Here’s a breakdown of today’s final pairing, Robert Karlsson and Harrison Frazar, who will tee off in about a half hour. Karlsson was cruising along in the third round until a couple of late bogeys -- and a birdie by Frazar on the final hole -- cut the Swede’s lead to just one.
· Karlsson is now 21 under in his last seven rounds at
TPC Southwind with 31 birdies, and just 10
bogeys in his last 126 holes played here.
· Karlsson has been dialed in with his irons hitting 72 percent of the greens in regulation -- tied for first in the field -- and is averaging just over of 30 feet to the pin on all approach shots (18th in the field).
· Around the greens, Karlsson has successfully salvaged par or better 12 times (out of 15 missed greens), which ranks fifth in the field in terms of scrambling.
· Entering the week, Karlsson ranked 140th on TOUR for strokes gained-putting, losing nearly a quarter of a stroke per round to the field. This week, he’s gained 1.750 strokes per round on the field.
· Frazar started his week with a 1-over 71 and was tied for 54th through his first 18 holes. However, Frazar has 12 birdies and just one bogey over his last 36 holes.
· For the week, Frazar ranks T14 in total driving, eighth
in ball striking, T5 for greens in regulation, T7 for
proximity to the hole, fourth in scrambling and ninth for strokes gained-putting.
· In the opening round Frazar lost nearly three strokes to the field with his putter. He’s turned things around since, gaining over seven strokes on the field with his putter over his last 36 holes.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
Robert Karlsson didn’t bother looking at the leaderboard Saturday. Not because his lead was slipping away, but because to him it didn’t matter.
“I'm very, very happy with where I am at the moment,” Karlsson said after a 2-under 68 Saturday that has him one shot in the clear. “You're going to make a mistake here and there.”
The mistakes Karlsson was speaking of just happened to come on the 17th and 18th holes as he bogeyed each.
Leading at one point by five during the third round before Karlsson’s lead started to shrink, the Swede wasn’t about to change his plan of attack however.
“I'm not going to start to play safe the last few holes of the third round,” he said. “It's just not the way it works. Try to hit your best shot every -- when you can and every given time, and then you go from there.”
Where Karlsson hopes to go on Sunday is into the winner’s circle for the first time on the PGA TOUR.
Despite 11 international victories, Karlsson has never won on U.S. soil. Even though he’s in the lead with one round to play, he’s trying to not look ahead.
”Just keep doing what I'm doing,” Karlsson said. “I mean, it's 72-hole golf tournament. It's a long, long way to go still, and I'm -- as I said, I'm very happy with where I'm standing.”
So much for that. What once looked like a runaway for Robert Karlsson is now just a one-shot lead for the Swede as he chases his first career victory on the PGA TOUR.
That’s what bogeys on Karlsson’s final two holes resulted in as he finished with a 2-under 68. Prior to the 17th and 18th holes Saturday, Karlsson had made just two bogeys all week.
It didn’t help that managed just a par on the par-5 16th, the easiest hole on the golf course this week.
“I hit poor shot on 17 and on 18 pushed my driver,” Karlsson said afterward. “I’m still very happy. I played well here last year so I’m looking forward to [Sunday].”
With Robert Karlsson comfortably up by four and staring at yet another birdie late in his round at TPC Southwind the Swede is not only poised for his first win on the PGA TOUR, he would move way up in the FedExCup standings with a victory.
Karlson, who entered the week 98th in the standings ( click here for projected points ), would move to 27th if the tournament ended now and he could climb even higher than that.
That wouldn’t be the biggest leap, however. That honor would go to Harrison Frazar, who came into the week 178th but is projected to move to 80th.
We’re halfway through the third round in Memphis, where it’s quickly turning into the Robert Karlsson show.
Through his first eight holes Saturday, Karlsson is 3 under .That has him 12 under for the week and five shots clear of his closest competitor, John Merrick, who just made the turn at 2 under.
Two others, Harrison Frazar and Colt Knost, are six back with Kris Blanks another stroke back from that to round out the top five.
In other words, Karlsson is in position to avenge a playoff loss of a year ago. Through his first 44 holes this year, Karlsson has just two bogeys.
The biggest reason why? He’s second in the field in greens in regulation and fourth in putting. That’s led a field-best 14 birdies.
After playing a limited PGA Tour schedule of 11 events last year, Karlsson earned his exempt status by finishing in the top 125 on the money list as a non-Tour member.
''It's a new challenge after playing 20 years in Europe,'' said Karlsson. ''It's very different to play here. The golf courses are set up differently. You have to learn how to grind it out a little more. The short game is harder ... it takes a lot to get used to.''
In his first 10 events of the year, Karlsson had made seven cuts and more than $548,000. His best finish came last last month when he tied for fifth at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Fort Worth, Texas.
''I can't say I'm excited with the way I've played this spring,'' he said. ''But I know I can play this game, so I just keep going.''
Karlsson started his round Friday on the back nine and one shot behind Mathis. Karlsson quickly grabbed the lead with birdies at 11, 15, 16 and 18. Solid iron play resulted in four of his birdie putts being 10 feet or less.
The only hiccup came at No. 8 when he slid a short par putt to the right of the hole. But, for the most part, TPC Southwind has been a friendly trek for Karlsson. In six rounds, he has shot six sub-par scores.
''I think last year when I played the practice round, I learned a lesson,'' he said. ''I took on a little too much from the tee and, on this golf course, I think if you start hitting it in the rough it's very, very difficult to get it close to the pin. It's better to have an 8 iron, or 7 iron, from the fairway instead of a wedge from the rough.''
Those who are familiar with Karlsson's game expect him to be comfortable playing with the lead.
''Karlsson is a tough front-runner,'' said former Memphian and two-time major champion John Daly, who shot 73-142 to make it on the cut line. ''He doesn't fold. I've played with him enough to know he doesn't fold.''
And what must be of concern to those chasing Karlsson is his brief history playing TPC Southwind. In six rounds he is shooting 19-under par. He had four rounds in the 60s a year ago and Friday's 5-under 65 represented his best 18 holes at the FESJC.
''This has been a good place for a lot of Swedes,'' said Jacobson, Karlsson's countryman. ''I know Richard Johnson has played well a couple of times and I've had some good finishes here and Robert obviously played great here last year and got himself in a playoff. He must be playing some great golf this week.''
Bradley, winner of his first PGA Tour event last month at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, has posted back-to-back 67s. Friday's 3-under round was bogey-free.
''I played a great round of golf today,'' said Bradley, nephew of former LPGA great Pat Bradley. ''I did hit a few funky shots, but when I did, I got it up and down. I hit a shot on 17 that looked like one my uncle hits. Luckily, I got that one up and down.''
Knost, a 2007 SMU graduate, finished 15th on the Nationwide Tour money list last year to earn his exempt status on the PGA Tour in 2011. He entered the FESJC having missed four straight cuts, but has placed himself in contention with rounds of 66 and 68.
''I'd been kind of struggling coming into this event,'' Knost said. ''I just kind of took a new mindset this week, got off to a great start (Thursday) and played solid again (Friday). But this is a tough golf course. You can't fall asleep out there and expect give yourself a chance for the weekend.''
John Merrick, Cameron Tringale and Retief Goosen are among those making a move on moving day in Memphis, where they’re 3 under, 3 under and 4 under, respectively.
The bad news for them is that Robert Karlsson is also playing well, at 2 under through his first two holes and leading by three over Merrick. Tringale and Goosen, meanwhile, are seven shots back and among a cluster of players tied for fifth.
On the PGA TOUR in 2011, the second-round leader has gone on to win just five times in 23 stroke-play events on the season. Of course the last of those was just last week with Steve Stricker winning at Muirfield Village. And since the tournament moved to TPC Southwind in 1989, the second-round leader of the FedEx St. Jude Classic has gone on to win eight times, including in each of the last two years.
Even though Robert Karlsson lost in a playoff in Memphis a year ago, he’s played TPC Southwind better than anyone over the last six rounds.
Karlsson has posted six straight rounds in the 60s there dating back to the 2010 tournament and as a result has a three-shot lead entering today’s third round.
The last time a player held at least a three-stroke lead at the FedEx St. Jude Classic after 36-holes? Justin Leonard in 2005 when he led by five and eventually went on to win.
Karlsson is now a combined 19 under in his last six rounds in Memphis and is looking to become the first player since Ryuji Imada at the AT&T Classic in 2007-08 to lose in a playoff and then go on to win the same event the following year. Phil Mickelson at the Northern Trust Open also finished second in a playoff and then won the same two years (2007-08).
Karlsson is also looking to join a group of just three players that have recorded top-10s in their first two appearances at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in the tournament’s 53-year history. Karlsson has won 11 times internationally, but has yet to win on the PGA TOUR.
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By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
Clearly Robert Karlsson has some good mojo in Memphis, and a liking for the golf course. Last year, he was a runner-up there and through two rounds this year is in the clubhouse at 9 under with just two bogeys.
Friday, Karlsson went out in 31, starting on the back nine, with four birdies and no bogeys on his way to a 65. Karlsson has now had six straight rounds under par there dating back to last year.
“I like this golf course and I played quite well over two days, and I scored well and I just like this place,” Karlsson said. “I don't know what to say more.”
The biggest reason Karlsson is in contention again here? For one, he’s hitting just enough fairways (and his misses have been close enough) to not put himself in too much trouble off the tee on a course that has some pretty thick rough. For another, he’s hitting a lot of greens -- just over 72 percent.
“If you start hitting it in the rough, it's very, very difficult to get it close to the pin sometimes,” Karlsson said. “It can be better to have an 8-iron from the fairway or 7-iron from the fairway instead of a wedge from the rough. The greens are firm and the rough is really, really brutal to control the golf ball out of.”
Of course Karlsson also doesn’t want to get ahead of himself either. Asked what a win on the PGA TOUR would mean, after 11 career victories around the world, he said, “That is a question we discuss when it happens.”
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
Two years ago, Robert Karlsson was losing the vision on his left eye because of a rare condition that he still takes special eye drops for. The Swede couldn’t read the lines on his putts and everything was blurry.
Since being treated, however, Karlsson’s sight has been much better, and at least in Memphis so has his play.
A year ago, Karlsson was part of a three-man playoff at TPC Southwind, where he eventually lost to Lee Westwood on the fourth extra hole. Today, he’s trying to make sure there is no need for a playoff.
Karlsson is 9 under for the week -- including 5 under through his first 12 holes -- and at the moment is four shots clear of his closest competitor.
”It's great to be back here,” Karlsson said after his opening-round 66. “I do like the golf course.
“I learned quite quickly that you want to stay out of the rough and play the course from tee to green. Stay in the fairway as much as possible. You can't stop the ball from the rough.”
Karlsson hasn’t done a great job of avoiding the rough -- he’s hit 15 of 24 fairways -- but he has done an excellent job of recovering from it, hitting 23 of 32 greens in regulation so far.
The Swede is also putting well -- something that was almost impossible a couple of years ago -- and that’s as big a reason he’s in the position he is as anything.
As for overnight leader David Mathis, he hasn’t been able to take advantage of an early tee time. He’s just even par through his first nine holes.
Ditto defending champion Lee Westwood, who is even par for the tournament and 1 over through 13 holes here in the second round.