Gay’s groove continues at St. Jude

Gay, who won at Hilton Head in April, can earn an Open berth with a second win this year.

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Brian Gay is doing his best to run away with the St. Jude Classic. He’s 18 holes away from finishing a wire-to-wire victory that would earn him a place in the U.S. Open.

He shot a second straight 4-under 66 Saturday to keep the lead by a stroke over Bryce Molder after the third round at the TPC Southwind.

Gay, who won at Hilton Head in April, can earn an Open berth with a second win this year. He has just five bogeys this week, and his only one Saturday came on 18 after his second shot from a fairway bunker hit the water. That dropped him to 14-under 196.

For someone who expected to be off next week after he missed qualifying by three strokes, Gay said he isn’t thinking about the Open yet.

“Not till you mention it. Not really. Not when I’m out there, I don’t think about it. I mean it’s a major. I’d love to play in it. I expected to be off next week ... I’ve got enough work to do here to not have to worry about that. Nothing I need to think about,” Gay said.

Phil Mickelson shot a 68 and was 10 back at 206 in his first event since announcing his wife’s diagnosis of breast cancer and still isn’t happy with his putter.

“I haven’t putted well the first three days. I feel like I’ve struck the ball well but have not been able to get it in the hole and shoot a number, a good low number and mostly because of the putter,” Mickelson said. “I’ll spend sometime on that in the next few days and should be able to get it ironed out for next week.”

John Daly’s comeback to the PGA Tour stretched into the weekend as he made the cut in this storm-delayed event on the line at even par. He shot a 68 that had him 1 over.

Robert Allenby (68) was alone in third at 199 followed by Paul Goydos (64). Woody Austin (68) was in a group tied for fifth at 201.

Gay came into this event among seven who had a chance to earn a trip to Bethpage Black with a win. The man who won Hilton Head by 10 strokes insists that wasn’t his goal here, but he has led by a stroke after each of the first three rounds.

He had five birdies Saturday and went as low as 15 under, up by as many as three strokes. His putting has been the key as he followed up 23 putts in the second round with 24. Gay has had 73 putts through 54 holes. But Molder and Allenby played almost as well.

“So I was making a comment to my caddy I couldn’t get the tee box from like, seemed like nine holes,” Gay said.

Molder, a Nationwide Tour qualifier, isn’t ready to give up a chance at what would be his first PGA victory. His best finish was third at Reno in 2001.

“The golf ball doesn’t know about the history of either one of us so just go play,” Molder said.

Both avoided having to return Saturday morning to wrap up the second round stopped Friday because of a storm that took down part of a tree near the 15th hole. A forecast of more storms expected Sunday afternoon caused organizers to move up tee times for the final round, sending threesomes off both tees.

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