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Sergio Garcia in the mix at the Players Championship

Chris Kirk takes the lead at Players Championship with a third-round 68

Sergio Garcia arrived at the Players Championship with good feelings about a course where few players have enjoyed consistent success.

He also arrived with three putters — a sign of Garcia's shaky confidence.

Of 33 previous winners at TPC Sawgrass, only four, including Tiger Woods, have a better career scoring average than Garcia (71.54). None likely has more scar tissue.

Garcia enters Sunday's final round the marquee name high up the leaderboard. He sits two shots behind Chris Kirk, who holds the outright lead at 10 under par.

But Garcia seemingly also enters every round with a level of self-doubt belying his talent level and No. 10 world ranking.

"In a way, I am a little surprised that I am where I am the way I feel," Garcia said following Saturday's third round. "I feel like I left a lot of shots out there. But at the same time, I guess I've always said that this is one of my favorites courses and I feel like I can do well here.

"So, we'll see what happens tomorrow."

Garcia's post-round comments rarely ooze confidence. In fairness, few know better the perils that potentially lie ahead.

A five-under-par 67 Saturday, highlighted by a tap-in birdie at the par-three island 17th hole, guarantees Garica nothing Sunday — a day filled with more heartbreak than highlights for the 35-year-old Spaniard.

Two years ago, Garcia stepped to the tee at No. 17 tied with Woods. Garcia then hit two balls into the water on his way to a quadruple-bogey 7 to allow his longtime rival to coast to the win.

Woods, who enters Sunday 11 shots behind Garcia after a third-round 75, will not be factor this time. Garcia will have his own demons to face, most of it involving his putting — long the bugaboo for one of the game's elite ball-strikers.

Through a process of elimination this past week, he finally settled on a putter of the three he brought to Florida.

"The other one is in the house and one of them is in the garbage," Garcia joked.

Garcia was so frustrated with his putting during a second-round 72 that he switched grips and ultimately snapped the putter over his knee.

Saturday, Garcia used the surviving putter to sink a critical 12-foot par putt on the 18th hole, one of just 26 putts on the day.

If Garcia, who is tied for fourth in greens in regulation, can putt the same way Sunday, he might will be the player to beat. It is a lot to expect, given his track record in final rounds.

But TPC Sawgrass has been good to Garcia, who has four top-five finishes here, including a win in 2008 and a third-place finish in 2014.

Kirk, a three-time winner on Tour, and six-time winner Bill Haas (nine under) are the most proven of a crowded bunch at the top. Justin Thomas, a 22-year-old rookie, is two shots behind Kirk after a third-round 65 highlighted by a TPC-record 10 birdies.

But 30 players are within five shots of the lead, including world No. 1 Rory McIlroy (six under), 2004 TPC winner Adam Scott (six under) and 2014 FedEx Cup winner Billy Horschel (seven under).

Kirk believes the winner will come from the final four or five pairings.

"It's all up to me and the handful of guys that are within two or three shots of what we do," Kirk said.

Garcia, an eight-time winner on Tour, last won in 2012. But he enters Sunday with as much experience in pressure-packed situations as anyone in contention.

"I'm not a big believer in that," he said. "I think that it just comes down to whoever plays best. Sometimes you shoot seven under, sometimes you shoot one under or sometimes you shoot two over. It's as simple as that."

egthompson@orlandosentinel.com

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