The third round of the 2013 Players Championship begins just before 8:30 a.m. ET on Saturday, but all eyes will be on the afternoon tee times loaded with familiar names at the top of the leaderboard. Fortunately for the PGA Tour, which hails this tournament as the fifth major, the marquee group will be the last pairing off the tee, Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia.
This will be the 20th time that Woods and Garcia are paired together in a professional tournament. In the late 90s, the two were hyped as the next great rivalry in golf, but Tiger's wiped out Sergio and leads 14-0 on the majors scoreboard. But both have just one victory at The Players, and Garcia is enamored with this layout given his successful track record. Six birdies in a seven-hole stretch pushed Sergio to a career low round at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course on Friday, setting the pace at 11-under. Just a few holes behind him on Friday morning was Woods, who momentarily held sole possession of the lead before Garcia went crazy with his putter to finish the morning wave with the one-shot lead.
With the Friday afternoon wave still to play, it was likely that someone jumped up to break up the Garcia-Woods pairing. The afternoon scoring conditions, however, were again not as favorable as the morning and none of the first day leaders was able to get to 10-under. Tiger may be starting one-shot back of his playing partner, but he has the advantage before any ball is struck. Woods is nearly two shots better than Garcia when the two play together, and it's not exactly a relationship full of effervescent charm so the always combustible Spaniard could come undone at any hole, despite his new, more "sunny" attitude.
Woods and Garcia aren't the only players out in the afternoon with successful histories on the PGA Tour. Defending champion Matt Kuchar also made a move up the board playing with Tiger on Friday, and he'll be paired with Hunter Mahan just four shots back. Mahan has had an inconsistent year so far, but both of these players are capable of firing a round in the mid-60s and taking the 54-hole lead.
Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, and Adam Scott are three other big names teeing off after 1 p.m. Westwood has yet to make a bogey this week, and he also shared the lead for some time on Friday morning. A win here would be a career highlight to date for the Englishman, who moved across the pond to Florida this year and has been working to steadily improve his short game. Rory scuffled through an even-par round of 72 on Friday, but he did not play his way out of contention.
All of these top names going out in the afternoon will be featured on NBC's broadcast, which comes on the air at 2 p.m. ET. Dan Hicks and Johnny Miller will have the call throughout the day, so no bad shot by Rory, Tiger, and Sergio will go unnoticed. It's the biggest stretch of the year for NBC's golf team, which carries The Players this month and the U.S. Open next month. The Saturday broadcast is scheduled to end at 7 p.m., but they will be on the air until the final putt is stroked by either Woods or Garcia.
Here's the complete tee sheet for Saturday's third round:
|08:25 AM||Davis, Brian|
|08:30 AM||Oosthuizen, Louis||Cabrera, Angel|
|08:40 AM||Day, Jason||Leonard, Justin|
|08:50 AM||Teater, Josh||McGirt, William|
|09:00 AM||Hahn, James||Grace, Branden|
|09:10 AM||Harrington, Padraig||Thompson, Michael|
|09:20 AM||Wi, Charlie||Blixt, Jonas|
|09:30 AM||Hoffman, Charley||Noh, Seung-Yul|
|09:40 AM||Van Pelt, Bo||Senden, John|
|09:50 AM||Stanley, Kyle||Watson, Bubba|
|10:00 AM||Walker, Jimmy||Campbell, Chad|
|10:10 AM||Schwartzel, Charl||Hearn, David|
|10:20 AM||Sabbatini, Rory||Jacobson, Freddie|
|10:30 AM||Driscoll, James||Summerhays, Daniel|
|10:40 AM||Weekley, Boo||Barnes, Ricky|
|10:50 AM||Points, D.A.||Huh, John|
|11:00 AM||Stroud, Chris||Bohn, Jason|
|11:10 AM||Pettersson, Carl||Choi, K.J.|
|11:20 AM||Love III, Davis||Kaymer, Martin|
|11:30 AM||O'Hair, Sean||Romero, Andres|
|11:40 AM||Maggert, Jeff||Castro, Roberto|
|11:50 AM||Overton, Jeff||de Jonge, Brendon|
|12:00 PM||DeLaet, Graham||English, Harris|
|12:10 PM||Curtis, Ben||Donald, Luke|
|12:20 PM||Chalmers, Greg||Every, Matt|
|12:30 PM||Hanson, Peter||Crane, Ben|
|12:40 PM||Herron, Tim||Lynn, David|
|12:50 PM||Streelman, Kevin||Snedeker, Brandt|
|01:00 PM||Bae, Sang-Moon||Kelly, Jerry|
|01:10 PM||Stricker, Steve||Kirk, Chris|
|01:20 PM||Laird, Martin||McIlroy, Rory|
|01:30 PM||Dufner, Jason||Simpson, Webb|
|01:40 PM||Howell III, Charles||Leishman, Marc|
|01:50 PM||Scott, Adam||Johnson, Zach|
|02:00 PM||Kuchar, Matt||Mahan, Hunter|
|02:10 PM||Wittenberg, Casey||Lingmerth, David|
|02:20 PM||Stenson, Henrik||Palmer, Ryan|
|02:30 PM||Chappell, Kevin||Westwood, Lee|
|02:40 PM||Garcia, Sergio||Woods, Tiger|