June 9 (Reuters) - Dustin Johnson and Andrew Putnam were tied at the top after the third round at the FedEx St. Jude Classic on Saturday as the two leaders separated themselves from the pack.
In a promising tune-up for next week’s U.S. Open, Johnson continued his excellent form with a five-under-par 65 on a scorching day at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee.
But Putnam was even better, putting brilliantly for a 64 to join Johnson at 15-under 195, five strokes clear of fellow American Stewart Cink (64) with one round left.
World number two Johnson will regain top spot if he wins on Sunday. More importantly, he would head to Shinnecock Hills with a spring in his step for the second major championship of the year.
Johnson, 33, has won 17 times on the PGA Tour, including the 2016 U.S. Open, while Putnam’s thin resume pales by comparison, with nothing higher than a top-five finish in 43 career starts.
The 29-year-old has made only one bogey through 54 holes. He knows it will be the biggest Sunday of his career as he plays in the final pairing for the first time.
“It’s going to feel a little different than a typical Sunday round of golf but I’m excited. I’ve earned my way here,” he said.
Cink moved into third place with a round that included the fifth hole-in-one of his career, from 144 yards at the par-three eighth — a “perfect yardage” for a pitching wedge into a slight headwind.
His ball landed softly in the fringe, bounced forward and trickled into the left side of the cup as Cink raised his arms in celebration.
“Statistically, you feel like you should have made holes in one all the time out here as much as you play out here but they don’t come around very often,” the 2009 British Open champion said.
“This week I haven’t driven it that well. Normally you have to drive it really well to succeed here but my iron shots have been good when I’ve been in the fairway and I’ve managed myself out of the rough really well.”
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Clare Fallon