The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Sports - BY DOUG FER­GU­SON

Jon Rahm felt like ev­ery shot would be good and most of them were Satur­day as he posted an 8-un­der 64 and built a one-shot lead over Rory McIl­roy and Tommy Fleet­wood in The Play­ers Cham­pi­onship.

Five shots be­hind go­ing into the third round, Rahm shot 30 on the back nine at the TPC Saw­grass and surged into the lead when McIl­roy and Fleet­wood couldn’t keep pace. His only bo­gey was on the sixth hole, and even that landed next to the pin un­til run­ning over the back.

“Didn’t miss many shots out there,” Rahm said. “Re­ally, re­ally con­fi­dent with my irons. Ev­ery time I stepped up, I felt like I was go­ing to hit a good shot.”

There were too many to sin­gle out for the 24-yearold Spa­niard, who was at 15-un­der 201.

McIl­roy and Fleet­wood strug­gled from the start and both even­tu­ally re­cov­ered, McIl­roy sooner than Fleet­wood.

McIl­roy muffed a chip and had to scram­ble for bo­gey on the open­ing hole, hit a chip over the green on the par-5 sec­ond hole and turned po­ten­tial birdie into bo­gey, and that was as bad as it got. He still was un­der par at the turn by run­ning off three birdies, in­clud­ing a 4-iron to a foot on the hard­est par 3 on the course at No. 8.

But af­ter a two-putt birdie on the par-5 11th, McIl­roy’s chances dried up. Even on the par-5 16th, he tried a low run­ner out of the pine trees and it came out so hot that it ran through the green and into the wa­ter.

Even so, he was bo­geyfree over the last 16 holes and shot 70. And he can at least avoid ques­tions about win­ning from the fi­nal group, some­thing McIl­roy hasn’t done in his last nine oc­ca­sions dat­ing to the start of 2018.

“I just need to hit fair­ways and greens. If I can do that, and take the op­por­tu­ni­ties I give my­self, hope­fully I can turn to­mor­row into the best Sun­day of the year so far,” McIl­roy said.

Fleet­wood missed a 30-inch putt on the open­ing hole and took dou­ble bo­gey, and he fell three shots be­hind through seven holes. He holed a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 8 af­ter McIl­roy tapped in for his birdie, and then picked up four birdies where they were avail­able for his 70.

“It was just a grind,” he said. “I’m glad I showed the strength men­tally more than any­thing. Un­der par is al­ways a good score around here no mat­ter how you play.”


Jon Rahm watches his tee shot on the 17th green dur­ing the third round of The Play­ers Cham­pi­onship on Satur­day in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

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