Why this weekend at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational is more than just a tuneup for the PGA Championship

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — With the PGA Championship, the primary main of the season, solely every week away, among the golf’s greatest names, together with a handful who’ve struggled with their video games and others who’ve made huge adjustments, are lastly beginning to discover their kind.

Heading into Saturday’s third spherical of the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational at TPC Southwind, a number of of the PGA Tour’s greatest names are inside putting distance of chief Brendon Todd, who has a 2-shot cushion after posting a 5-under 65 to maneuver to 11 underneath after 36 holes.

Rickie Fowler, looking for his first victory in additional than a yr and solely his second in additional than three years, is 2 pictures again after firing a 3-under 67 on Friday. Brooks Koepka, who has battled a knee damage for a lot of the previous two seasons, gave one shot again on Friday, after a gap 8-under 62, and trails Todd by Four strokes.

Jason Day, who parted methods together with his longtime swing coach earlier this month, and Dustin Johnson, who pulled out of the 3M Open with a good again, are also within the combine heading into Saturday’s third spherical.

This is what to search for this weekend in Memphis:

Fowler’s drought

As soon as thought-about one of the best participant with no main championship, Fowler would in all probability similar to to win any event as of late. His final victory got here on the 2019 Waste Administration Phoenix Open and the one earlier than that was the 2017 Honda Basic.

Fowler, 31, has slipped to No. 32 on the earth after lacking the minimize in three of his previous 5 begins, together with the Memorial, the place he shot 81 within the opening spherical.

Lastly, Fowler is beginning to see the sunshine — and a reward for the exhausting work he has put in since altering swing coaches in February. His new coach, John Tillery, is attempting to get Fowler to make use of his decrease physique extra to enhance the timing of his swing.

“Everybody that performs golf offers with dangerous stretches or instances the place issues aren’t going your means,” Fowler stated. “Yeah, this yr hasn’t been my biggest. Been engaged on plenty of stuff. I feel this yr’s been fascinating for lots of people.”

Because of his red-hot putter, Fowler had seven birdies on Thursday and 5 extra within the second spherical.

Fowler likes the place his recreation is headed going into the primary main subsequent week at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.

“I like enjoying the week earlier than a significant in order that I do know the place my recreation’s at, know what I must do Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and go play Thursday,” he stated. “I really feel like I am on track. I feel that is been my essential objective — to undergo some adjustments for the higher. Typically you have to take that step again to take two steps ahead. I really feel like we already made the step again. I really feel like we have made a step ahead. I am on the lookout for that subsequent step.”

The following step, clearly, could be ending his 0-for-39 drought within the majors.

“He hits it far sufficient, he is obtained an awesome quick recreation, he is a gamer and he is not scared,” Tillery stated. “He is the true deal. I am simply attempting to make it simpler for him and perceive what his priorities are. Then I can get out of the best way and let his expertise take over. It is a good signal heading into subsequent week.”

Todd nonetheless rising

A yr in the past, Todd barely ranked among the many prime 800 gamers on the earth. He hadn’t gained on the PGA Tour since 2014 and missed 37 of 41 cuts whereas battling a extreme case of the full-swing yips.

Profitable in back-to-back begins on the Bermuda Championship and Mayakoba Golf Basic in November already certified as one of many biggest comeback tales in PGA Tour historical past.

Now Todd has a 2-stroke lead over one of many strongest fields in a non-major event. He has 10 rounds of 65 or higher this season, tied with Bryson DeChambeau for many on Tour.

“In my entire life, that is positively probably the most assured I’ve ever felt with my golf recreation,” Todd stated. “It is in all probability probably the most versatile I’ve ever been ballstriking-wise. I nonetheless do not hit it far, however I really feel like I will form pictures slightly bit. And my quick recreation’s strong, so it simply form of comes right down to how the placing is.”

With 5 extra occasions to play within the abbreviated season, Todd ranks No. 51 on the earth and ninth in FedEx Cup factors. Not dangerous for a 35-year-old who was able to give up golf and open a fast-food restaurant not way back.

“It will be actually, actually satisfying,” Todd stated. “I really feel like as a junior golfer, faculty golfer, I used to be at all times successful huge occasions. Now I am able to successful huge occasions on the skilled stage. I am actually excited to have the boldness now and the instruments in my recreation to compete for these titles. Simply having an opportunity to win one is an enormous deal proper now.”

Is Koepka actually again?

A day after Koepka shot an 8-under 62 to match one of the best spherical of his profession, he completed 1 over to fall right into a tie for third place.

Koepka can blame his putter. He wanted solely 26 putts in his first 18 holes however 34 in his subsequent 18. After gaining practically Three strokes on the sector in placing on Thursday, he misplaced 4.61 on Friday, which was useless final among the many discipline.

“I simply putted dangerous,” Koepka stated. “It wasn’t actually something aside from that. Felt stress-free different than simply lacking some quick ones. On the again 9 they felt good, they have been simply lacking, and on the entrance they simply weren’t good putts.”

After beginning his spherical at No. 10, issues fell aside after Koepka made the flip. He three-putted from Three ft, Three inches on the par-Four second gap.

“I feel it caught slightly little bit of the underside lip, I am unsure,” Koepka stated of his first putt on the opening. “After which the following one, I feel it simply caught the highest lip.”

It isn’t the form of momentum Koepka wished heading into the PGA Championship, the place he is the two-time defending champion. Then once more, Koepka appears to have a shorter reminiscence than most gamers.

When he was requested how troublesome it was to comply with up a 62, he stated, “It isn’t that onerous. … You are enjoying good, so why ought to it’s exhausting? I simply did not putt nicely.

“I’ve obtained 36 holes to go, man. I ain’t apprehensive.”

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