Rookie One Round From Victory

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Richard S. Johnson carded a 2-under 69 on Saturday to take the 54-hole lead of the St. Jude Classic at the TPC at Southwind. He stands at 14-under-par 199 and owns a one-shot lead over 2001 PGA Championship winner David Toms.
 
Tim Herron (65), David Peoples (71), Fredrik Jacobson (68) and two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen (67) share third place at 12-under-par 201.
 
Johnson, a tour rookie who shared the second-round lead with John Huston, opened the scoring with a seven-foot birdie putt at No. 2 after a long 3-wood off the tee and a beautiful pitching-wedge approach.
 
He fell one behind Huston when Huston birdied six, but Johnson reclaimed a piece of the lead when he stuck an 8-iron three feet from the hole at the eighth.
 
Huston fell down the leaderboard with a missed two-foot par save at No. 9, but Johnson also slipped at the 11th. Johnson misjudged the wind at 11 and plugged a 7-iron into the bunker. He failed to get up and down and fell back into a tie for the lead.
 
Johnson took back first place when his pitching-wedge approach at the 13th resulted in a five-foot birdie putt. Huston closed with three bogeys in his last five holes to give Johnson sole possession of the lead as Toms was in the clubhouse for quite a while when Johnson finished his round.
 
'I felt really calm out there today,' said Johnson. 'I wasn't hardly nervous at all, just went out with the attitude of trying to play my game and didn't look at the leaderboard. I was trying not to but you always get a sneak peek at it once in a while. I'm very happy with how I performed but not very happy with the putting.'
 
Johnson won the 2002 ANZ Championship on the European Tour and that was contested under the Stableford scoring system. He is looking for not only his first victory in a stroke-play format but also his first PGA Tour title in only his 15th start on tour.
 
'I just have to keep playing like I've done the last three days,' said the Swede. 'I just have to get the putter rolling again. If I can do that, I think I have a very good chance of taking this home.'
 
Staring him down will be Toms, who won this year's Wachovia Championship and tied for fifth at the U.S. Open two weeks ago.
 
Toms flew out of the gate Saturday with a 12-foot birdie putt at No. 1. At the par-5 third, Toms two-putted for birdie from 45 feet, then chipped in for birdie with a lob-wedge at the fourth.
 
Toms made it three birdies in a row at No. 5 when, once again he reached the green in two at the par-5 hole and two-putted from 30 feet.
 
'I got off to a good start today,' said Toms. 'That was key to having a fairly low round. I was four-under through five and then finished up well.'
 
At the par-5 16th, Toms landed over the green in two, but chipped his third to five feet and cashed in on the birdie opportunity. One hole later, Toms knocked a pitching-wedge inside two feet and tapped in the birdie to polish off his round of 6-under 65.
 
After his major breakthrough at the PGA Championship in 2001, Toms went winless in 2002, despite making nearly $3.5 million. His win in North Carolina in mid-May stopped something of a slump and now the LSU graduate is thinking of becoming the seventh multiple winner on the PGA Tour in 2003.
 
'I don't have that doubt in the back of my mind, 'can I do this again?' It had been a while since I won when I won there (Wachovia Championship) and I've gotten that monkey off my back,' said Toms. 'I know that I can do it again, so that's not going to be a factor tomorrow. The only thing I have to do is go out and play good golf.'
 
Ben Crane shot a seven-under 64 in the third round and is alone in seventh place at 11-under-par 202.
 
Huston struggled to a 2-over 73 on Saturday and is part of a logjam in eighth at 10-under par. Among the notable players who joined Huston four shots off the lead are: Notah Begay III, Bob Estes, Chris DiMarco and Jay Haas.
 
Related Links
  • Full-field scores from the FedEx St. Jude Classic
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