PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Michael Schindele and his 5-year-old son Ethan sat on a hill separating the tee box on the 12th hole at the TPC Sawgrass Players Stadium Course and the 14th fairway.
Tiger Woods was still 10 minutes from arriving as he played the 11th. Phil Mickelson was a group back. From their lush, lofty vantage point, Schindele could see the mass that was heading their way.
“We’re about to get swamped,” Schindele said. “There’s going to be a ton of people coming here.”
There were only perhaps 60 people surrounding the 12th tee box as Henrik Stenson and Spencer Levin teed off.
Once Woods arrived, along with playing partner Keegan Bradley, the activity around the hole spiked. Roughly 700 fans swarmed the hole as they followed Woods.
Ten minutes later, Mickelson came to the 12th with Bob Estes. His gallery was just as strong and replaced Woods’ horde.
Despite the strong show of support, neither one of golf’s two most popular players could manage much of a Saturday charge at The Players Championship.
Mickelson shot 2-under-par 70 and stands at 4-under heading into today’s final round. He is eight shots behind leader Kevin Na in a tie for 14th place with 12 other players.
Meanwhile, Woods was in a complete stalemate, finishing with an even-par round to finish the day 2-under through three rounds and in a tie for 34th.
Oddly enough, both Woods and Mickelson were pleased with their play on Saturday.
“I played well today and I didn’t get anything out of that round,” said Woods, the 2001 Players champion and winner of 14 major titles.
“It was probably the most solid I’ve hit the ball all year actually.”
Mickelson’s assessment of his day was similar.
“It was the exact kind of day I needed,” said Mickelson, the 2007 Players champion and a four-time major winner.
“I needed a few more birdies to make up the ground I wanted, but it was the type of day I needed to have to have the opportunity to make a move at the lead.”
Mickelson still has an outside chance to become the sixth player to win multiple Players titles, but will have to put together a brilliant round Sunday. He is capable. Mickelson has shot 64 on the Stadium Course twice.