Ponte Vedra Beach, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Chris Kirk carded a 4-under 68 for the second straight day Saturday and moved one stroke clear of three players after three rounds of The Players Championship.
Kirk, a three-time PGA Tour winner, ended 54 holes at 10-under-par 206.
Leading the list of 15 players within three strokes of Kirk's lead are Kevin Kisner, Ben Martin and Bill Haas. Kisner fired a 5-under 67 on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, while Martin and Haas posted 68s. The trio is one shot off the lead at minus-9.
Sergio Garcia, the 2008 champion, posted a 67 to move into a tie for fifth place at 8-under-par 208. Garcia was joined there by David Hearn (70), Jerry Kelly (72), Kevin Na (72), Scott Brown (69) and Justin Thomas (65). Kelly and Na shared the lead entering round three.
Reigning FedExCup champ Billy Horschel (69) and Rickie Fowler (71) are among six players tied for 11th at minus-7, while world No. 1 Rory McIlroy (70), 2004 winner Adam Scott (69), 2009 runner-up Ian Poulter (70), Bubba Watson (69) and Zach Johnson (71) are in a group one stroke further back at 6-under- par 210.
Two-time winner Tiger Woods had two birdies, a bogey and two double-bogeys in a round of 75. Woods dropped into at tie for 68th at 3-over 219. For the first time in his career, Woods made double-bogey on multiple par-5s in same round.
Before they teed off, Kelly and Na were joined in the lead by Thomas, who birdied two of the last three holes for his 65.
"I felt like I had to make a lot of birdies. That, for some reason, was really tough for me," Thomas stated. "I didn't really realize I had made 10 birdies until I got done."
Horschel birdied the ninth to make it a 4-way tie atop the leaderboard. Na fell out of the lead with a bogey at the first and Ryo Ishikawa birdied the 10th to join Horschel, Kelly and Thomas in the lead.
Kisner birdied eight and nine to move in front at minus-9. He got up and down for birdie on the par-5 11th to climb to 10-under, where he was two clear of four players, including Kirk.
Kirk stuffed his approach at the fourth to three feet and kicked that in for birdie. He made an 11-footer for birdie at seven, then birdied the ninth to inch within one of the lead at minus-9.
Martin birdied the 12th and was alone in the lead at 10-under when Kisner bogeyed the 14th. Na got up and down for birdie at 11 to join Martin atop the leaderboard. Martin bogeyed the 15th, but got that shot right back at 16.
A bad chip at the 18th cost Martin another stroke and he ended at 9-under. That bogey created a six-way tie for the lead with Kisner, Martin, Haas, Kirk, Kelly and Na.
Kirk started the back nine with three straight pars. He failed to save par after missing the green at the par-3 13th. Kirk dropped another stroke at 14 to slide to 7-under.
At the 15th, Kirk stuffed his approach inside a foot and kicked that in for birdie. He rolled in a 17-foot birdie effort at 16 to grab his share of the lead.
Kirk made it three in a row with a 7-foot birdie putt on the island green 17th. He parred the last to lead after three rounds.
"I felt good about it. It's interesting with such a late tee time seeing guys going low and shooting really low numbers in the morning out here, but you know this course always comes back to you in the afternoon," Kirk said. "To shoot 4-under with that late of a tee time, I'm really pleased."
Na had four birdies and two bogeys through 16 holes. He missed a 6-foot birdie chance at 17, then made a mess of the 18th. Na's tee shot found the right rough and his approach landed short in a bunker. His sand shot stopped 58 feet from the hole and he 3-putted for double-bogey from there. That dropped him two strokes off the lead.
NOTES: This is the fourth time in his tour career that Kirk has had the 54- hole lead ... He won two of the first three times he was in that position ... Thomas had 10 birdies in the third round and that set a single round record at this event ... Nineteen players shared the old record with nine birdies in one round.