Toms in Complete Control in Memphis


MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Defending champion David Toms fired a 6-under 65 on Saturday to take a commanding lead through three rounds of the St. Jude Classic. He stands at 18-under-par 195 and leads by seven shots over tour rookie Vaughn Taylor.
Toms' seven-stroke lead is the largest 54-hole margin on the PGA Tour this season. Mike Weir, the 2003 Masters champion, held a five-shot edge en route to victory at the Nissan Open.
'I feel in control of my golf swing,' said Toms. 'I just want to go out there tomorrow and play great. I feel good about what's going to happen tomorrow. I feel like I'll play well.'
Brian Gay shot a 66 on Saturday and is alone in third place at 10-under-par 203, followed by Hirofumi Miyase, who has fourth at minus-9. Miyase carded a 4-under 67 in the third round.
Toms, who can become the first player to successfully defend his title at this event since Lee Trevino in 1972, held a one-shot lead and came out firing on Saturday. He birdied two of his first three holes and with a Taylor bogey at three, Toms took a four-shot lead.
Taylor came back with a 4-foot eagle putt at the fifth, but Toms birdied three in a row from the fifth to extend his lead to five. Toms gave Taylor a glimmer of hope at the ninth when his approach missed the green right. He could not get up-and-down for par and Taylor made it a two-shot swing with a tap-in birdie.
That three-shot edge was the closest Taylor would get on Saturday. He dropped a shot at the 10th when he missed a short par putt. Toms rolled home a 15-foot birdie putt at 11 and Taylor found the water at the par-3. Taylor walked off the green with a bogey and a six-stroke deficit.
Taylor, 28, rebounded from the run of poor golf at No. 12. He drained an 18- footer for birdie to close the gap to five, but Toms holed an 8-foot birdie putt at the next to reclaim his six-shot lead.
Taylor sailed his approach long and left at the 17th. His bump-and-run pitch to the green got caught in the rough and trickled 10 feet short of the stick. Taylor missed the putt to fall seven down.
The duo parred out at 18 to give Toms his impressive lead.
Toms has endured a difficult 2004 season. He missed significant time to start the campaign because of wrist surgery, but posted top-10 finishes at the WGC- Accenture Match Play Championship and the Ford Championship at Doral.
Since the tie for fifth at Doral, Toms has not posted a top-20 finish. He has missed five cuts in eight starts, but this week has certainly been an improvement for the 2001 PGA Champion.
'My mental side of the game hasn't been very good,' admitted Toms. 'It's been so slow for me this year so far. When you're not playing very good golf it's not a whole lot of fun.
'I want to enjoy being out on the golf course more. I want to continue to do that tomorrow. I've had fun this week. I'm finally playing a lot better. I made some putts.'
Taylor, who held the opening-round lead, played solidly in his first appearance in the final pairing. He managed an even-par 71 and held his spot in the final twosome on Sunday.
'It was a lot of fun,' said Taylor. 'I think I learned a lot today, about myself and my game. I learned I have to be really focused on what I'm doing. I can't let outside distractions influence me.'
Rich Beem, the 2002 PGA Champion, posted a 4-under 67 and is tied for fifth place with Tim Herron (69) and 2001 St. Jude Classic winner Bob Estes (67). The trio is knotted at 8-under-par 205.
Tom Pernice, Jr. fired an 8-under 63 on Saturday and shares eighth with Craig Bowden (66) and Steve Allan (69) at minus-7.
Local favorite John Daly needs a big round on Sunday if he is to make the U.S. Open in three weeks. Daly needs to get into the top-10 on the tour money list or the top-50 in the World Rankings after this week to be qualified for Shinnecock Hills.
He shot a 1-over-par 72 on Saturday and is tied for 19th at minus-5. Daly trails 10th-place Sergio Garcia by about $177,000 and is 54th in the World Rankings.
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