Austin Cook doesn't get many cracks against the game's best, but he appears to be pretty good at making the most of his opportunities.
Cook, 24, is making just his fourth career PGA Tour start this week at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, but he has now contended on three of those occasions. After finishing T-13 at TPC Southwind last year as a Monday qualifier, Cook returned on a sponsor invite and sits alone in second place after rounds of 68 and 64, one shot behind Brooks Koepka.
Cook will play in the final group on the weekend for the second time this year. He was also in second after 36 holes of the Shell Houston Open, where he again Monday qualified. He played the third round alongside Phil Mickelson, beat the five-time major champ by five shots and eventually finished T-11.
Cook has no status on the PGA Tour, and only conditional Web.com Tour status that has yet to earn him a start. He survived another Monday qualifier last month at the AT&T Byron Nelson Championship, where he missed the cut by a shot, and made his first Web.com Tour start of the year last week, missing the cut as a sponsor invite at the Greater Dallas Open.
Cook carded seven birdies against one bogey in the second round, and has now shot par or better in five of his six career rounds at TPC Southwind. Cook graduated from the University of Arkansas in 2013, the same school that produced an underdog winner in David Lingmerth at last week's Memorial.
The last sponsor invite to win on the PGA Tour was Padraig Harrington earlier this year at the Honda Classic. While a win would not earn Cook a trip to the U.S. Open, a top-10 finish would earn him a spot in the Travelers Championship later this month.