PONTE VEDRA BEACH (Florida) • Masters champion Sergio Garcia charged into contention during Saturday's windy third round of The Players Championship, while Americans Kyle Stanley and J.B. Holmes shared the lead after 54 holes.
Garcia, the 2008 Players winner, and Argentina's Emiliano Grillo each fired five-under 67 at the TPC Sawgrass golf course to leap up the leaderboard even as Holmes and Stanley clung to the lead of the US PGA Tour event at nine-under 207.
"Even though it was much tougher with the windy conditions and how gusty it was out there, I was able to hit some really quality shots," said the Spaniard, who was four strokes behind the leaders.
In his first start since last month's breakthrough win at Augusta National after 73 previous major failures, Garcia shone with six birdies, three bogeys and a 17-foot chip-in eagle at the par-five 16th hole.
"I've always been confident with myself," he said. "I've always believed in the ability that I have. It does help to win a Major and to win the Masters the way I did it, but I don't feel like I'm that different a player - maybe a little bit more confidence here and there."
Should he win, Garcia would join Tiger Woods (2001) as the only player to win the Masters and the Players Championship in the same year.
THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP
(Selected, USA unless stated)
207 J.B. Holmes 68 69 70,
Kyle Stanley 69 66 72
208 Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa) 69 66 73
209 Kim Si Woo (Kor) 69 72 68
210 Emiliano Grillo (Arg) 72 71 67,
Ian Poulter (Eng) 72 67 71
211 Sergio Garcia (Esp) 73 71 67
213 Adam Scott (Aus) 70 72 71
215 Rory McIlroy (Nir) 73 71 71,
Jason Day (Aus) 70 72 73
218 Dustin Johnson 71 73 74
Stanley fired a 72 and Holmes a 70, with each making a birdie at the par-three 17th island green to stay one stroke ahead of South African Louis Oosthuizen, who shot 73 to stand on 208.
South Korea's Kim Si Woo was fourth on 209 after a 68 with Grillo and Britain's Ian Poulter (71) on 210 and Garcia sharing seventh on 211 with American Patrick Cantlay (72) and Swede Alex Noren (72).
Stanley, who birdied the 17th hole for the third day in a row, took his only PGA title at the 2012 Phoenix Open. It came a week after his only previous 54-hole lead, a six-shot edge that he squandered at Torrey Pines, a triple bogey at the last hole leading to a play-off loss to Brandt Snedeker.
"I know what I'm capable of doing. I'm happy with the way things are," he said.
As for his success at the 17th hole, Stanley said: "It's a nerve-wracking hole. It's nice to play it well."
Holmes made an 18-foot birdie putt at the 11th hole and five-footers at the 12th and 17th holes for birdies to boost his chances of his fifth PGA title, his first since the 2015 Houston Open.
"I've made some great putts. I feel really good over the putter," Holmes said. "It would be awesome to win this tournament. I just want to have fun tomorrow, win or lose, enjoy it no matter what happens."
Poulter, whose last victory was at the 2012 World Golf Championships event in China, almost lost his US Tour playing rights before a recalculation of points earned on a medical exemption.
"It was a relief to get the call to say you're good, you did enough to secure your card," he said. "To come here this week and play well means an awful lot."