Saw­grass puts up a fight as Holmes, Stan­ley lead

The Washington Post Sunday - - BASEBALL - BY DOUG FER­GU­SON

ponte vedra beach, fla. — The only bo­gey J.B. Holmes made Satur­day could have been a lot worse, and he pieced to­gether a 2-un­der-par 70 in strong wind on a pun­ish­ing course to share the lead with Kyle Stan­ley go­ing into the fi­nal round of the Play­ers Cham­pi­onship.

Holmes hit his tee shot so far to the right on the 14th hole that it went into the wa­ter on the 12th hole. He hit a blind shot from 230 yards into the wind to a bunker and man­aged to get up-and-down to limit the dam­age, which is what Satur­day at the TPC Saw­grass was all about.

“I usu­ally can make a bunch of birdies, so if I can just nar­row it down to one bo­gey, then I’m usu­ally in good shape,” Holmes said.

Stan­ley got his trou­ble out of the way early with three bo­geys in four holes and then was bo­geyfree the rest of the way. He saved par from the back bunker on the 18th hole on the Play­ers Sta­dium Course for a 72.

“You just kind of have to re­mind your­self that even though you’re a lit­tle bit over par, on the leader board I was still in a pretty good spot,” Stan­ley said.

They were at 9-un­der 207, one shot clear of Louis Oosthuizen (73).

The TPC Saw­grass has trou­ble at ev­ery turn even in calm con­di­tions. Throw in a re­lent­less wind that the fi­nal half of the field faced all af­ter­noon, and it was as much about staying in neu­tral with­out los­ing ground — or crash­ing. And there was plenty of that. Jon Rahm of Spain, the best new­comer on the PGA Tour, was five shots be­hind when he started and missed the 54-hole cut with an 82. Matt Kuchar took a 9 on the 14th hole and shot 81, his high­est score ever on this course. Phil Mick­el­son shot a 78.

Of the 82 play­ers in the field, 49 made a dou­ble bo­gey or worse.

That is what made Ian Poul­ter’s round re­mark­able in so many ways. Two weeks ago, Poul­ter wasn’t even in the field and no longer had full sta­tus un­til the PGA Tour re­al­ized it made a cler­i­cal er­ror re­lated to his re­turn from a foot in­jury. The Ry­der Cup stal­wart made the most of the op­por­tu­nity with the only bo­geyfree round of the day, and even though he had just one birdie, that 71 was enough to give him a se­ri­ous chance.

“I’ve def­i­nitely been freer this week play­ing golf than I have in the last month, and I think it shows on the course,” Poul­ter said. “I think it shows prob­a­bly in my at­ti­tude on the course. It’s a big deal. It was a nice phone call to re­ceive, and I def­i­nitely feel bet­ter on the golf course for it.”

Poul­ter wasn’t alone in hav­ing a shot at a big pay­off from the $10.5 mil­lion purse.

Si Woo Kim was bo­gey-free un­til he hit a shot off the bulk­head and into the wa­ter on the par-5 16th and missed a short par putt. He bounced back with a birdie on the is­land-green 17th and shot 68 to fin­ish two shots out of the lead.

Emil­iano Grillo of Ar­gentina had seven birdies in his round of 67 and was tied with Poul­ter at 6-un­der 210.

And right be­hind them was Masters cham­pion Ser­gio Gar­cia, who was 4 over through six holes in the open­ing round and be­gan his re­cov­ery project with a holein-one on the in­fa­mous 17th. Gar­cia kept peck­ing away, and his 67 in the third round left him only four shots be­hind.

MICHAEL MADRID/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

J.B. Holmes, above, bat­tled re­lent­less wind to fire a 70 to share the lead at 9 un­der with Kyle Stan­ley at the Play­ers Cham­pi­onship.

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