(Reuters) - Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello chipped in on successive holes on his way to a five-under 65 and a share of the lead after the third round at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tennessee on Saturday.
Americans Stewart Cink (69) and Ben Crane (68) joined Cabrera Bello at the top on a crowded leaderboard, with eight players bunched within two strokes with one round left at TPC Southwind.
There is never a bad time to chip in, but Cabrera Bello’s first hole-out, from 50 feet at the par-five third, steadied the ship after a morale-sapping bogey at the first.
“The chip-in for sure took the pressure off the round a little bit and helped me find my game,” said Cabrera Bello, who subsequently holed out from 30 feet at the par-three fourth and then completed a hat-trick of birdies by sinking a 20-foot putt at the next.
“I’m playing good. I’m confident on the greens. I think I’m playing this course in a smart way well and obviously putting good.”
Cabrera Bello, in his first season as a PGA Tour member, observed that course conditions often changed drastically during tournament week.
“It’s like a live creature and it changes,” the world number 30 said colourfully. “The pro-am Wednesday has nothing to do with how firm it was today and I can only imagine how hard it will be tomorrow.”
Former British Open champion Cink had a tale of two halves, a strong front nine giving way to a two-over back nine that included three bogeys.
But he did enough to join the log-jam atop the leaderboard at nine-under 201, as did Crane, the 2014 champion, who had two birdies in a bogey-free round.
Americans Chad Campbell and Luke List trailed by one stroke, while South African Charl Schwartzel, who had a share of the halfway lead, regressed with a 74 to fall four strokes off the pace.
Five-times major winner Phil Mickelson also fell four back after slicing his tee shot into a water hazard for a closing double-bogey, while former world number one Adam Scott trailed by five.
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Alan Baldwin / Ian Ransom