MEMPHIS, TN – JUNE 09: Andrew Putnam hits his second shot on the first hole during the third round of the FedEx St. Jude Classic at TPC Southwind on June 9, 2018, in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
By Christopher Powers
On Sunday at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, Andrew Putnam will play in the final pairing for the first time in his career thanks to a second-straight six-under 64 on Saturday at TPC Southwind. His reward? He gets to face Dustin Johnson, who kept it rolling in his third round with a five-under 65, putting him in a tie at the top with Putnam at 15-under 195.
Normally, this may have prompted a canned “just treat it like any other round” response from a tour pro still finding his footing on the PGA Tour, but that wasn’t the case with Putnam. He knows this won’t be like any other final round he’s played in his professional career, even though he’s won twice on the Web.com Tour.
“It’s going to feel a little different than the typical Sunday round of golf,” said Putnam, the only player in the field without a bogey through 54 holes. “But I’m excited about it, I’ve earned my way here and I feel like it’s going to be a fun day. We’ll see what happens, just keep going with the game plan and see what we can do.”
The game plan has been a good one so far, especially on the greens, where Putnam has seen noticeable improvement following a post-round practice session after he shot a three-under 67 on Thursday. For the week, he ranks 23rd in strokes-gained/putting.
“I felt like I hit the ball the best my first round and just didn’t get anything to drop,” he said. “Putted a little bit afterwards, matching the line up with the speed. I grew up on poa annua and I think it’s just a little different putting from poa annua to bermuda. I love bermuda too, I putt well on it, it’s just lining up the line and the speed and the last 36 (holes) have been pretty good.”
He’s going to really love bermuda if he can hole a few more on Sunday and capture his first PGA Tour victory, and his first win as a professional since the 2017 Panama Claro Championship on the Web.com Tour.
For Johnson, it was another smooth walk to the clubhouse, as he made just one bogey and six birdies to remain atop the leaderboard. He’s been the best player tee to green this week and leads the field in birdies with 18. A win on Sunday would be the 18th of his career, and his second in this event, which he won in 2012.
Alone in third is 45-year-old Stewart Cink, who carded a six-under 64 that included a hole-in-one on the 144-yard par-3 eighth. This is Cink’s second start since a cancer scare that required him to undergo surgery to have a sizable chunk of tissue removed from the right side of his nose. He’s five back at 10-under 200.
Richy Werenski and Wesley Bryan are tied for fourth at nine-under 201, while Chez Reavie is in solo sixth at eight-under 202.