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Saturday's golf: Todd shoots 1-under 69 for 54-hole lead at WGC in Memphis

Teresa M. Walker
Associated Press

Memphis, Tenn. — Winning a World Golf Championship event easily would be the biggest victory of Brendon Todd’s career.

He has a recent reminder of how to best protect a lead in the final round – even if that memory is a bit painful.

Todd had a two-stroke lead going into the final round at the Travelers Championship in late June only to shoot a 75 and tie for 11th. He shot a 1-under 69 on Saturday at the FedEx St. Jude Invitational to take a one-stroke lead into the final round of this World Golf Championship event.

Brendon Todd watches his tee shot on the 18th hole during the third round of the World Golf Championship-FedEx St. Jude Invitational Saturday in Memphis, Tenn.

“What I learned at the Travelers is just you cannot control the result, you can’t control the way you’re going to feel, where the ball’s going to land, if putts are going to go in …,” Todd said. “The best players in the world treat each final round like it’s just another day, and they just go out there and try to execute and stick to their game and let the results fall as they do.”

Todd started the third round with a two-stroke lead. He had five birdies and four bogeys to put him at 13-under 198 on a nearly perfect day at TPC Southwind with the temperature in the 70s.

The 35-year-old Georgian is looking for his fourth career victory and third since last fall. This is Todd’s second 54-hole lead since the PGA Tour’s return to play. He shot a 75 in the final round of the Travelers Championship and tied for 11th.

“I’m excited to be in this position and feel like if I can go out there and swing a little better and keep this putting momentum going, I’ll be in good shape,” Todd said.

Byeong Hun An of South Korea, who had four straight birdies on the back nine, finished with a 66. Rickie Fowler was two strokes back after a 69.

Defending champ Brooks Koepka struggled early before he reeled off six birdies in eight holes for a 68. He was fourth at 9 under.

Justin Thomas, who can become No. 1 in the world with a victory here, was fifth at 8 under after a 66. He won on this course in 2018 before the event became a World Golf Championship in 2019.

“I kind of found something those last 12 holes where I really started hitting some good putts and making them with good speed,” Thomas said. “Yeah, it was nice to shoot 4 under on that back nine to give myself somewhat of a chance.”

Phil Mickelson (66) and Louis Ooosthuizen (68) were in a group five strokes back.

Todd started where he left off Friday, rolling in a 14-footer for birdie on No. 1 to reach 12 under. Todd couldn’t get out of the rough on the par-4 No. 5 on the way to only his second bogey of the tournament.

Fowler holed out from the green-side rough on the par-5 third to pull within two. He then joined Todd atop the leaderboard on No. 7. He hit his second shot from 190 yards to 9 feet and made the putt for birdie.

Todd took the lead back to himself on the next hole with a 22-foot birdie putt on the par-3 eighth. Fowler answered with a 17-foot birdie putt on No. 9, making the turn with his third birdie and a share of the lead at 12 under. Todd pushed his own birdie chance just right of the hole.

Fowler took the lead to himself for the first time when Todd bogeyed No. 10 to start the back nine. Todd hit into the rough off the tee and couldn’t sink a 13-footer to save par. Todd sunk a 15-footer for birdie on No. 12, taking back the lead when Fowler two-putted from 13 feet for bogey.

Todd hit his approach 166 yards to 3 feet on No. 13 for his shortest birdie putt of the day and a two-stroke lead. But Todd found the water just short of the green on the par-3 14th and threw his hat in disgust at his shot. A bogey dropped him to 12 under.

“That’s the easiest to put on the green, to not hit in the water,” Todd said. “It was a swing that was out of rhythm that was a little bit too often today and to know I hit the water there, it made me pretty mad.”

He made up for it with a 16-foot birdie putt on the par-5 No. 16 for a two-stroke lead again. But he couldn’t get up and down from the rough off the fringe of the green on No. 17 for his fourth bogey.

LPGA Drive On Championship

Danielle Kang returned from a 45-minute rain delay with two straight birdies. By the end of the round, she was happy to have a share of the lead in the LPGA Drive On Championship.

Kang followed her back-to-back birdies with three straight bogeys, another birdie and finally a 4-foot par on the final hole to salvage a 1-over 73 and tie Celine Boutier and Jodi Ewart Shadoff.

Inverness Club, already a tough test that will host the Solheim Cup next year, was even more of a challenge in wet weather and a little more wind. Only two players, including Sarah Schmelzel, broke 70.

Boutier and Ewart Shadoff played in the morning before the harshest of the weather. Boutier had four birdies over her last 10 holes to offset a few mistakes and shot 71. Ewart Shadoff, still searching for her first LPGA Tour victory, overcame a double bogey on the 15th hole with a birdie on the 18th. She shot 72.

They were at 5-under 139 in the LPGA Tour’s first event since the Women’s Australian Open on Feb. 16. Inverness is hosting the one-time event, with the LPGA staying in northeast Ohio next week before heading to Scotland.

For the leaders, it was all about the recovery.

“I think it was a little bit of lapse of concentration on 15,” Ewart Shadoff said of her double bogey. “I just told myself, ‘Just try and get a birdie coming in. Even (par) is a pretty solid score out here today.”

No one was on a more wild ride than Kang, the No. 4 player in the world and a former Women’s PGA champion.

After the delay, she birdied the 11th hole and then found herself in a bunker right of the 12th green with little green between her and the hole. She splashed it out perfectly, it checked up and curled into the cup for an unlikely birdie.

And then the bogeys followed. Kang said it didn’t help that her group fell behind and they were being timed for most of the back nine as she tried to figure out how weather was affecting shots while keeping her grips dry.

“There was a lot of rushing for us,” she said. “We were on the clock for over 10 holes. I haven’t played on the clock for a long time. The golf course conditions are completely different. Yesterday I hit a 7-iron from 180 yards. Today it was a 4- or 5-iron. That was the case for everybody.”

Even as she went from leading to trailing, she kept her cool after a third straight bogey, reminding herself she had three holes left.

“I knew I was getting hasty,” Kang said. “I started walking slower. I had to give myself a birdie opportunity. On 17, I had the exact same number I had on 15.”

She came up well short on the 15th by taking a little off, not knowing how far it would go. She went at it hard on the 17th to set up birdie, and he made the par putt on the final hole to get back into a share of the lead.

Boutier returned with some form, having won the Women’s Texas Open in June at Old American, site of an LPGA Tour event later in the year. Boutier, from France, now lives in the Dallas area. Playing in whatever tournaments she could find kept her motivated to practice.

Schmelzel had a 69 to match Yui Kawamoto (71) at 3 under. Minjee Lee (73), Amy Olson (73), Michigan State's Sarah Burnham (72) and Lee-Anne Pace (74) were 2 under.

The cut was at 6-over 150, and Lydia Ko had to struggle to make it to Sunday in the 54-hole event. Ko opened with a 69 and shot an 80 on Saturday to make it with one shot to spare.

Nelly Korda, at No. 2 the highest-ranked player in the field, had a 74 and made it on the number. Lexi Thompson bogeyed her last hole for a 72 and was at 145, six shots off the lead in a tie for 20th.

Barracuda Championship

Troy Merritt made two late birdies to take a four-point lead into the final round of the Barracuda Championship, a year after he lost the final-round lead in the PGA Tour’s lone modified Stableford scoring event.

Merritt had eight birdies and two bogeys on Tahoe Mountain Club’s Old Greenwood Course for a 14-point day. Players receive 8 points for albatross, 5 for eagle, 2 for birdie, zero for par, minus-1 for bogey and minus-3 for double bogey or worse.

He had a straight-forward approach for the final round after falling to Collin Morikawa last year at Montreux Golf and Country Club. Tahoe Mountain is staging the event for the first time after 21 years at Montreux.

Maverick McNealy and Emiliano Grillo were tied for second. Grillo had an 11-point round, and McNealy scored 10 points, falling back with bogeys on 16 and 17.