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Cameron Smith two back at St. Jude, and one victory from becoming No. 1 in the world

Cameron Smith shot 67 in the third round of the FedEx St. Jude Championship.Andy Lyons/Getty

J.J. Spaun did just enough right at the end to fashion a 2-under-par 68 and keep his one-shot lead Saturday in the FedEx St. Jude Championship at Memphis with a familiar name lurking.

At stake for Cameron Smith is No. 1 in the world.

Already a banner year with his first major win at the British Open, and under heavy scrutiny for reports he is headed to Saudi-funded LIV Golf, Smith birdied his last hole for a 67. That left him two shots behind and fully aware a victory moves him to No. 1 in the world.

“That’s been one of my goals probably since the start of the year is to try to get to that top spot,” Smith said. “Try and chase it down.”


The chase will start out in a traffic jam.

Spaun had a two-putt birdie on the par-5 16th and holed an 18-foot birdie putt on the next hole to claim the 54-hole lead at 13-under 197.

Sepp Straka was right there with him until he failed to save par from the bunker on the 18th for a 68 that left him one shot behind. Both are first-time winners on the PGA Tour this year, and a victory in a FedEx Cup playoff carries even more weight — $2.7 million to the winner and a guaranteed spot at East Lake for the FedEx Cup finale.

Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, the No. 1 player in the world and in the FedEx Cup since March, missed the cut. That paves the way for Smith, whose three wins this year include The Players Championship, to reach No. 1 if he were to win.

Will Zalatoris is just as hungry, for different reasons. Zalatoris has been a tough customer in the majors, losing in a playoff at the PGA Championship and finishing one back in the US Open. He is No. 14 in the world. And he has yet to win on the PGA Tour.


Zalatoris opened with a 71 that put him in such a hole that even his fiancée wanted to know their plans if he didn’t make it to the weekend.

“I told her, ‘Let’s cross that bridge when we get there,’ ” Zalatoris said with a smile. He decided to let his new caddie, Joel Stock, read putts in their second official round together. Zalatoris shot a 63 and followed with a 65 Saturday.

He also was two behind, along with Trey Mullinax (66).

As for the chase to the next playoff event, consider Tyler Duncan. He is No. 118 in the FedEx Cup, and only the top 70 move on to the BMW Championship next week in Delaware. Duncan had a 67 and was tied for sixth. He was three behind, and even if he doesn’t win, he can move on if he can hold his position.

That won’t be easy with so many players in the mix — 16 players separated by four shots. That group includes Sam Burns and Tony Finau. A winner in his last two starts, Finau ended his streak of 11 consecutive rounds at 68 or lower. He made a bogey on the last hole that gave him a 69, leaving him four behind.

No one stands out like Smith, for so many reasons. Not only is it his first start since being introduced at St. Andrews as the “champion golfer of the year,” the Daily Telegraph reported on Tuesday that he had signed with LIV and would join the defectors outside Boston after the Tour Championship is over.


Smith has steadfastly refused to talk about it, only to say he’s only thinking of the FedEx Cup.

“I’m a man of my word and whenever you guys need to know anything, it’ll be said by me,” Smith said Tuesday. That was shortly before a California federal judge denied a request by three LIV golfers to play in the FedEx Cup playoffs.

US Women’s Amateur — Saki Baba of Japan routed American Bailey Shoemaker 7 and 6 on Saturday at Chambers Bay to reach the final at University Place, Wash.

Baba, 17, will face 21-year-old Canadian Monet Chun, a rising junior at Michigan, in the 36-hole final Sunday.

Chun, competing in her first USGA championship, beat UCLA’s Annabel Wilson of Ireland, 2 and 1.

Baba is trying to become the second Japanese winner in tournament history, following Michiko Hattori in 1985. Cathy Sherk is the lone Canadian champion, taking the 1978 title.

Baba was one of four amateurs to make the cut in the US Women’s Open at Pine Needles, tying for 49th.

European/LPGA/LET — Ewen Ferguson of Scotland extended his lead to three strokes by shooting 2-under 68 in the third round of the ISPS Handa World Invitational at Ballymena, Northern Ireland.

The tournament is tri-sanctioned with the Ladies European Tour and the LPGA Tour. The men and women play from different tees and compete separately, with two equal prize funds of $1.5 million each.


In the women’s event, American Amanda Doherty led for the third straight day and was still one shot ahead, on 12-under 206 for the tournament, in her bid for a first LPGA Tour title.