Players Championship 2016: Jason Day takes commanding 54-hole lead

Written By Alec Brzezinski
(Getty Images)

The third round of The Players Championship could not have been more different than the first two.

After TPC Sawgrass allowed the lowest second-round scoring average in tournament history Friday, Saturday saw the second-highest third-round average as players struggled with the quick greens and gusty winds.

MORE: PGA Tour winners of the 2015-16 season

Yet, somehow, Ken Duke, who started the day on the back nine at 3-under, shot an unrivaled 7-under 65, including five consecutive birdies on the front nine. Duke is at 10-under, tied for second with Hideki Matsuyama, four shots behind leader Jason Day.

Day, who started the third round with a four-shot lead after playing his first 36 holes bogey-free, came back from a 39 on the front nine Saturday — which featured two double-bogeys — to get back to 14-under for the tournament.

Expect TPC Sawgrass to play difficult again Sunday.

Here are Sunday's top contenders:

Jason Day (-14) — Day got off to a rocky start Saturday but returned to form on the back nine and now looks destined to win his first Players Championship. After winning the PGA Championship last year and two more tournaments already this season, Day could further separate himself at the top of the World Golf Ranking with a win.

Hideki Matsuyama (-10) — Though Duke will get the love after firing the low round of the day Saturday, Matsuyama's 5-under 67 was almost as impressive, considering he was doing it on the same nine as the leaders. A win here would be the break-out performance Matsuyama needs.

Ken Duke (-10) — Duke was superb Saturday. He birdied holes 3 through 7, then added another birdie on the par-5 ninth hole to shoot a 6-under 30 on the front nine (his back side). It will be interesting to see how he builds on this stellar round.

Alex Cejka (-10) — Cejka wasn't on the minds of most analysts to start the week, but the 45-year-old German has answered the call thus far. His two late birdies Saturday got him back to even for the day. They also gave him an outside shot at contending Sunday.

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