Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama produced his career low round with a 6-under 66 at THE PLAYERS Championship moving him up to T22 on Saturday.

The five-time PGA TOUR winner produced seven birdies against a lone bogey at THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, improving his previous best score here by one shot as he ended the third round as the leading Asian player in the elite field.

“I hit a lot of quality shots, especially the front nine, and my iron play was vastly improved compared to the last couple of days. I struggled a little bit coming in. Hit some loose shots, but all in all, I’m happy. Any time you can shoot 6-under here at TPC Sawgrass, it’s a good day,” said Matsuyama.

The 27-year-old hit 14 greens in regulation and made over 101 feet of putts through 27 strokes on the greens. He starts the final round eight shots back of new leader Jon Rahm from Spain.

“I hit my driver well. I kept it in the fairway, gave myself a lot of good chances, but again, I need to work a little harder, go to the range after the round now and try to be ready for tomorrow and have a good finish,” said Matsuyama whose best finish at THE PLAYERS is T7 in 2016.

The long-hitting Rahm took over the lead in the PGA TOUR’s flagship US$12.5 million tournament with a blistering 64 pushing him one shot ahead of co-overnight leaders Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy. Australia’s Jason Day will enter Sunday’s final round three back while Mexican Abraham Ancer is fifth, a further shot back of the leader.

Rahm, chasing a third PGA TOUR win, said: “I had a good stretch from 1 to 18 pretty much today. What to say? I don’t know what my scoring average has been on Saturday the last two years, but I think I’ve beat it by quite a bit. It was a great day. Didn’t miss many shots out there.”

Korea’s Byeong Hun An, playing alongside American star Dustin Johnson, endured a disappointing 73 to slip back to T24, nine shots behind Rahm. An made three birdies against four bogeys on his card.

Si Woo Kim, THE PLAYERS Champion in 2017, shot a 72 for T43 alongside Sung Kang who shot a 74. Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan also returned a 74 for T69 while India’s Anirban Lahiri stumbled to a 76 to miss the third-round secondary cut which was imposed to reduce the size of the field nearest to 70 players.

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