Spaun nears PGA Memphis title

WASHINGTON (AFP) — J.J. Spaun birdied two of the last three holes to shoot a two-under-par 68 for a one-stroke lead after Saturday’s third round of the US PGA Tour’s St. Jude Championship.

Spaun tapped in to birdie the par-5 16th and holed a 17-foot birdie putt at the 17th then stood alone at the top after Austrian Sepp Straka missed a nine-foot par putt at the 18th at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee.

The 31-year-old American stood on 13-under 197 through 54 holes with Straka on 198 after shooting 68.

British Open champion Cameron Smith of Australia fired 67 to share third on 199 with Americans Will Zalatoris and Trey Mullinax.

Americans Tyler Duncan and Troy Merritt were another stroke adrift.

The tournament opens the FedEx Cup playoffs, three season-ending events with a winner’s prize of $18 million.

Only 125 players qualified on season points and only the top 70 advance to next week’s BMW Championship, where the 30 qualifiers for the Tour Championship in Atlanta are decided.

Spaun won his first PGA title after 147 tour starts in April at the Texas Open while Straka, who missed six consecutive cuts coming into this week, won his first PGA title in February at the Honda Classic.
Spaun began with nine pars before a bogey at 10, but sank an 11-foot birdie putt at the par-3 11th and overtook Straka with his closing surge.

After a birdie-bogey start, Straka sank a 15-foot birdie putt at the fifth hole and another from just inside 12 feet at the sixth to seize the outright lead, but he fell back with a bogey at seven.

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