Players Championship 2019: Jon Rahm Leads Rory McIlroy Entering Final Round

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 16, 2019

Jon Rahm, of Spain, waves to the gallery as he arrives at the 17th hole during the third round of The Players Championship golf tournament Saturday, March 16, 2019, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

Jon Rahm came just one shot shy of a tournament record with an eight-under 64 to take the lead following Saturday's third round of the 2019 Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

Rahm entered the weekend tied for 10th place but posted an eagle, seven birdies and a bogey as part of his moving-day charge to reach 15 under. That gives him a one-stroke lead over Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood as he attempts to secure his first victory of 2019.

Jason Day (12 under), Brandt Snedeker (10 under), Keegan Bradley (10 under), Dustin Johnson (10 under), Patrick Reed (nine under) and Adam Scott (nine under) are among the other notable players within striking distance with 18 holes to play.

After a two-under front nine, Rahm caught fire on the back side with four birdies and an eagle to soar past McIlroy and Fleetwood, the co-leaders after Round 2, into the top spot.

The 24-year-old Spaniard is coming off his worst result of the season after finishing tied for 45th in the WGC Mexico Championship, but he cracked the top 10 in each of the previous five starts after winning the Hero World Challenge back in December.

A win this week would be the biggest of his PGA Tour career.

McIlroy has been on a similar hot streak with five consecutive finishes of sixth or better, but he's still searching for his first victory of 2019. He opened Saturday's round with back-to-back bogeys but bounced back nicely to salvage a two-under 70.

The four-time major champion must have a better driving day Sunday to finally turn his constant presence near the top of the leaderboard into a win. He hit just 28.6 percent of the fairways in Round 2.

Fleetwood endured some early-round problems of his own with an opening double bogey as part of a two-over front side. He recorded four birdies on the back nine, however, to keep himself on pace with McIlroy and within one stroke of the top spot.

Elsewhere, Tiger Woods failed to make a Saturday charge and doesn't find himself in contention following an even-par 72. But he may have still provided the day's most memorable moment with his antics alongside Kevin Na on the famed island green at No. 17:

All told, it's a star-studded leaderboard, and that should make for an entertaining Sunday as some of golf's biggest names attempt to capture one of the sport's most coveted titles. Rahm will be tough to beat if he can come anywhere close to matching his Saturday performance in the final round.

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