Putnam, Johnson tied for lead
Andrew Putnam matched the best round of his short PGA Tour career with a 6-under 64 and tied Dustin Johnson atop the St. Jude Classic on Saturday.
In position to reclaim the No. 1 ranking with a victory, Johnson had a 65 to match Putnam at 15-under 195.
A two-time winner on the Web.com Tour, Putnam birdied No. 18 to tie up Johnson once again after a bogey-free round. Now he will play in the last group on the final day for the first time on the PGA Tour with Johnson.
“It’s going to feel a little different than the typical Sunday round of golf, but I’m excited for it,” Putnam said. “I’ve earned my way here and I feel like it’s going to be a fun day. See what happens.”
Stewart Cink, who had a hole-in-one on No. 8, matched his low round of the year with a 64 to get to 10 under.
Ricky Werenski got to 10 under but bogeyed No. 18 to finish with a 68. He was tied with Bryan Wesley (69) at 9 under. Brandt Snedeker (70) was at 7 under.
Johnson and Putnam, a 29-year-old from Washington with a pair of Top 10s this year on tour, quickly turned the third round at TPC Southwind into a two-man race.
Playing in the final group, Johnson opened with a birdie after hitting his approach to 6 feet on No. 1. Putnam, a group ahead, birdied three of his first four holes and took the lead to himself briefly at 12 under by rolling in from 31 feet for birdie on No. 5.
A tee shot way left on the par-5 No. 3 cost Johnson a penalty and a drop making par the best he could do. Johnson tied Putnam with a birdie on No. 5. But the man trying to get back to No. 1 before going to the U.S. Open bogeyed No. 9 after hitting his tee shot into the right rough and two-putting from 14 feet.
Johnson rebounded with a birdie on No. 10 hitting his second from 152 yards to 8 feet and tied Putnam again. Putnam rolled in a 22-footer for birdie on No. 12 to reach 13 under only to see Johnson sink an 8-footer for birdie on No. 13 to tie him up again.
Looking for a victory before going to Shinnecock Hills, Johnson birdied No. 13. On No. 15, he hit his approach 130 yards to within 4 feet for birdie and birdied the par-5 No. 16 after hitting out of the bunker to 5 feet to become the first to reach 15 under.
Putnam rolled in from 17 feet to wrap up his round with a share of the lead, and Johnson could only settle for a two-putt for par.
Cink, who last won The Open Championship in 2009, missed the cut at both the Players Championship and Memorial last week. He took advantage of the par 3s with two birdies and his hole-in-one to keep close to Johnson and Putnam.
“It can be a little bit of a shock when it happens and suddenly you find yourself right up there in the mix and you’ve got to reset yourself,” Cink said of his hole-in-one. “But I did a really good job the rest of the way and I’m proud of that, and I look forward to tomorrow.”
Lehman has 2-stroke edge
DES MOINES, Iowa
Tom Lehman might finally get an elusive senior victory in Iowa after so many close calls.
Lehman shot a 7-under 65 on Saturday to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the PGA Tour Champions’ Principal Charity Classic.
Lehman eagled the par-5 eighth and played a 10-hole stretch in 7 under before dropping a stroke on the par-4 18th. He had a 13-under 131 total, the best two-round score at Wakonda Club.
From neighboring Minnesota, Lehman has finished in the top 10 in each of his first six appearances in Iowa, but the 1996 British Open champion has never won the event.
“I made my share of putts. Made some longer putts I wasn’t expecting, kept the ball in the fairway [and] did a lot of things right,” Lehman said.
First-round leader Bernhard Langer had a 69 to fall into a tie for second with Glen Day (68), Woody Austin (68) and Scott Parel (66).
The conditions were warm but uncharacteristically calm, which dried out the course and made low scores attainable. In fact, the scoring average of 70.19 set a course record.
Few took advantage more than Lehman.
Lehman, who has never finished lower than eighth at Wakonda Club, picked up birdies on three consecutive holes — a par 4, par 5 and par 3, respectively — on the back nine to jump out in front.