5 Things: Crane leads as play halted; Lefty in hunt
Saturday at the FedEx St. Jude Classic began with an hour fog delay and ended with the fifth weather delay of the tournament.
Ben Crane, the leader at 13 under, got just six holes into his third round before thunderstorms halted play shortly before 7 p.m. local time in Memphis. The third round will resume at 7 a.m. Sunday and players will not be re-paired for the final round.
Here are 5 Things you need to know from Saturday's second- and third-round action at TPC Southwind:
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1. STILL IN FRONT: Ben Crane used a hot putter and 48 total putts to get through the first two rounds in 12-under 128. That good work on the greens continued in Round 3.
Crane began his third round Saturday afternoon by draining a 19-foot birdie putt at the par-4 first hole. He added five pars after that and was at 13 under through six holes before play was suspended for the day.
His lead did shrink, though. What was a six-shot advantage is now a four-shot edge, as Troy Merritt played his first seven holes of Round 3 in 2 under to move to 9 under overall.
Peter Malnati, 1 under through seven holes in the third round, is in solo third at 8 under overall.
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2. PHIL'S PINEHURST PREP: Phil Mickelson did something Saturday he hadn't done all season – he recorded back-to-back rounds in the 60s.
After not playing at all Friday because of weather delays, Mickelson fired a second-round 2-under 68 Saturday morning. He then opened his third round with nine straight pars and is currently tied for 11th at 5 under.
For a struggling Mickelson, being in contention goes along way in terms of being ready for next week's U.S. Open at Pinehurst.
"The best way to get ready for next week's U.S. Open is to get in contention, have an opportunity (to win) and if that goes into Monday, so be it," Mickelson said. "That's one of the reasons why I like to go to Pinehurst early, so I don't have to spend that extra time early in the week of the U.S. Open knowing the golf course and coming up with a game plan. Once that's done, then all I have to do is get my game sharp."
While he's in the hunt, just seven shots back of leader Ben Crane, Mickelson hasn't been accurate off the tee this week, hitting just six fairways in each of his first two rounds. He also missed 12 greens combined through 36 holes.
He alternated bogey and birdie for the first four holes of the second round before going bogey-free in his final 14 holes.
"(The second round) was kind of a boring round," Mickelson said. "I didn't get a lot happening. I couldn't get my irons close enough. I really had a lot of easy pars."
Yet, Mickelson said his form was "close enough" to where it needs to be for next week. His short-game has been on display in Memphis, possibly a product of some work he did earlier in the week at Pinehurst with short-game coach Dave Pelz.
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3. BABY ON THE WAY: Kevin Kisner has a big week ahead of him.
Sure, Kisner will play in the U.S. Open, his first major championship, after qualifying out of the Memphis sectional. But the real reason for the excitement is that his wife, Brittany, is due to give birth to the couple's first child Monday.
"I have a lot going on," said Kisner, who opened with rounds of 65-72 at TPC Southwind to make the cut. "My wife is going to have a baby on Monday so I have that going on, too. So either way I got to get out of here Sunday night. Hopefully it all works out. If not, there's plenty more golf tournaments to play.
"I'm in a position where I need another good finish so I have a shot to do it here so I'm going to play as much as I can. If I have to leave, I have to leave."
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4. OPEN HOPEFULS UPDATE: There are still five U.S. Open spots available for players inside the top 60 of the Official World Golf Ranking as of Monday. One of those spots will go to Kevin Na, who is currently ranked 40th. The other four will either go to players who move into the top 60 or to alternates from U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying.
Here is the list of players who could qualify via the OWGR top 60 out of Memphis, along with their current standing at TPC Southwind (Round 3 status in parentheses):
- No. 66 Chesson Hadley: T-16, 4 under (even thru 10)
- No. 68 Charles Howell III: T-55, 1 over (2 over thru 9)
- No. 74: Thorbjorn Olesen: MC, 4 over
- No. 76: Scott Stallings: T-55, 1 over (1 over thru 7)
- No. 79 Freddie Jacobson: T-62, 2 over (4 over thru 14)
Hadley is now the only player who has a realistic shot at still playing himself into the field for next week at Pinehurst.
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5. SHORT SHOTS: The cut was made Saturday afternoon after the completion of the second round. It feel at even par with 71 players making the cut. Among those going home early: Patrick Reed, Lee Westwood, Russell Henley and defending champion Harris English. . . . Rickie Fowler was 2 under through 14 holes when play was called for the day. He's 4 under overall.