Woods, however, left the course feeling better than ever about his comeback.
"His roars are definitely a different sound than everybody else's but I knew he started 10 or 11 shots back, so he would have to do something really special".
PGA TOURTHE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIPSite: Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. Maybe even at winning for the first time since returning from a fourth back surgery.
Woods had 110 yards to the pin, he belted a 60 degree wedge, only to see the ball spin back off the front of the green.
For the 36th time at TPC Sawgrass the defending champ went quietly into the good night.
Among the seven at 8-under and 11 behind were Woods and Spieth, who shot 65 each and are capable of coming out with that or better yet again. The scoring average for the week was 71.275, nearly a full shot under-par for the last May event, as the course was in all-time best condition according to numerous pros. He finished 18-under for the tournament shooting rounds of 66, 63 and 68 to take a seven-shot lead into Sunday's final round, the biggest lead after 54 holes in tournament history.
A large lead accommodates shaky play in a final round, but it also emboldens challengers to play aggressively. On his way to Japan for the Dunlop Phoenix in late 2014, he told caddie Paul Tesori he was bringing the belly putter with him for just one more tournament. Fans young and old stood dozens deep, scurrying from tee to fairway to green, just for a brief peek at Woods.More news: Vegas steal Game 2 on the road, tie up series
"There is no way I would have predicted I would be at this point at the beginning of the year", Woods said. However, he bogeyed the 14th and double-bogeyed the 17th after hitting his tee shot into the water for the first time since 2006. "I just didn't make it happen". Like a number of his professional golf colleagues, he got good at the game using a somewhat controversial putting method that nobody ever dreamed would one day be outlawed.
"I played really good the whole weekend", Woods said during the NBC Sports' broadcast. Whether you love him or despise Tiger Woods-there does not seem to be much in-between with him, though it seems like an increasing portion of people are pulling for him-anyone in attendance or watching on television can not deny that Woods was the main event on Sunday.
Still, the big-picture view is mostly positive for the world's most popular player. - Webb Simpson credited everyone around him for winning The Players Championship, his fifth career victory and in some respects his most important.
"I was pretty far back and I just tried to give myself a chance to win with four or five holes to go".
Lee started strongly with two early birdies but couldn't get much happening beyond that. And then he found what Simpson calls the "missing link", provided by former Players champion Tim Clark. That double coupled with a Simpson birdie at the 16th ended the dream, but not the sense of a gathering Tiger resurrection.
Woods could have made it much more suspenseful by making birdie at the hard 14th, a hole that has given him trouble in recent years.