Slender lead for McDowell

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Graeme McDowell emerged with a one-shot lead after the third round of the Players Championship was completed Sunday.

Graeme McDowell emerged with a one-shot lead after the third round of the Players Championship was completed Sunday morning.

It was a round that could have ended up much better for the Northern Irishman, as he came to the 18th hole three shots clear after birdies on 16 and 17.

But his approach to the 18th took a kick off the bank of a bunker and rolled all the way across the green and into the lake. McDowell finished with a double-bogey that saw his three-shot lead all but evaporate.

“I think I was a bit unlucky at the last,” said McDowell. “When it landed I thought ‘perfect’, but then it started going down the slope and I thought ‘trouble’.

“I guess it’s a tough break, but I played great and I just want to have a chance coming down the stretch. That would be a lot of fun.”‘

McDowell still signed for a 68 and a 12 under par total, a great round in the circumstances, and he’ll play in the final group alongside Korea’s KJ Choi, who is tied with second-round leader David Toms on 11 under.

A large group of players are tied for fourth, two shots behind Choi and Toms on 9 under and still right in the hunt – Americans Steve Stricker, Jason Dufner, Davis Love III and Nick Watney, Australian Aaron Baddeley and England’s Luke Donald.

McDowell resumed on the sixth with joint-leader (at that time) Nick Watney, and it was the American who drew first blood, birdying the eighth and ninth to move two ahead.

Watney fell apart on the back nine, however, finding the water for a double-bogey on the 14th, dropping another shot on 15 and finding the lake again at 16. He signed for a 72 and isn’t out of it yet.

Luke Donald also had a poor finish to his round, bogeying 17 and 18 after he just birdied 15 and 16 to get himself into a great position. At 9 under, though, he’s still in the running.

“The finish leaves a sour taste,” said Donald. “I hit a bad shot on the 17th and the 18th was even worse – I kind of got what I deserved.

“But I am still there or thereabouts and anything can happen on this course.”

The leaders were set to start their final round at 1842 BST.

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