Justin Leonard grabbed the largest 54-hole lead of the year as he shot a 4-under 66 to lead the pack by a whopping 8 strokes. He sits at 17-under. He has carried a lot of confidence into the weekend having shot an 8-under round one and a 5-under round two at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. “I want to finish this off well and I want to play a good solid round tomorrow,” said Leonard. “I don’t want tomorrow to take anything away from what I’ve done this week.”
Leonard felt that consistent and bogey-free golf has made the difference. Leonard said, “I think we’re all going to have stretches where we make a lot of birdies but to get around here with as difficult as these greens are with one bogey I’m pretty proud of.”
Leonard is so far out in front of the pack at the end of round three that the rest of the field seems like an afterthought. Leonard’s wife convinced him to play and he’s certainly glad she did. If he can hold things together tomorrow he will join Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson and Kenny Perry as the only players with multiple wins this season.
Of those trailing Leonard, Heath Slocum is the closest. He is alone in second place at 9-under. “I feel like I’m in a good position” said Slocum. “Obviously I’m way back of first but you know anything can happen with a good round tomorrow.” If Leonard ends the day at par and Slocum posts a record-tying 61 he has a chance. Might as well be hopeful, right?
In third place at 8-under is Tom Pernice who praised Leonard’s performance. “You wouldn’t expect Justin, as well as he is playing, to falter,” said Pernice. “At this point this point it’s Justin’s tournament to win. Its a very impressive three days that he’s put together.” Pernice only managed to go two-under today, carding four birdies and two bogeys.
Fred Funk, Davis Love III, and Paul Goydos are tied for fourth at 7-under. Funk matched Leonard’s day with four birdies and no bogeys, DLIII posted five birdies and two bogeys, and Paul Goydos matched three birdies with three bogies to hold himself back from advancing up the leader-board.
Last year’s winner, David Toms, had one of the rounds of the day and was able to climb the ladder with a solid 7 birdies and two bogies to finish with a 65.
It certainly seems that Leonard has tamed the newly renovated TPC at Southwind and has, like last week’s winner Kenny Perry, run away from the field. We’ll have to see if somebody can make a run at him Sunday. 13 people have held a 54-hole lead of eight or more strokes since 1970 and all of them have gone on to win. If he can put together a round similar to what he’s done here three days in a row nobody has a chance.
Pos Player Tot R1 R2 R3 1 Justin Leonard -17 62 65 66 2 Heath Slocum -9 68 66 67 3 Tom Pernice, Jr. -8 66 68 68 T4 Fred Funk -7 69 68 66 T4 Davis Love III -7 65 70 68 T4 Paul Goydos -7 67 66 70 T7 David Toms -6 68 71 65 T7 Bob Estes -6 67 70 67 T7 Phillip Price -6 67 69 68 T7 Richard S. Johnson -6 69 66 69
Photo Credits: © Steve Grayson/PGA TOUR/WireImage