lead, and it's simply too big an advantage for him to lose.

Or is it?

While a seven-stroke lead is a mountain of an advantage for any professional golfer, it's still about executing for 18 holes and not letting any early mistakes impact the mindset as the round progresses. It sounds easy, but there is pressure that will likely mount overnight and in the morning hours before Simpson tees off.

Once he starts to play, he should start to relax, but if he hits one or two shaky shots early, it could affect his overall play.

The belief here is that Simpson is playing as well as he has at any time in his career. He will win this tournament by at least three strokes.

Look for Johnson to have a strong finishing round. He has put together scores of 66, 71 and 69 to this point, and he should be able to get close to or match the 66 during the final 18 holes.

Lee did not play as well on moving day as he did in the first two rounds, but he should be able to put together a respectable finishing round.

Fans should get a thrill out of watching Woods and Spieth play together Sunday. They should be able to spur each other on, and after moving up 59 spots on the scoreboard Saturday, it would not be a surprise to see both golfers get inside the top five by the end of the final round.

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