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Scottie Scheffler takes charge of final round at Players Championship

Scottie Scheffler was in a strong position at The Players Championship (Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo) (AP)
Scottie Scheffler was in a strong position at The Players Championship (Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo) (AP)

Scottie Scheffler put himself on course for victory and to regain the world number one spot on the final day of the Players Championship.

The American, who would supplant Jon Rahm at the top of the rankings with success at TPC Sawgrass, held a three-shot lead midway through his final round on Sunday.

His closest challenger at this point was England’s Tyrell Hatton, who holed a remarkable seven birdies on his back nine to jump up the leaderboard to 12 under.

Hatton was also safely in the clubhouse after coming home in a tournament record 29 for a brilliant 65.

Hideki Matsuyama, another of the earlier starters, also made a strong charge to get within one of Scheffler at one point but fell back to nine under and signed for a 68.

Scheffler built a position of strength after a shaky start. He began on 14 under, two ahead of playing partner Min Woo Lee, but that lead was wiped out within three holes.

Scheffler could only manage a par as Australia’s Lee birdied the first and his uneasiness proved costly as he missed a short putt on the third to fall back to 13 under.

With Matusyama powering on further down the course, the pressure was on the American.

Yet, just as the top of the leaderboard was bunching up, Matusyama and Lee let him off the hook.

Matsuyama had risen from way down the field to reach 12 under after 13 holes thanks to seven birdies but he made a mess of the 14th after missing the green. His attempt to chip back over a road from the rough also did not go to plan and two shots were lost.

Almost simultaneously, Lee met bigger problems on the fourth, first finding the rough and then hitting water. He had to settle for a triple bogey seven after taking a drop and, remarkably, Scheffler found himself three shots in front.

Max Homa briefly held a share of second place on 10 under thanks largely to an eagle on the 11th but landing in the lake on the signature par-three 17th dashed his hopes.

Norway’s Viktor Hovland reached 10 under after making four birdies in five holes around the turn but Hatton was the player making the most inroads.

Hatton was highly impressive after the turn as he posted a formidable score.

Scheffler responded by chipping in for birdie at the eighth and gaining another stroke at the ninth to reach 15 under.

England’s Tommy Fleetwood and Aaron Rai, joint fourth overnight, struggled to find their spark.

Fleetwood bogeyed the second, fifth and sixth and Rai toiled as he dropped two shots in his opening six holes.

There were some fireworks lower down the field as Alex Smalley, who finished two over, became the third player this week to make a hole-in-one on the 17th.

His remarkable shot did not even touch the green, his ball landing on the rough before bouncing directly into the hole.