- Rickie Fowler shoots the lowest round of the day to sit three shots off the lead
- Kevin Na finishes with a birdie to take a one-shot lead at Sawgrass from Matt Kuchar
- Tiger Woods shoots a level-par 72 to stay on 2-under, 10 shots adrift
- Harris English shoots 7-over 79 after hitting spectator on head with first tee shot
Rickie Fowler rode the momentum from his first PGA Tour win to storm into contention at the Players Championship on Saturday with a 6-under 66 in the third round.
The 23-year-old holed seven birdies with the only blemish coming on the 18th where he missed a 4-foot par putt to leave him 9 under for the tournament, three shots behind leader Kevin Na.
The in-form American will be back in his familiar orange outfit for the final round on Sunday as he looks for back-to-back wins. He would be the first player to do that in consecutive weeks on the PGA Tour since Tiger Woods in 2009.
"I had some fun out there today," Fowler said after the shooting the lowest round of the day. "I mean, other than bogeying the last, I'd have to say it was a fairly perfect round."
Fowler wasn't the only player to have problems on the tricky par par-4 18th. Charlie Wi and Adam Scott both double-bogeyed there to ruin promising rounds. Australian Scott is on 4-under, with Wi a shot better off.
Na, though, ensured he took the outright lead heading into the final round by holing a 16-foot birdie putt at the last.
The 28-year-old American had appeared nervy at times, taking numerous practice strokes before some of his shots and severely testing the patience of the timekeepers, but he enjoyed a bogey-free round of 68 to put him on 12 under.
"I'm fighting with my balance over the ball. There's a lot going on and it's really hard for me to feel comfortable," he said. "It's really frustrating for me too. All I can do is try my best and do what is best for me to play well."
Na's nerves will be further tested on Sunday when he targets the $1.7m on offer to the winner at Sawgrass.
Matt Kuchar, who had shared the overnight lead with Zach Johnson and Na on 8-under, is one shot further back after mixing four bogeys with seven birdies for a 69.
Harris English slumped out of contention with a 7-over 79. The 22-year-old rookie began the day a shot off the lead but hit a spectator on the head with his tee shot at the first and the shock seemed to unsettle him.
He triple-bogeyed the next hole, double-bogeyed the fifth and had four other bogeys in a disastrous round.
Woods had found some encouraging form in the second round with a run of four straight birdies moving him up the leaderboard but the former No. 1 didn't back it up on Saturday, an even-par 72 leaving him on 2-under for the tournament.
"I played well today and didn't get anything out of that round," Woods said. "It was probably the most solid I've hit the golf ball all year actually. Even though I hit a couple off-line, they were just hit dead-flush. I just got nothing out of the round."
English pair Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, both vying to replace McIlroy as world No. 1, failed to shine.
Donald's level-par 72 left him on 3 under, while Westwood is another shot back after a 2-over 74. McIlroy missed the cut at Sawgrass for the third straight year.