(AP) — J.J. Spaun did just enough right at the end to fashion a 2-under 68 and keep his one-shot lead Saturday in the FedEx St. Jude Championship.
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 at 13-under.
Sepp Straka was right there with him until he failed to save par from the bunker on the 18th 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 FedExCup Playoffs event carries even more weight — 2000 FedExCup points to the winner and a guaranteed spot at East Lake for the FedExCup finale.
Cameron Smith, who’s already had a banner year with a win at THE PLAYERS Championship and his first major at the The Open, birdied his last hole for a 67. That left him two shots behind and fully aware a victory moves him to No. 1 in the world.
“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.”
The chase will start out in a traffic jam.
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 U.S. Open. He is No. 14 in the world. And he 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 he get there,’” Zalatoris said with a smile. He decided to let his new caddie, Joel Stock, read putts in their second official round together. Zalatoris shot a 63 and followed with a 65 on Saturday.
He also was two behind, along with Trey Mullinax (66).
As for the chase to the next Playoff event, consider Tyler Duncan. He is No. 118 in the FedExCup, and only the top 70 move on to the BMW Championship next week in Delaware. Duncan had a 67 and was tied for sixth. He was three behind, and even if he doesn’t win, he can move on if he can hold his position.
That won’t be easy with so many players in the mix — 16 players separated by four shots. That group includes Sam Burns and Tony Finau. A winner in his last two starts, Finau ended his streak of 11 consecutive rounds at 68 or lower. He made a bogey on the last hole gave him a 69, leaving him four behind.