By Don Wade, Special to PGATOUR.COM
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – It was a nightmare. There’s no other way to describe what happened to Shawn Stefani as he took a quadruple-bogey on the 11th hole Saturday in the third round of the FedEx St. Jude Classic at TPC Southwind. On that one hole, he went from 12 under and leading by two strokes to 8 under and trailing by two.
The beneficiary? Friend and playing partner Harris English.
“It’s tough to watch that, I don’t care who you are,” English said of Stefani’s performance on No. 11, which started with a tee shot into the water. “But he brought it back beautifully.”
Stefani rallied to shoot a 4-under 66 – three strokes better than English – and finish 12 under to carry a one-stroke lead over English into Sunday’s final round. Patrick Reed, who shot a 64 Saturday, Nicholas Thompson and Scott Stallings are tied for third, four strokes back at 8 under. And Phil Mickelson, who has 41 career victories, and rookie Eric Meierdierks are tied for sixth and are five strokes behind at 7 under.
Afterward, Stefani referred to the quad he took on No. 11 as a “small road bump” and said he tried to keep focused on the fact he had played well through the first 10 holes.
“I hit a good tee shot on 12 and the drive on 12 is not the easiest drive on the course,” he said. “And then the birdie on 14 is when I got more calm.”
Stefani had a lead at the Tampa Bay Championship presented by EverBank in March before finishing in a tie for seventh; he then missed four straight cuts.
“I’m actually playing a lot better than I was in Tampa,” said Stefani, who had eight birdies on Saturday, including on Nos. 16-18 as he closed strong. “Having the lead was great, but I’m more prepared with my game.”
And determined, he said, to not look back over his shoulder at Mickelson.
“I can’t worry about what Phil’s doing out there,” said Stefani. “Phil’s Phil. I’m just going to (concentrate) on what I’m doing.”