MEMPHIS (AP) — Winning a World Golf Championship event easily would be the biggest victory of Brendon Todd’s career.
He has a recent reminder of how to best protect a lead in the final round — even if that memory is a bit painful.
Todd had a two-stroke lead going into the final round at the Travelers Championship in late June only to shoot a 75 and tie for 11th. He shot a 1-under 69 last Saturday at the FedEx St Jude Invitational to take a one-stroke lead into the final round of this World Golf Championship event.
Todd started the third round with a two-stroke lead. He had five birdies and four bogeys to put him at 13-under 198 on a nearly perfect day at TPC Southwind with the temperature in the 70s.
The 35-year-old Georgian is looking for his fourth career victory and third since last fall. This is Todd’s second 54-hole lead since the PGA Tour’s return to play. He shot a 75 in the final round of the Travelers Championship and tied for 11th.
Byeong Hun An of South Korea, who had four straight birdies on the back nine, finished with a 66. Rickie Fowler was two strokes back after a 69.
Defending champ Brooks Koepka struggled early before he reeled off six birdies in eight holes for a 68. He was fourth at nine under.
Justin Thomas, who can become number one in the world with a victory here, was fifth at eight under after a 66. He won on this course in 2018 before the event became a World Golf Championship in 2019.
“I kind of found something those last 12 holes where I really started hitting some good putts and making them with good speed,” Thomas said. “Yeah, it was nice to shoot four under on that back nine to give myself somewhat of a chance.” Phil Mickelson (66) and Louis Ooosthuizen (68) were in a group five strokes back.
Todd started where he left off on Friday, rolling in a 14-footer for birdie on number one to reach 12 under. Todd could not get out of the rough on the par-4 number five on the way to only his second bogey of the tournament.
Fowler holed out from the green-side rough on the par-5 third to pull within two. He then joined Todd atop the leaderboard on number seven. He hit his second shot from 190 yards to nine feet and made the putt for birdie.
Todd took the lead back to himself on the next hole with a 22-foot birdie putt on the par-3 eighth. Fowler answered with a 17-foot birdie putt on number nine, making the turn with his third birdie and a share of the lead at 12 under. Todd pushed his own birdie chance just right of the hole.
Fowler took the lead to himself for the first time when Todd bogeyed number 10 to start the back nine. Todd hit into the rough off the tee and could not sink a 13-footer to save par. Todd sunk a 15-footer for birdie on number 12, taking back the lead when Fowler two-putted from 13 feet for bogey.
Todd hit his approach 166 yards to three feet on number 13 for his shortest birdie putt of the day and a two-stroke lead. But Todd found the water just short of the green on the par-3 14th and threw his hat in disgust at his shot. A bogey dropped him to 12 under.
He made up for it with a 16-foot birdie putt on the par-5 number 16 for a two-stroke lead again. But he couldn’t get up and down from the rough off the fringe of the green on number 17 for his fourth bogey.