PONTE VEDRA BEACH Florida (Reuters) - Germany’s Martin Kaymer moved a step closer to his second PGA Tour victory by taking a two-shot lead into the last nine holes of the Players Championship at the TPC Sawgrass on Sunday.
Co-leader overnight with his American playing partner Jordan Spieth, Kaymer covered the front nine in two-under 34 to reach the turn at 14 under for the tournament.
Spieth, at 20 aiming to become the youngest winner of the prestigious PGA Tour event widely regarded as the unofficial fifth major, offset two early birdies with two bogeys to slip two strokes off the pace on an overcast, muggy afternoon.
American Jim Furyk, Italy’s Francesco Molinari and Spaniard Sergio Garcia were tied for third at 11 under. Furyk had five holes to play, Molinari seven and Garcia nine.
Kaymer and Spieth both made a fast start to the final round as they sank eight-foot birdie putts at the par-five second to move to 13 under, maintaining a three-shot cushion.
Spieth briefly forged one ahead with a superb birdie at the fourth where he struck his approach to seven feet and buried the putt, but then recorded his first bogey of the tournament at the tricky par-four fifth after finding the left rough off the tee.
The young American also bogeyed the par-three eighth, after his tee shot clipped some trees to the left of the hole, to hand the German a one-shot lead.
Kaymer, whose only PGA Tour victory came at the highest level with his playoff win at the 2010 PGA Championship, then got up and down from a greenside bunker to birdie the par-five ninth and double his advantage.
American Jimmy Walker, a three-times winner on the 2013-14 PGA Tour, eagled the par-five 11th on the way to a seven-under-par 65 and a nine-under total of 279.
“After the eagle on 11, I was like, ‘Okay, here we go.’ I finished strong,” Walker told reporters after finishing level with Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy (66).
Adam Scott fell well short in his bid to become world number one for the first time this week, closing with a 73 that included three bogeys and two birdies.
As the Australian signed his card, he was in a tie for 39th, having needed to finish no worse than joint 16th to have a chance of dislodging the absent Tiger Woods from the top spot.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Frank Pingue