If Brooks Koepka’s second-round 71 at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational was a head-scratcher, his double bogey on the second hole of Saturday’s third round may have been a cause for concern.
But, as the tournament’s defending champion said Friday, there’s no need to worry.
Koepka, who was 3-over for the round through the first six holes Saturday, stormed back into contention with a furious rally across the final 10. He enters the final round at 9-under in fourth place, three back of leader Brendon Todd.
Koepka’s streak began on No. 9 with a birdie putt that came after his approach landed 6 feet from the cup.
That birdie was the first of four straight, five out of six and six out of eight.
His approach on the par-4 No. 10 was even better than the one before it. He left himself with only a 7-inch putt.
Koepka did bogey No. 17 and finished with a 2-under 68 for the round.
D.J. giving himself a chance
A freshly shaven Dustin Johnson kept a steady pace with his second straight round of 68.
But Johnson is tied for 17th, seven shots off the lead at 5-under. He will need a big rally to win the tournament for the third time, adding to his 2012 and 2018 titles, before it earned a World Golf Championships designation.
Tom Lewis’ 61
The best round of the day belonged to Tom Lewis, who had 10 birdies and one bogey for a 9-under 61 that tied for the best round in TPC Southwind history.
The other 61s were in 2001 by Bob Estes and 1993 by Jay Delsing.
“I think when you shoot a score like that, everything’s got to go your way,” Lewis said. “When I was out of position I was able to recover well, like 17. 18’s a tough tee shot. Unfortunately, I was in the lip of the bunker, but other than that I was just really happy with everything. 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.”
The 29-year-old from England has two wins on the European Tour and one on the Korn Ferry Tour, but is still searching for his first on the PGA Tour.
Lewis is tied for 10th at 6-under heading into the final round.
Phil Mickelson does not lack confidence
Winner of 44 PGA Tour events, including five majors, Mickelson entered play Saturday at 3-under and tied for 15th.
His performances on Thursday and Friday left him feeling so good, he took to Twitter to proclaim it. Mickelson captioned a photo of himself — taken by Commercial Appeal photographer Joe Rondone during Wednesday’s practice round — with, “Mood heading into the weekend.” It was accompanied by a smiley-face emoji with sunglasses.
Mickelson shot a third-round 66 to move to 7-under for the tournament and in a tie for sixth.
“I don’t know, I saw the picture and just thought why not,” he said.
Atypical conditions for Memphis
The PGA Tour event in The Bluff City has become known as one of the hottest stops of the season.
Koepka said the heat was one of the few things he remembered about the 2019 tournament.
But Saturday’s third round was played conditions well outside of customary for August in the Mid-South. Temperatures hovered in the low-70s throughout much of the morning and afternoon with cloudy conditions.
Sunday’s final round should be much closer to normal for the Memphis area, as the forecast calls for a high of 87.
Reach sports writer Jason Munz at [email protected] or on Twitter @munzly.