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 first main of the season, solely a week away, a few of the golf’s largest names, together with a handful who’ve struggled with their video games and others who’ve made massive modifications, are lastly beginning to discover their type.

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

Rickie Fowler, looking for his first victory in more than a 12 months and solely his second in more than three years, is 2 photographs 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 tight again, are also in the combine heading into Saturday’s third spherical.

Here’s what to look for this weekend in Memphis:

Fowler’s drought

Once thought-about the greatest participant with out a main championship, Fowler would most likely just prefer to win any match today. His final victory got here at the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open and the one earlier than that was the 2017 Honda Classic.

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

Finally, Fowler is beginning to see the mild — and a reward for the arduous 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 more to enhance the timing of his swing.

“Everyone that plays golf deals with bad stretches or times where things aren’t going your way,” Fowler stated. “Yeah, this year hasn’t been my greatest. Been working on a lot of stuff. I think this year’s been interesting for a lot of people.”

Thanks to his red-hot putter, Fowler had seven birdies on Thursday and 5 more in the second spherical.

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

“I like playing the week before a major so that I know where my game’s at, know what I need to do Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and go play Thursday,” he stated. “I feel like I’m heading in the right direction. I think that’s been my main goal — to go through some changes for the better. Sometimes you’ve got to take that step back to take two steps forward. I feel like we already made the step back. I feel like we’ve made a step forward. I’m looking for that next step.”

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

“He hits it far enough, he’s got a great short game, he’s a gamer and he’s not scared,” Tillery stated. “He’s the real deal. I’m just trying to make it easier for him and understand what his priorities are. Then I can get out of the way and let his talent take over. It’s a good sign heading into next week.”

Todd nonetheless rising

A 12 months in the past, Todd barely ranked amongst the high 800 gamers in the world. He hadn’t received on the PGA Tour since 2014 and missed 37 of 41 cuts whereas battling a extreme case of the full-swing yips.

Winning in back-to-back begins at the Bermuda Championship and Mayakoba Golf Classic in November already certified as one among the biggest comeback tales in PGA Tour historical past.

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

“In my whole life, this is definitely the most confident I’ve ever felt with my golf game,” Todd stated. “It’s probably the most versatile I’ve ever been ballstriking-wise. I still don’t hit it far, but I feel like I’m able to shape shots a little bit. And my short game’s solid, so it just kind of comes down to how the putting is.”

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

“It would be really, really satisfying,” Todd stated. “I feel like as a junior golfer, college golfer, I was always winning big events. Now I’m capable of winning big events on the professional stage. I’m really excited to have the confidence now and the tools in my game to compete for these titles. Just having a chance to win one is a big deal right now.”

Is Koepka actually again?

A day after Koepka shot an 8-under 62 to match the greatest spherical of his profession, he completed 1 over to fall 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 subject in placing on Thursday, he misplaced 4.61 on Friday, which was useless final amongst the subject.

“I just putted bad,” Koepka stated. “It wasn’t really anything other than that. Felt stress-free other than just missing some short ones. On the back nine they felt good, they were just missing, and on the front they just 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 think it caught a little bit of the bottom lip, I’m not sure,” Koepka stated of his first putt on the gap. “And then the next one, I think it just caught the top lip.”

It’s not the sort of momentum Koepka needed 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’s not that arduous. … You’re enjoying good, so why ought to or not it’s arduous? I just did not putt effectively.

“I’ve bought 36 holes to go, man. I ain’t fearful.”

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