Lucas Glover shot 4-under 66. He has the 54-hole lead in the FedEx St. Jude Championship. He has made only two bogeys going into the final round. Such is the state of his game that he said he needed time to think about all the things that went right Saturday.
“Scrappy would be how I would describe that day — parts of it you could remove the ‘s.’ I got a lot out of what I had,” Glover said after building a 1-shot lead over Taylor Moore.
Glover is steeped in common sense, however, and it wasn’t long before he could laugh at his state of mind.
“Three months ago if I’d have been mad at 66 — or if you told me I’d be mad at 66 — I’d say you were crazy,” he said.
Glover got enough out of his round to stay in front at steamy TPC Southwind. The irritation came from two short birdie chances he missed over the last three holes, a 4-footer at the par-5 16th and a sharp-breaking 6-footer on the 18th.
Even so, it was his sixth score of 66 or lower in his past seven rounds — and 11th of his past 19 — and it put him at 14-under 196 as the man to catch Sunday.
And there are plenty lined up for that chance.
Moore, who won his first PGA Tour title this year at the Valspar Championship, bogeyed his last hole for a 65 and will play in the final group.
Tommy Fleetwood ran off three late birdies for a 66 that left him 2 shots behind as he goes for his first win on American soil. Max Homa (65) and Jordan Spieth (68) were 3 back.
“I like how I’m playing,” Homa said. “I can’t do a whole lot more than what I’ve been doing. I played three really solid rounds. Obviously, left some out there, like everybody has. I’m just going to keep doing it and see what comes of tomorrow.”
Glover was No. 112 in the FedEx Cup standings a week ago when he won the Wyndham Championship for his first title in two years. That moved him to No. 49 — easily among the top 70 who qualified for the PGA Tour’s postseason — and now he has a chance to wrap up a spot in the top 30 for the FedEx Cup finale depending on Sunday.
“I’m in a good spot,” Glover said. “Just iron a few things out and wake up tomorrow a little more confident than I am right now and see where we are.”
While Glover has a slim lead, he at least created a little separation. There were 16 players within 4 shots of the lead at the start of another steamy day in Memphis. Now, only four players are within 3 shots.
Rory McIlroy (68) and Patrick Cantlay (66) were in the large group at 9-under 201, just 5 shots back. McIlroy decided to cut an inch off a new putter he is using this week and it helped a little, but not enough to offset four bogeys that held him back.
“Overall I feel like I’ve sort of been stuck in neutral a little bit this week, and I’m still in a decent position,” McIlroy said. “Five back going into tomorrow, I feel like I could catch fire and hopefully make a run.”
Glover’s big run didn’t come out of the blue. Since he went to the long putter at the Memorial, he has been trending. He had three straight finishes in the top six, took a week off and missed a cut in his return, and then won the Wyndham Championship and is playing with confidence.
And he remains at his self-deprecating best, such as describing how he chipped in for birdie on the opening hole.
“That was a brutal shot. I had 98 yards in the fairway, downwind, with a front pin with a backstop,” he said. “In your guys’ world, I misspelled ‘the.’ … I chunked a wedge, but I made up for it in pretty flashy fashion.”
And then he rolled in an 18-foot birdie putt on No. 2 that he made look easy and after his lone bogey of the ground, holed an 8-foot birdie on the sixth.
But his expectations are such that all he could think about when he finished were the two birdie chances he let get away from him. This is a product of remarkable form, sparked by his putter change that has revived the career for a 43-year-old former U.S. Open champion.
For now, the goal for so many is simply getting to Chicago next week. Hideki Matsuyama at No. 57 wasted a good start. He shot 30 on the front nine, only to follow with a 40. All that work turned into a round of even par and no ground made up.
Mackenzie Hughes of Canada was in good shape until a 75 on Saturday, which projects him just outside the top 50 going into the final round. The top 50 is key because those players are assured spots in all the $20 million signature events next year.
Closer to the top, Glover figures to have his hands full.
“I think the first nine holes is just pedal to the metal because they’re coming,” he said. “Best players in the world are right behind me.”