The third round of the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational was a wild, up-and-down Moving Day that resulted in a neatly separated leaderboard (no ties in the top five) and a monstrous setup for a fun Sunday finish. Brendon Todd leads by one over Ben An, and if Todd wins, he probably becomes the frontrunner for PGA Tour Player of the Year with just five events remaining.
His chasers have some intriguing stories of their own though. After struggling through the restart, both Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler are very much within striking distance, and maybe the best player since the restart — Justin Thomas — is going for his third win of the season with a potential second major championship on deck next week at Harding Park. Let’s dive into Round 3 and look ahead to what should be an awesome finish on Sunday afternoon.
1. Brendon Todd (-12) — We’ve been here before with Todd. He led the Travelers Championship by three going into the final round there a month ago but faded hard as Dustin Johnson went on to win. The worrisome part here is that Todd has gained over 2.5 strokes per round with his putter, which is not sustainable when names like “Koepka,” “Fowler” and “Thomas” are lurking behind you on a Sunday afternoon in a massive event. Todd might win on Sunday, but it’s going to be a war for him all day to try and keep the tee-to-green game on the tracks.
2. Ben An (-11) — An caught fire on the back nine, where he made four straight birdies. He can ball-strike it with anybody at the top of this board, but he doesn’t have a top 25 since February, and I would worry about the putting stroke on the back nine on Sunday. He hasn’t won on either the PGA Tour or European Tour since 2015 when he took the prestigious BMW PGA Championship, but he won’t be scared to go toe-to-toe with anybody in this pack come closing time on Sunday.
3. Rickie Fowler (-10) — Tough finish for Fowler after shooting 32 on the front nine on Saturday (he and An shot a best-ball 61, by the way). He had a real chance to take over the tournament on the back but faded coming home. The silver lining here is that might not be a bad thing for him. He’ll be chasing from behind, which is how he often wins, and he’s hitting the hell out of it this week so far at TPC Southwind. I’m bullish on his chances for victory on Sunday despite a weak ending.
4. Brooks Koepka (-9) — Koepka had it going for a while on Saturday as he made five birdies on his first seven holes on the back nine. A bogey on No. 17 upended the momentum, but he’s at least given himself a chance to go back-to-back at this event after winning last year. The issue for Koepka continues to be the putter, where he’s losing strokes to the field. His ball-striking has been absolutely on-point throughout the week, which means it’s not difficult to envision him popping up, shooting 66 and winning again on Sunday — this despite a lousy restart to what was an already-lousy year for the four-time major champion. A win here would be the ultimate pivot from golf’s ultimate switch-flipper.
5. Justin Thomas (-8) — I’ve been trying to tell you that Thomas was going to pop over the weekend. He closed with a 31 on the back nine because he finally started draining putts. He’ll play with nothing at all to lose on Sunday, which could be troubling for the final few players on the course as they try to hold off his stampede. He remains in the top five in strokes gained from tee to green this week.
T6. Phil Mickelson, Louis Oosthuizen, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Chez Reavie (-7) — Quite a round for Mickelson, who has now gained strokes off the tee in all but one round and gained strokes on his approaches in every round. That is to say, he’s not just holding things together with a smoking putter, which is good news for him both going into Sunday as well as next week’s PGA Championship at Harding Park, where his driving accuracy will again be tested.
See New Posts
Four birdies in a row for Ben An, and he’s tied with Rickie at -11.
JT coming around turn three! Birdies 16 and 17 to get within four of the lead with one hole to go. Big-time Sunday on deck for my pick to win.
Two shaky drive from Fowler after he assumed the lead. Not great on 12 or 13. Led to bogey on 12, but looks like he’ll have a two-putt par on 13.
Lefty and Brooks are T3 at -8 right now, by the way, four back of Todd. Big hour coming up here as we see how much distance Todd can create.
I … did not envision Phil Mickelson and Brooks Koepka being tied at this point in the tournament.