Korea’s Byeong Hun An made six birdies for the third straight day on Saturday but it was a massive par save on the last which kept him firmly in the hunt in the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.
The 28-year-old An sank a 10-footer on the par 4, 18th hole at TPC Southwind to sign for a 4-under 66, pushing him up to second place and one back of third round leader Brendon Todd. An is chasing a first PGA TOUR victory and seeking to become the first Korean winner in a World Golf Championships event.
“Nice up-and-down on the last, so got some momentum going for tomorrow,” said An.
Starting the day four shots back of Todd, An began his round nicely with a birdie from four feet on the second hole before rolling in a 29-foot birdie putt on the eighth as he continued to reap the rewards of working on his putting with Brad Faxon, an eight-time PGA TOUR winner.
He found trouble on the par 3, 11th hole, mis-clubbing his tee shot into water for a double bogey but bounced back magnificently with four consecutive birdies from the 13th to 16th holes to put himself on the brink of glory.
“Front nine, didn’t hit it great off the tee and then approach to the green wasn’t great, but I made some good saves. Was steady until the 11th where I hit in the water. That wasn’t that bad. The shot’s 30 yards over the green, but it’s the wrong club. The strike was too good. But coming in I made four birdies in a row, I think that helps,” said An, who sits on 11-under 199.
An, who has made 18 birdies so far to co-lead the category, knows he must stick to the proverbial “hit fairways and greens” to keep himself in the title fight. He is in the final pairing with Todd, who is already a two-time winner this season.
“Hit fairways, greens and try to make as many putts as I can. Scores seem like it’s hanging there, no one’s running away with 16 or 17 under. I think the course is not playing that easy because it’s playing soft which plays longer. So I just need to keep in the fairway and give myself tons of birdie chances. It would be nice if I hit it like yesterday, I hit it a lot better than I did today and gave myself more birdie chances. We’ll see what happens. I tend to change a lot every day, so if I feel great, I’m going to hit it great. I’m putting it well, so just keep both of them pretty tight,” said An, who made his debut in the Presidents Cup for the International Team last December.
In 14 previous starts in World Golf Championships events, An holds one top-10, a tie for ninth at the 2016 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play while he has three career runner-up finishes on the PGA TOUR, with the most recent being at the 2018 RBC Canadian Open. He has five top-10s this season.
Before working with Faxon, An ranked 203rd in Strokes Gained: Putting for the season but is currently ranked 14th through three rounds in Memphis this week.
Countryman Sungjae Im, who is third in the FedExCup points list, enters the final day in T10 following a 69 while Sung Kang slipped back to to tied 22nd place after a 72 on Saturday.