Brendon Todd carded a 1-under 69 on Saturday at TPC Southwind, good enough to maintain a one-shot lead over Byeong-Hun An at the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational.
Entering the third round in Memphis with a two-shot advantage, Todd got off to a nice start with a birdie on the first hole. The former Georgia Bulldog then offset a bogey on No. 5 with a birdie on the par-3 8th to turn in 34. Todd’s inward nine, though, was the epitome of up and down, as he mixed three birdies and three pars with three bogeys to finish the day one in the red, and one clear of playing partner An, who posted a 4-under 66.
“Today was a little more difficult, cooler, a little more moisture out there. The winds were still up and swirling a little bit, so I thought the golf course still yielded great scores,” said Todd, who is ranked No. 51 in the world.
“But for me, made it a little more difficult and I was battling my swing a little bit, but I’m excited to be in this position and feel like if I can go out there and swing a little better and keep this putting momentum going, I’ll be in good shape.
An, who is still searching for his maiden PGA Tour title, overcame a double bogey on the par-3 11th hole with a four-birdie blitz on Nos. 13, 14, 15, and 16 to reach 11-under par.
“Coming in I made four birdies in a row, I think that helps, and then nice up-and-down on the last, so got some momentum going for tomorrow,” said An, a one-time winner on the European Tour.
“Scores seems like it’s hanging there, no one’s running away with 16 or 17 under. I think the course is not playing that easy because it’s playing soft which plays longer. So I just need to keep in the fairway and give myself tons of birdie chances.”
One further back was Rickie Fowler who was tied for the lead after turning in 3-under 32, but a 2-over 37 homeward-nine knocked the 31-year old star two off the pace at 10-under par.
“It was fairly solid. The score didn’t really reflect how I played. Thought I played a lot better than what I posted. Struggled with some reads on greens,” said Fowler who ranks 27th this week in strokes gained: putting.
“I felt — didn’t really feel I ever hit a putt necessarily offline of where I was trying to, they just didn’t go where I thought they’d go. All in all, I mean, okay day. We’re still in it, two back going into tomorrow.
“So I’m happy with where the game’s at and how I feel and I’m excited for tomorrow, but yeah, a little unfortunate what, like I said, not having the score reflect how I felt I played. So got that round out of the way and we’ll go have some fun tomorrow.”
Defending champion Brooks Koepka got off to a horrific start on Saturday with a double bogey and bogey over his first six holes, but the reigning PGA Champion settled down and rang up six birdies in an eight-hole stretch en route to a 68 and 9-under par for the tournament.
One shot back of Koepka was tournament favorite, Justin Thomas, who turned in even-par but closed with a clean four-birdie back-nine, highlighted by a hat trick of gains on Nos. 15, 16, and 17 en route to a 66, good for solo fifth-place on 8-under par.
“I’m very satisfied with my back nine especially. I felt like I had plenty of opportunities to get something going or make some birdies on the front nine to shoot a low one today and I just — I struggled reading these greens, especially with the speed,” said Thomas, who would move to world No. 1 with a win tomorrow.
“I’ve had a hard time getting it to the hole, I’ve left a lot of putts just low where if I had the right speed, I would have made them. I kind of found something those last 12 holes where I really started hitting some good putts and making them with good speed.
“Yeah, it was nice to shoot 4 under on that back nine to give myself somewhat of a chance tomorrow.”
Matching Thomas’ 66 was 50-year old Phil Mickelson who finished with round-best seven birdies to move into a tie for sixth with Louis Oosthuizen (68), Matthew Fitzpatrick (69), and Chez Reavie (70).
“I hit a lot of good shots, made a lot of good putts and played really well. I let it — you can always look back and you feel like you let a couple go. I wish I would finished the round off a little better,” said Mickelson, who closed with par-bogey-par.
“I wish I had birdied 16 and not bogeyed 17. Those two shots coming down, you’ve really got to close the round out a little better than I did today. But I hit a lot of good shots in the heart of the round, made seven birdies and really had a good day.”
Webb Simpson (69), Shane Lowry (67), and Jason Day (69) were among the big names in a seven-player logjam, tied for 10th on 6-under par.
Tom Lewis was another name in that T10 group, thanks to a tournament-low 9-under 61 which blasted the 29-year old Englishman 47 spots up the leaderboard.
“I think when you shoot a score like that, everything’s got to go your way,” said Lewis, who is ranked No. 67 in the world and largely plays on the European Tour.
“My putting was on point, I hit a lot of good shots, greens are perfect. If you don’t get it online, good speed, it’s not going to go in, it’s not going to come back, so obviously I was rolling it well.”
Of the top-5 leaders, both Todd and Thomas will be in search of season victory No. 3, while An, Koepka, and Fowler are looking to break through for win No. 1 of the current campaign.
Todd will play with An in Sunday’s final group, while Fowler and Koepka will comprise the penultimate pairing. Thomas will be joined by Mickelson in bronze grouping.
TOP 10 LEADERS
1. Brendon Todd -12 (-1)
2. Byeong-Hun An -11 (-4)
3. Rickie Fowler -10 (-1)
4. Brooks Koepka -9 (-2)
5. Justin Thomas -8 (-4)
6. Phil Mickelson -7 (-4)
6. Louis Oosthuizen -7 (-2)
6. Matthew Fitzpatrick -7 (-1)
6. Chez Reavie -7 (E)
10. Shane Lowry -6 (-3)
10. Christiaan Bezuidenhout -6 (-6)
10. Joel Dahmen -6 (-5)
10. Tom Lewis -6 (-9)
10. Webb Simpson -6 (-1)
10. Sungjae Im -6 (-1)
10. Jason Day -6 (-1)
1. Bryson DeChambeau – 326.8
2. Dustin Johnson – 313.6
3. Cam Champ – 313.0
1. Chez Reavie – 33/42, 78.6%
1. Collin Morikawa – 33/42, 78.6%
3. Corey Connors – 32/42, 76.2%
1. Brooks Koepka – 41/54, 75.9%
1. Jason Kokrak – 41/54, 75.9%
3. Joel Dahmen – 40/54, 74.1%
Putts Per GIR
1. Brendon Todd – 1.528
2. Matthew Fitzpatrick – 1.531
3. Jordan Spieth – 1.577
1. Byeong-Hun An – 18
1. Brooks Koepka – 18
1. Tom Lewis – 18
11:00 am – 6:00 pm – PGA TOUR LIVE
12:00 pm – 2:00 pm – Golf Channel
02:00 pm – 6:00 pm – CBS
Final Three Pairings
2:05 pm – Brendon Todd, Byeong-Hun An
1:55 pm – Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka
1:45 pm – Justin Thomas, Phil Mickelson
Any added pressure seeing names like Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas now lurking three, four strokes back, and Rickie up there, some of those big names?
BRENDON TODD: I wouldn’t say no. I mean, the goal is to win the tournament. We had big names up there today playing with Rickie and Ben.
I feel like we were all feeling it out there and battling pretty hard and I think tomorrow’s just going to be the same thing. It’s really going to be about me playing well and maintaining a lead.