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Players Championship: Xander Schauffele leads Wyndham Clark, Matt Fitzpatrick in contention

Xander Schauffele playing a shot out of a bunker
Schauffele won the Olympic gold medal at the Tokyo Games in 2021

Players Championship, round three leaderboard

-17 X Schauffele (US); -16 W Clark (US); -15 B Harman (US); -13 M Fitzpatrick (Eng) M McNealy (US)

Selected: -12 S Theegala (US), S Scheffler (US); -11 N Lashley (US); -10 H Matsuyama (Jpn); -9 L Aberg (Swe), R McIlroy (NI)

Full leaderboard

Xander Schauffele produced a stunning bogey-free third round to open a one-shot lead heading into Sunday's finale of the 50th Players Championship.

The American hit seven birdies in a 65 that saw him overhaul halfway leader Wyndham Clark's four-shot advantage and finish on 17 under par at Sawgrass.

Clark is 16 under after a scrappy 70 while Open champion Brian Harman is 15 under after a superb 64.

Matt Fitzpatrick had six birdies in his final 10 holes to get to 13 under.

No English player has won the PGA Tour's flagship event but the 2022 US Open champion had a sensational back nine to keep himself in contention.

"I am massively proud and really really happy," Fitzpatrick said on Sky Sports.

His challenge looked to be fading on the front nine after he dropped two shots on the par-four fourth for the second successive day and a bogey on the sixth meant he slipped to seven under.

But birdies on the ninth and 10th holes lifted the Yorkshireman and he knocked in four more in his closing five holes.

"I have been trying to work on my attitude this week and I knew I have been playing well over the past two days. That helped me as I felt like could turn it around," he added.

On how he will approach the final day, he joked: "If I can play better on the fourth hole, that will probably be a good start."

Scottie Scheffler is also still in with a shout of becoming the first player to win successive Players titles, carding a four-under 68 to be a shot behind Fitzpatrick, despite playing with a neck injury.

The world number one, who took the unusual step of having physio during Friday's second round, played with tape on his neck in round three and looked in discomfort at various points.

"I was proud of how I battled," said the American who finished his round with a hat-trick of birdies.

And when asked if he thought the injury would hamper his chances of competing at next month's Masters, the first major of the season, he replied: "I don't think so. When it's happened to me before, it's usually been back to normal in a few days."

Number two-ranked Rory McIlroy also closed on a high with three successive birdies as he posted a 69 that lifted him to nine under par.

Nobody in the field has recorded more than McIlroy's 21 birdies over the opening three rounds but he again struggled for consistency, with a scruffy double bogey on the par-four 14th stalling the momentum of back-to-back birdies on the 11th and 12th.

But, like his Ryder Cup team-mate Ludvig Aberg, who shot a 67 to also reach nine under, McIlroy will need the leaders to come back to him to have any chance of adding to his 2019 Players victory.

Schauffele hauls in Clark

US Open champion Clark was imperious on the opening two days, hitting successive 65s to reach 14 under par but Schauffele had caught him by the 12th.

"It's moving day so I figured I'd better get moving," said Schauffele who was joint runner-up in 2018.

"I had a few sketchy moments scrambling towards the end but I am really happy."

He holed six birdies in his opening dozen holes to go level with Clark who scrambled a par on the 12th after hitting his tee shot into water. But Schuaffele moved clear when he knocked in a 58-footer for his seventh birdie on the 14th.

Clark responded with a 30-foot birdie on the par-five 16th to join Schauffele on 17 under but he then duffed his shot to the par-three 17th, his ball plunging into the water well short of the green. He hit his third shot to seven feet and escaped with a bogey.

"I weathered the storm," said the American who was ranked outside of the top 100 in the world this time last year. "I didn't have my best day but I am still in the final group going into Sunday."

The pair will be hunted by Harman, who knows how to win big championships after romping to a six-shot victory at last year's Open at Royal Liverpool.

The left hander quietly plotted his way round the iconic Florida course, with precision irons and solid putting helping lift him to third. And after starting the week with a level-par 72, he will feel he has momentum on his side, having picked up 15 shots in his past 36 holes.

Follow live radio and text commentary of Sunday's final round from 17:00 GMT on the BBC Sport website.