Webb Simpson held a five-shot lead at the turn after making an indifferent start to his final round at The Players Championship and Tiger Woods was on the prowl after Brooks Koepka equalled the course record.
The 2012 U.S. Open champion had a seven-shot advantage at the start of the day, but failed to match the high standards he has set this week as he was level par through nine holes at TPC Sawgrass on Sunday.
Simpson parred the first six holes before sinking a 32-foot putt for a birdie at the seventh to go 20 under, but the nerves were jangling when he dropped a shot immediately.
Danny Lee made birdies at the second and third holes to apply some pressure on the American and remain in second spot.
Woods joined Jason Day and Jason Dufner on 13 under through 11 after going out in 32 courtesy of four birdies.
The 14-time major champion's all-round game looked in excellent shape and he made another gain at the 11th, just missing out on an eagle when a lengthy putt slid just by the hole.
Day and Dufner were four under for the day after 10 and nine holes respectively, with Keegan Bradley a further shot back.
Koepka became only the second player to albatross the par-five 16th and the eighth to card a nine-under 63 at Sawgrass to finish 11 under.
Justin Thomas was on course to replace Dustin Johnson at the top of the rankings after a six-under 66 moved him to 11 under.