Sweden’s David Lingmerth was the surprise leader of the Players Championship when play was suspended due to darkness during the third round at Sawgrass last night.
A delay of almost two hours due to the threat of lightning meant play could not be completed on schedule, with Lingmerth left to sleep on a two-shot lead over Sergio Garcia, Tiger Woods and Henrik Stenson, with a daunting tee shot on the 18th to come today.
The 25-year-old had been on the verge of contention throughout the day, but vaulted to the top of the leaderboard with an eagle on the 16th and birdie on the 17th, the latter coming after the siren had sounded to indicate the end of play.
At 12 under par he was two ahead of Stenson – who had played 16 holes – and the final pairing of Garcia and Woods, who were on the 15th.
The clubhouse target had been set at nine under several hours earlier by veteran Jeff Maggert, the 49-year-old completing a 66 just before the initial stoppage, with England’s David Lynn a shot behind after a second consecutive 68.
It had been hoped that the pairing of Garcia and Woods would provide some fireworks on the course, but the biggest talking point of the day looked to have cemented the somewhat cool relationship between the pair.
After a regulation par at the first to maintain his one-shot overnight lead, Garcia had found the middle of the second fairway while Woods pulled his tee shot into the trees.
Garcia then sliced his second shot wildly into trouble and instantly looked round accusingly as if he had been disturbed by some noise from the gallery.
And speaking during the weather delay, the Spaniard told NBC: “Well, obviously Tiger was on the left and it was my shot to hit. He moved all of the crowd that he needed to move, I waited for that.
“I wouldn’t say that he didn’t see that I was ready, but you do have a feel when the other guy is going to hit and right as I was in the top of the backswing, I think he must have pulled like a five-wood or a three-wood and obviously everybody started screaming.
“So that didn’t help very much. But it was unfortunate because – I mean I might have hit it there if nothing happens, you never know – but if I hit a good shot there and maybe make birdie, it gets my day started in a bit of a different way.”
Garcia was then asked how he deals with adversity.
“There’s really not much you can do,” he added. “I think that I try to respect everyone as much as possible out there. I try to be careful what I do to make sure it doesn’t bother the other players.”
Garcia ended up making a bogey six to a birdie four from Woods on the second, but the world number one’s lead proved brief as he three-putted the par-three third.
Woods then had to scramble to save par on the fourth and sixth and failed to find any further birdies as he struggled to adapt to the speed of the greens.
Told about Garcia’s comments, Woods told reporters it was “not real surprising he’s complaining about something”.
And in response to that, Garcia said: “That’s fine. At least I’m true to myself. I know what I’m doing. He can do whatever he wants.”
Stenson, who succeeded Garcia as champion here in 2009, held a two-shot lead when he went to the turn in 33 only to bogey the 11th and 15th, while Garcia had birdied the ninth to be out in 36 but then mixed two bogeys with a birdie on the 13th to be one over for his round.
Lee Westwood ended the day six under par and six off the lead with two holes to play, the 40-year-old’s chances nose-diving in amazing fashion early in his round.
The Englishman had not dropped a single shot over the first 36 holes, but promptly ran up two double bogeys in the space of four holes – the first of them in embarrassing style.
Westwood’s pulled drive on the opening hole came to rest near the base of a tree and, in trying to reach the green with his second shot, he caught the tree on his downswing, causing him to completely miss the ball.
That air-shot prompted a rethink and a more conservative pitch down the fairway, but after pitching onto the green the former world number one two-putted from 18ft.
A superb chip on the par-five second set Westwood up to bounce back with a birdie, but a duffed chip on the fourth led to another double-bogey.