The Players Championship: Sweet-toothed Hoge breaks course record as Scheffler leads at Sawgrass

By Sports Desk March 11, 2023

Tom Hoge set a new course record without realising it and Aaron Rai celebrated a hole-in-one at the 17th, but it is Scottie Scheffler who heads into the final round of The Players Championship with a two-shot lead.

An absorbing Saturday at Sawgrass saw Hoge card a 10-under 62, as both he and Rai put themselves into contention going into Sunday's closing 18 holes.

Scheffler's 65 took him to 14-under par and made him the only player with three sub-70 rounds, earning the world number two a two-shot lead over Australian Min Woo Lee. They had been tied at 13 under entering the closing moments of the day, but Lee had a bogey at the last and just minutes later Scheffler made birdie.

Lee had to settle for a six-under 66, which he had kick-started by holing a 112-yard shot from the fairway on the opening hole for an eagle two. Another Australian, Cam Davis, had a 67 to reach 10 under for outright third place.

Englishman Aaron Rai drew the biggest roars of the day with a hole-in-one at 17, becoming the second player to ace the famous island hole this week, after Hayden Buckley managed the feat on Thursday.

Birdies either side meant Rai finished the round in style and carded a seven-under 65 to reach nine-under overall for a tie of fourth spot with compatriot Tommy Fleetwood (65), American Chad Ramey (68) and South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout (69).

Hoge, whose lone PGA Tour title came at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am last year, finished the day one shot further back. Incredibly, he did not know what the previous scoring record was, so it was a pleasant surprise to learn it stood at 63, achieved multiple times on the flagship course.

"I didn't even know it was a course record until after we got done in the scoring there," Hoge said. Former Open winner Shane Lowry suggested to Hoge he had broken the record after a birdie at the 18th hole, but Hoge still waited for confirmation.

Hoge only scraped into the final 36 holes on the cut mark of two over, after producing a gutsy 68 on Friday following an opening 78. He rocketed into contention on Saturday and said it felt good to be able to cancel his flight home to Dallas Fort Worth, having booked it in the anticipation his tournament would be over.

South Korean Im Sung-jae jumped from level par to eight under with a 64, and Jordan Spieth followed his eagle on the final hole of his second round on Friday with a 66 to go to six under for the tournament.

It was a day for low scoring and those that missed out got left behind, including second-round leader Adam Svensson, with the Canadian shooting a 75 to plummet down the leaderboard to join Spieth in a tie for 14th. Jerry Kelly, the 56-year-old who became the oldest player to make the cut in this tournament's history, went from two over to one under with a round of 69.

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