Players Championship: Tommy Fleetwood, Rory McIlroy in contention
Last Updated: 16/03/19 11:55pm
Ewen Murray reflects on an eventful third round at the Players Championship and assesses the hopes of Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood.
I thought there was going to be a lot of changes and a lot of volatility on the leaderboard, but I did not expect it to happen so quickly. You look at McIlroy and Fleetwood's start and you question where it came from, because it was nothing like the first two rounds, but this golf course can do that to you.
If you had offered round of 70 to McIlroy and Fleetwood at the start of the day, they would have settled for that without question, because it seemed so unlikely. Maybe one of them will be the champion come Sunday, but they have a top quality player in front of them in Jon Rahm.
Rory was in the top five off the tee over the first two days but outside of the top 50 in the third round, but you have to deal with days like that. I do not think McIlroy should be hitting as many tee shots with driver around here.
Jim Furyk, Kevin Kisner and Brian Harman all average length hitters and get themselves around here, because positioning is everything and more important than hitting it longer.
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If the forecast is correct, then it's not going to be the type of day on Sunday where you need a 64 or 65 to win, so strategy and course management is everything for McIlroy. He knows he can win this tomorrow and get that long-awaited win on the board, but will have to play positional golf.
It's been 53 weeks since McIlroy's last victory and when you look at his class and stature, that's several months too long of a wait. It would be good to see him break that duck and get back in the winner's circle.
I admired Fleetwood greatly today more than any time I have seen him play. A two-under 70 after an opening-hole double-bogey, when leading the Players Championship, was superb and I have nothing but praise for him.
It's difficult when people criticise Fleetwood about his Saturday performances because he has not intentionally go out to play badly, that's sometimes just the way it is.
We have all been through those days when out try and do the same things and it does not happen for you. It was obvious he was struggling with his game over most of the front nine, but the birdie at the eighth was huge. He will go to bed tonight thinking that is one of the best rounds he has ever played, so it could easily have been a 76.
Rahm has been quite quiet of late and has not been firing on all six cylinders so far this season, but he's a classy player and did brilliantly to equal the lowest score of the week on a day where we had the worst weather conditions and possibly the hardest pin positions.
Whatever happens on Sunday, when you look at the 54-hole leaderboard, we are going to have a really good Players champion.
Watch the final round of the Players Championship live on Sunday from 5pm on Sky Sports' dedicated channel - Sky Sports The Players.