Saturday’s roundup: Berger maintains St. Jude lead

Associated Press
Daniel Berger looks at his ball on the 11th green during the third round of the FedEx St. Jude Classic Golf Tournament on Saturday.

Memphis, Tenn. — Daniel Berger has yet to win on the PGA Tour. He’s confident enough to believe that’s just a matter of time, and he has put himself in position to make the FedEx St. Jude Classic his first title.

Having Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker just three strokes behind isn’t shaking his self-assurance either.

“If it was Tiger Woods behind me, I would have the same mentality,” Berger said Saturday after a 1-under 69 that left him with the same three-stroke lead he had after 36 holes. “It doesn’t matter. It’s golf. The golf course doesn’t know who is playing it, so I’m just going to go out there and be aggressive and have some fun, and that’s all I can do.”

Berger, the 2014-15 rookie of the year, had led after a round on tour only once before this event back in 2014. Now he has led consecutive rounds, and Berger had four birdies, a bogey and a double bogey on a hot, sticky day to reach 10-under 200.

Mickelson (68), Stricker (66) and Points (64) were 7 under.

Seung-yul Noh (67), Colt Knost (67) and Brooks Koepka (69) were 6 under.

Mickelson has 42 career wins and is looking for his first win since the 2013 British Open. Berger, who refused to concede a 1-foot putt to Mickelson in March at the WGC-Dell Match Play, said Woods was the player he admired growing up. The 23-year-old Floridian also calls Mickelson by his full name Phillip.

“He says only his wife calls him that, I can’t call him that until I win on the PGA Tour,” Berger said. “But I still call him that anyway.”

Mickelson played two groups ahead of Berger on Saturday and will be in the group ahead of the leader in the final round.

“That’s always an advantageous spot if you can get off to a good day,” Mickelson said. “It’s much more difficult to follow birdies than it is to lead by them.”

With so many experienced players and big names chasing him on a day where the temperature felt close to 100 degrees, Berger hit 13 of 18 greens playing conservatively enough with six straight pars at one point that he finished Saturday with the same three-stroke lead he had after the second round.

Berger couldn’t hold onto the lead after the opening round of the 2014 OHL Classic at Mayakoba and wound up tied for 51st. He already has three top 10s this season and is looking for more before heading to Oakmont for the U.S. Open.

He kept his three-stroke lead with a birdie on No. 3. After a bogey on No. 5, Berger came right back with a birdie before running into trouble on the par-3 14th. He hit his tee shot into the water in front and two-putted from 16 feet for bogey trimming his lead down to a stroke.

Mickelson, who had strung together seven straight pars of his own, birdied the par-5 16th to tie Berger atop the leaderboard at 8 under.

Berger took the lead back to himself by taking advantage of the par-5 at No. 16. He hit his approach onto the fringe of the long green and two-putted from 33 feet for birdie. Berger then pushed his lead back to three strokes with his second straight birdie. After putting his approach into the rough beside the green, Berger chipped in from 26 feet to go back to 10 under.

Mickelson hit his third shot 22 feet past the hole on the par-4 17th. He missed the par putt just right and wound up with his first bogey in 22 holes. Mickelson hit his tee shot on No. 18 into a fairway bunker and had to roll in an 18-footer to save par after his first putt attempt came up short of the green.

Now he only wants to hit his irons a bit closer Sunday.

“Hopefully, I’ll find it for tomorrow’s round because it’s only going to take a few more fairways hit and a few more birdie opportunities the way I’m putting to try to get this done,” Mickelson said.

Stricker, 49, hasn’t won since the 2012 Hyundai Tournament of Champions, but he tied for seventh at the Valspar Championship in March. The captain of the U.S. team for the 2017 Presidents Cup had a four-birdie, bogey-free day to keep close to Berger. He’ll play with Mickelson on Sunday.

“I’ll be nervous,” Stricker said. “It’s been a while since I’ve been up there and have an opportunity to win. I’m excited for the challenge. That’s what we want to be out here for is to get into that position.”

Senior PGA

Bernhard Langer is in position to win the Constellation Senior Players Championship for the third straight year, shooting a 1-under 69 to reach 2-under 208 and take a three-stroke lead over Jay Don Blake with a round left at the Philadelphia Cricket Club.

After playing the first 11 holes in 2 over with two birdies and four bogeys, Langer birdied the par-4 12th to get back to even par for the tournament. He added birdies on the par-5 15th and par-3 16th and closed with two pars on the A.W. Tillinghast-designed Wissahickon Course.

Blake birdied the par-4 18th for a 71. Jeff Sluman (70), Woody Austin (71), Wes Short Jr. (72), Bart Bryant (72) and Brandt Jobe (74) were tied for third at 2 over. Bryant birdied the 18th after dropping four strokes in a late four-hole stretch with a double bogey and two bogeys.

LPGA

Top-ranked Lydia Ko bogeyed the 18th hole to cut her lead to one stroke heading into the final round of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in Sammamish, Wash.

Seeking her third straight major title, Ko shot a 1-under 70 to reach 2 under. She won the Evian Championship in September in France for her first major title and took the ANA Inspiration in April in California.

The 19-year-old Ko used her deft short-game to save shots on the 16th and 17th holes, but couldn’t avoid dropping a shot at the last when her third shot went to the back of the green and she missed a 15-foot par putt.

Brittany Lincicome and Gerina Piller were tied for second. They each shot 71, with Lincicome also bogeying the 18th. Second round co-leaders Brooke Henderson and Mirim Lee each shot 73 to drop into the group at even par. Only three players were under par even as Sahalee played easier following overnight rain.

European

South Africa’s Zander Lombard squandered an early three-stroke lead due to a triple bogey but still led China’s Wu Ashun by one after the third round of the Lyoness Open in Atzenbrugg, Austria.

Lombard had four birdies before needing seven shots following a mishit on the par-4 ninth. He carded a 68 to go 11-under for the tournament, while Wu had a 7-under 65.

France’s Gregory Bourdy, who shared the overnight lead with Lombard, went 9-under to share third with Spain’s Adrian Otaegui. Former champion Joost Luiten of the Netherlands was one stroke further back in fifth.

Curtis Cup

England’s Bronte Law won two more matches and Britain and Ireland took all but one point in Dublin to open an 8-4 lead in the Curtis Cup, leaving the Americans behind entering the closing singles session for the first time in two decades.

With eight singles matches left Sunday at Dun Laoghaire, the United States needs six points to retain the Cup, and Britain and Ireland needs 2 1/2 to reclaim it. The U.S. leads the series 28-7-3, winning 13-7 in 2014 in St. Louis.

Law improved to 4-0, teaming with 18-year-old Olivia Mehaffey of Northern Ireland in both sessions. They beat Bailey Tardy and Monica Vaughn 3 and 2 in the morning foursomes and topped Vaughn and Bethany Wu 3 and 2 in the rain-delayed afternoon fourball matches.

Wu and U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Hannah O’Sullivan earned the only point for the United States, beating Ireland’s Leona Maguire and England’s Charlotte Thomas 1 up.