MEMPHIS, Tenn. — JJ Spaun did just enough right at the end of the third round to fashion a 2-under 68 and keep his one-shot lead Saturday in the FedEx St. Jude Championship, with a familiar name lurking.
Striking for Cameron Smith is the No. 1 ranking in the world.
Already having a banner year with his first major title at the British Open, and under heavy scrutiny amid reports that he is headed to Saudi-funded LIV Golf, Smith birdied his last hole for a 67. That left him two shots behind and fully aware that a victory would move him to the top of the world rankings.
“That’s been one of my goals probably since the start of the year is to try to get to that top spot,” Smith said. “Try and chase it down.”
Smith is in a traffic jam near the top of the leaderboard.
Spaun had a two-putt birdie on the par-5 16th and holed an 18-foot birdie putt on the next hole to claim the 54-hole lead a 13-under 197.
Sepp Straka was right there with him until he failed to save par from a bunker on the 18th, setting for a 68 that left him one shot behind. Both are first-time winners on the PGA Tour this year, and a victory in a FedEx Cup playoffs carries even more weight – $2.7 million to the winner and a guaranteed spot at East Lake for the FedEx Cup finale.
Will Zalatoris is just as hungry, for different reasons. Zalatoris has been a tough customer in the majors, losing in a playoff at the PGA Championship and finishing one back in the US Open. He is No. 14 in the world but has yet to win on the PGA Tour.
Zalatoris opened with a 71 that put him in such a hole that even his fiancee wanted to know their plans if he didn’t make it to the weekend.
“I told her, ‘Let’s cross that bridge when we get there,'” Zalatoris said with a smile. He decided to let his new caddy, Joel Stock, read putts in their second official round together. Zalatoris shot a 63 Friday and followed with a 65 on Saturday.
He also was two behind Spaun, along with Trey Mullinax (66).
Tony Finau, the winner of the last PGA Tour events, was one of 16 players within four shots of the lead. Finau’s streak of 11 consecutive rounds at 68 or lower ended when he bogeyed the last hole for a 69, leaving him four behind.
EUROPEAN TOUR: Ewen Ferguson of Scotland extended his lead to three strokes by shooting 2-under 68 in the third round of the ISPS Handa World Invitational in Ballymena, Northern Ireland.
Ferguson started the day with a one-shot lead over Borja Virto of Spain and now leads by three over John Catlin of the United States (66).
The tournament is tri-sanctioned with the Ladies European Tour and the LPGA Tour. The men and women play from different tees and compete separately, with two equal prize funds of $1.5 million each.
In the women’s event, American Amanda Doherty led for the third straight day and was still one shot ahead at 12-under 206 in her bid for a first LPGA Tour title.
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