Duo share lead after shortened day

Graeme McDowell and Nick Watney shared the lead after a weather-interrupted third day of the Players Championship.

Graeme McDowell and Nick Watney shared the lead after day three of the Players Championship at Sawgrass.

It was a day that turned out to be heavily shortened after a four-and-a-half-hour thunderstorm delay, meaning Watney and McDowell only managed to complete the first five holes of their third rounds.

A marathon Sunday now awaits the leaders, most of whom still have the majority of their third rounds to complete before moving on to their final 18 holes.

McDowell started his round in joint-third, but made the most of the five holes he played, birdying the first and chipping in on the short third to move to 11 under par alongside Watney, who himself birdied the first two holes.

Despite the poor conditions the course held up beautifully, and McDowell predicted low scores for Sunday.

“I could see someone going and shooting 62, 63 tomorrow,” McDowell said.

“I think there’s a low score on this golf course, depending on what the wind does tomorrow, of course.

“But it really has opened the field up a little bit, these conditions.

“It’s going to be exciting. This is probably one of the most exciting finishes in world golf, and to have that many guys within striking distance tomorrow, it’s going to be a lot of fun hopefully to be part of.”

Overnight leader David Toms could have made gains himself, but missed a number of makeable putts to remain at ten under, tied with Steve Stricker one shot behind the two leaders.

Toms admitted the weather had changed the way he would have to approach the closing stages.

“Johnny Miller and I were talking earlier today in an interview and he said ‘I think a pair of 71s will obviously do it for you’.

“Obviously I don’t think that would be the case now, but that’s okay. It’s a golf course where I’ve shot some good scores this week already.

“You just have to know that maybe you just have to be a little bit more aggressive at times, and we’ll see.”

Tied for fifth one shot behind Toms and Stricker are KJ Choi, who had moved to nine under through 10 holes, and Lucas Glover, who reached the same after six holes.

As many as five players were a further shot back at eight under, including England’s Luke Donald, who finally made his first bogey of the tournament on Saturday, and Germany’s Martin Kaymer, who advanced to that position from five under after a string of birdies and a couple of bogeys. Both Donald and Kaymer will advance to world number one if they win this week.

Further down the field, Phil Mickelson had a hot round going at one stage, getting it to six under after 16 holes, but a closing bogey restricted him to finishing his third round on five under. It will take something special from him on Sunday to get into contention.