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Robert Garrigus takes two shot lead

Still recovering from a bout of food poisoning, Robert Garrigus shot a 4-under 66 to break out of a pack and grab a two-stroke lead over Robert Karlsson of Sweden after three rounds at a steamy St. Jude Classic on Saturday.

It’s the first time the 32-year-old Garrigus has led a U.S. PGA Tour event by himself, and he surged to the top of the leaderboard with four birdies and an eagle against two bogeys to reach 11-under 199.

Karlsson, who shot a 68, is within striking distance of becoming the first European to win this event—the tour’s third oldest dating to 1958.

Englishman Lee Westwood, ranked No. 3, had led or had a share of the lead after the first two rounds. He had four bogeys and finished with a 71 that left him tied with Heath Slocum (66) at 8 under.

Garrigus said he usually looks at leaderboards too much.

“I took a peek on No. 11, saw that I was right there near the lead or maybe birdied to take the lead or something like that. I just put it out of my head,” Garrigus said. “After that, I really didn’t look. I didn’t know what anybody was doing behind me. I was just concentrating on my game, which I should probably do tomorrow.

Memphis local Shaun Micheel (70) was tied with Tim Petrovic (70) and Lee Janzen (70) at 6 under. Tom Pernice Jr. was among 10 who missed a second straight cut to trim the field from 81 to 71 at 3 over.

With temperatures in the 90s F (low 30s C) and a heat index over 100 degrees (38 C), golfers turned Saturday into a race to the top of the leaderboard in this last tuneup for the U.S. Open. Westwood was the biggest name among a group of leaders that was as big as seven at one point until Garrigus’ putter got hot.

“I’m only three back so anything can happen,” Westwood said.

Garrigus has never finished better than a tie for third. He’s done that twice before in the 2007 Frys.com and again at the 2008 Turning Stone Resort Championship. He has made just three of seven cuts this year and came to Memphis recovering from a bout of food poisoning so intense he had to withdraw from U.S. Open qualifying Monday after seven holes.

He stayed mostly in his hotel room Monday through Wednesday trying to recover with sleep and fluids. Watching his beloved Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup on Wednesday night may have helped his recovery by the time he reached the course Thursday for the first round.

Garrigus opened with a 67 and 66. He started the third round only two strokes back of Westwood and Garrett Willis and was in a group just ahead of them with Karlsson and Janzen. Garrigus, who uses a 29 1/2-inch putter, was upset with himself for missing a short birdie putt on No. 3.

He responded by rolling in a 9-footer for his first birdie on the par-3 No. 4 and had a 4-foot birdie putt on No. 11. Then he really got the putter working, rolling in a 22-footer on No. 12 to take the lead for the first time and a 21-footer for birdie on No. 15. That made him the first golfer to reach double-digits under par at the TPC Southwind course.

Garrigus then padded his lead on the par-5 16th by showing he can hit the other clubs in his bag, too.

“I’ve been making so many good strokes and I haven’t really worried about where it’s going,” he said. “That’s really what you’re supposed to do. The top players in the world do it.”

He hit his drive 321 yards, and his second shot went 198 as the ball just missed the hole a few inches to the right before stopping less than 6 feet away. He rolled in the putt for eagle and dropped to 12 under for a 4-stroke lead. He just missed another birdie from the back of the 17th green when the ball went just right of the hole.

Karlsson was in and out of the lead throughout the round. He finished with three bogeys and four birdies, his last on No. 18.

“My game I’m trying to get around. I’m very, very happy with it. I played well,” Karlsson said.

Westwood lost ground on the back nine when he hit into the water guarding the green on the par-3 14th on his way to a bogey. He birdied No. 16 only to give back that stroke on No. 17 after finding the rough twice.

“I didn’t play particularly well, didn’t hit the ball very well,” Westwood said. “I wasn’t in control of my swing that much, and I think it shows you know how good my game has progressed and still shoot 71 under the pressure of the lead.”

That left Garrigus alone in the group just ahead of Westwood. He missed his chance to take a bigger lead to the clubhouse when he hit his drive on No. 18 into the right rough, easily avoiding the lake to the left of the fairway. His approach stayed right behind a greenside bunker, and he finished with a bogey.

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