McIlroy and McDowell fail to make major moves in Florida
Sergio Garcia four shots off the lead of Holmes and Stanley after third round 67
Rory McIlroy hits from the seventh fairway during the third round of The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Photograph: Erik S Lesser
Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell failed to make any major moves in the third round of The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass amid tough conditions.
McIlroy fared the better of the two, carding a one-under 71 to move to one under for the tournament.
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, 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.
The resulting 71 left McIlroy on one under, with world number one Dustin Johnson two over after a 74 which included five dropped shots in the last six holes.
McDowell was one under standing on the 18th tee but a double-bogey six left a sour taste as he carded a two-over 74 to drop back to one over.
Masters champion Sergio Garcia excelled as he also carded a 67, leaving him on five under, and four shots off the lead of J.B Holmes and Kyle Stanley.
Making his first start since claiming a maiden Major title at Augusta National, Garcia had been four over par for his first six holes at Sawgrass after four-putting the fifth, the same hole he six-putted in the third round last year.
The 37-year-old was still four over with three holes to play on Thursday, but he followed a birdie on the 16th by recording a hole-in-one on the famous ‘island green’ 17th to salvage an opening 73.
A second round of 71 still left Garcia nine shots off the halfway lead and seemingly not in the frame to join Tiger Woods as the only players to win the Masters and Players Championship in the same year.
The world number six bounced back from a bogey on the first with birdies on the fourth, sixth and ninth, while a bogey on the 10th was followed by a hat-trick of birdies from the 11th and an eagle on the par-five 16th.
A three-putt bogey on the 18th took some of the gloss off a superb round, but as he signed his card the Ryder Cup star was just three off the summit.