Players Championship leaderboard: Tiger Woods maintains lead with amazing run at par-5s

Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

It's early in the final round, but Tiger Woods has already added a birdie to keep pace with the lead at TPC Sawgrass.

After picking up an early morning birdie to finish his third round at 11-under, Tiger Woods walked to the No. 1 tee to start a round at TPC Sawgrass holding a lead, or co-lead, for the first time in his career. It didn't take long for Tiger to add another red number on his second time out, carding a birdie at No. 2 to move to 12-under and match leader David Lingmerth.

Woods opened with solid tee-to-green play at the first hole, putting his drive in the fairway and approach shot in the middle of the green. He had a good look at birdie, but his putt burned the edge and he walked off with another par.

While Tiger is not particularly comfortable at Pete Dye's Stadium Course, he has taken the familiar route to the top of the leaderboard -- by dominating the par-5s. That's exactly how he's taken the lead throughout his career, including this year at more preferred courses like Torrey Pines. He went through the first 12 par-5s in 10-under, and at No. 2, he had played it birdie-eagle-birdie through the first three days. It was also the scene on Saturday where he pulled his drive into the trees and allegedly fussed around on his approach, shot, prompting the controversy with Sergio. On Sunday, he put his drive left down the tree line but the ball managed to sneak through the corner and into the first cut. He mishit his second shot, but was still able to get up-and-down from the greenside rough to continue his amazing run at the par-5s.

Meanwhile, one group behind Woods is Sergio Garcia, who said this morning that it was for the best that he and Tiger were splitting up in the afternoon. For all the drama yesterday, Garcia did hang in through the third round and picked up consecutive birdies this morning to hold onto a share of the lead. On his opening hole, Garcia sent his drive off the fairway into the right rough, but hit a brilliant approach from an awkward lie to within 10 feet. Sergio's putter was off-line, however, and he walked off with a disappointing opening par. But if he has his ball-striking working like that, he'll be in it throughout the day.

Sergio's playing partner, David Lingmerth, did capitalize on his birdie chance at No. 1 to momentarily take sole possession of the lead at 12-under. With all the powerhouse names around him, Lingmerth has to pick up some early birdies to stick around and get things to the back nine still at the top of the board.

Here's a current snapshot of the early leaderboard with the full field now out on the course:

Score Player Thru
-12 Tiger Woods 2
-12 David Lingmerth 1
-11 Ryan Palmer 3
-11 Sergio Garcia 1
-10 Jeff Maggert 4
-10 Henrik Stenson 3
-10 Casey Wittenberg 2

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