If there's one thing for certain when even the best golfers on the planet try to tackle the famed Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, it's that nothing is a sure thing.
That situation has been created by Pete Dye's challenging and varied layout, the swirling winds that seem to defy even the best guesses as far as intensity and direction and the nerves involved with playing this course in the most competitive conditions.
Americans J.B. Holmes and Kyle Stanley took on the beast in unwavering fashion Saturday, finishing at 9-under-par 207 and enjoying a one-shot lead after the third round of The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Stanley, the second-round co-leader with Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, managed a par 72 that included a birdie from two feet on the treacherous 17th, the course's famous par-3 island hole.
"I'm very happy with even par," Stanley said. "I thought it played quite difficult out there, especially the first nine. You just kind of have to remind yourself that even though you're a little bit over par, on the leaderboard I was still in a pretty good spot.
"I just tried to focus on giving myself chances. That's kind of been my mindset all week. That's a little easier said than done, but a shot at a time. I feel like we have a fairly good game plan for this golf course, so just stick to that and be really patient.
Holmes fired a 70 that featured three birdies (including on No. 17) and one bogey. He assured himself of a spot atop the overnight leaderboard with a par on the closing hole despite a drive that was ended up way right of the fairway and in the trees. After a soaring approach found the front of the putting surface, Holmes two-putted for par.
"Everything is so hard -- you have to be so focused on each shot or it'll jump up and get you," Holmes said. "You can stay present, and that's the main thing. You've just got to go around and hit one shot at a time wherever you hit it and go get that. You can get some squirrelly lies on chips and the ball come out funny -- everybody is going to get some bad breaks."
Holmes only hit five of the course's 14 fairways but needed just 25 putts.
"I've hit a lot of good putts, and a lot of them went in," Holmes said. "I've been working on my putting stroke and it's been getting better, and the speeds of these greens have suited me, and my feel has been good on them. When you start hitting putts where you're aiming at the right speed, you're going to get a few to go in."
Oosthuizen carded a 73 and is alone in third place at 208 after a round that included three birdies and four bogeys. He surrendered his share of the lead on the first hole with a bogey and fought through the rest of the round to keep up with Stanley and, ultimately, Holmes.
Masters champion Sergio Garcia settled for a 67 after bogeying the 18th hole and was tied for seventh with Patrick Cantlay (72) and Alex Noren (72) of Sweden at 211.
"Today in these conditions I hit some really good shots," Garcia said. "I'm going to need a good round on Sunday, but at least I'm putting myself back in there. We'll see what we're able to do."
First-round co-leader William McGirt, Adam Scott of Australia and Lucas Glover are at 213, six strokes in arrears of the lead duo. Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy and defending champion Jason Day of Australia are among those at 215.
Vijay Singh of Fiji, who was in fourth place beginning the third round, suffered through a 79 that included just one birdie, two triple bogeys (on the par-3 eighth and 17th holes, respectively) and a double bogey on the par-4 fifth. His misadventures left him tied for 44th, 11 strokes off the lead.
NOTES: First-round co-leader Mackenzie Hughes of Canada shot a 74 in the third round and is tied for 22nd at 216. ... With 82 players making the initial cut on Friday, there was be a secondary cut to low 70 and ties after the third round. Among those golfers not moving ahead were Spain's Jon Rahm (after a third-round 82), Gary Woodland (78), Justin Thomas (79) and Matt Kuchar (81). ... Playing in his 10th event this season, Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa has yet to miss a cut with his best finish, a solo third, coming at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. The last time Oosthuizen missed a cut on the PGA Tour was last year's British Open Championship, a streak of 15 consecutive made cuts. ... Twelve of 43 second-round leaders/co-leaders have gone on to win The Players Championship, including Jason Day of Australia in 2016. ... Thirteen of the 25 second-round leaders/co-leaders on the PGA Tour this season have been able to convert for the win in stroke-play events, most recently Spain's Sergio Garcia at the Masters Tournament.