Holmes, Stanley lead Players after 54 holes, Garcia four back

Rafa Cabrera Bello of Spain hits from the 13th tee during the second round of The Players Championship golf tournament Friday

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Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, gestures after missing a birdie putt on the seventh green during the second round of The Players Championship golf tournament Friday, May 12, 2017, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

It ended a day in which PGA Tour officials nervously eyed a storm front coming from the west all day that somehow skirted the Ponte Vedra area and never interrupted play. But the approach that J.B. Holmes took certainly qualifies as the scenic route. (AP) - As conditions toughened, Louis Oosthuizen and Kyle Stanley played even better.

Holmes (70) hit his tee shot at No. 17 to within 5 feet and Stanley (72) followed with an even closer strike, to less than 3 feet.

No doubt a good deal will be on the line on Sunday at The Players, where the victor will earn almost $1.9 million.

Despite Holmes' long-hitting reputation, there was no question his shortest club carried him during a third-round 70.

The Northern Irishman made the ideal start with a birdie on the first, but the four-time major victor then bogeyed the fifth.

Oosthuizen (73) was at 8 under.

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Most of the big names are out of contention, with the notable exception of Masters champion Sergio Garcia, who shot 67 to move within four shots of the lead.

And if the final round is anything like Saturday, it can all change so quickly. Matt Kuchar had a 9 on the 14th hole and shot a career-high 81 at The Players Championship.

JB Holmes spoiled an impressive round with bogeys on his final two holes to sit third overnight on seven under.

He was at 6 under with Emiliano Grillo.

T7. Sergio Garcia, Patrick Cantlay, Alex Noren (-5): Can't you see Sergio stepping to the 17th hole on Sunday with the championship in his sights? Phil Mickelson shot 78.

"I'm rolling the ball really nicely and feel really confident on the greens", Oosthuizen said. The Kentucky native needed just 25 total putts and posted 1.700 putts per GIR and 4.275 SG: Putting, pacing the field in both of the latter stats. May.

Oosthuizen plotted his way expertly around the revamped layout, getting into his stride with two birdies over his first four holes and adding another from 10 feet at the 17th - his eighth. He hit a blind shot from 230 yards into the wind to a bunker and managed to get up-and-down to limit the damage, which is what Saturday at the TPC Sawgrass was all about. Vijay Singh's 4-under 68 was almost flawless until a bogey at the 18th dropped him to 6-under for the tournament and into fourth place.

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From the pine straw left of the 15th fairway, he managed to get it on the green and lagged beautifully from almost 60 feet. He made three bogeys on the back nine and then, torn between a 9-iron and a wedge on the 17th, he opted for a wedge to make sure it didn't go over the back of the island.

So many others wish they could have done the same. Vijay Singh's 68 put him alone in fourth. "The wind picked up on the back nine, so I thought it played more hard than the front", said Stanley.

Defending champion Jason Day had two double bogeys in his round of 73 and was eight shots behind, still hopeful of becoming the first back-to-back victor of this championship. "I've been doing that, and it's nice to come to the course and stand on the first tee feeling like you deserve to play good golf".

"It was a relief to get the call to say you're good, you did enough to secure your card", Poulter said.

"Everyone who's won one, you want to try and win a second", Oosthuizen said. Oosthuizen, who's only win on the PGA Tour was at the British Open in 2010, has 13 victories worldwide including eight on the European Tour.

Six players - including Jon Rahm of Spain (72), former US Open champion Webb Simpson (69), Brendan Steele (71) and England's Paul Casey (69) - are another stroke back at 140 and tied for 10th.

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