Simpson ties course record, takes 5-shot lead at Players Championship

Tiger Woods TPC Sawgrass 18th hole

"I hit a lot of good shots today and it was nice to see a few putts go in".

"He's driving it really nicely, " said Mackenzie Hughes, who played with Woods for the first time and shot 68.

On the verge of shattering the course record Friday at the TPC Sawgrass - even a 59 was in play - Webb Simpson hit sand wedge into the water on the notorious par-3 17th and made double bogey that ruined his round, but not his day at The Players Championship at Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Tiger Woods made the cut at The Players Championship on the number, and though it seemed like it'd take a miracle for him to contend on Sunday evening, Woods made a charge up the leaderboard with a birdie blitz on Saturday morning. With the kind of control over the course that now exists with the subterranean technology, the course can basically be set up any way the grounds crew wants.

Woods' iron play was spot on and his putter red hot as he birdied four of the first five holes.

"It was just unbelievable, " said Spieth, who played with McIlroy and Thomas.

"I felt free. I came out feeling good and playing aggressively", Spieth told reporters.

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Woods missed a great chance to get back to nine under at the 16th as he misread a birdie putt from eight feet, and he safely negotiated the 17th in par before he drilled a sublime second to the rear fringe at the last. "So it just shows you where it actually matters, and that's on the greens".

On the 471-yard par-4 fifth hole, Moore reached the green in 2 and sunk a 12-foot putt for birdie. He hit 15 of 18 greens in regulation despite hitting only seven of 14 fairways.

Spieth hit 14 of 18 greens and needed just 24 putts. "I didn't make many birdies".

Woods had nudged his way all the way up to a tie for 8 by the end of his round, but he would not allow any illusion to seep into his mind regarding his chances of winning this tournament. 12 and 13 before his first bogey of the day on the 14th. "It's a bonus if they drop, and I think that if you give me another hundred shots I wouldn't get them in the hole from there, so that was nice". But surely one marker for Woods' long-term hopes was his ability to finally go low - really low - when favorable conditions and a cooperative game finally converged. He was still seven back of Simpson even after posting the 65.

Still, shooting 65 on a golf course where disaster is never far away is an encouraging sign for a player who, just eight short months ago, didn't know whether he'd be able to compete on Tour ever again.

Wales global Bale, a self-professed golf fanatic, particularly praised Woods' return to the sport.

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