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Thornberry shoots up leaderboard with a 65 in third round of St. Jude Classic

MEMPHIS — There is something about TPC Southwind that brings out the best in Braden Thornberry.

After a second round 66 on Friday afternoon to finish just inside the cut line, Thornberry followed it up with a five-under 65 in the third round on Saturday.

He is six-under overall and will trail by nine shots when he tees of tomorrow at 12:04 p.m. CT for the fourth round. Dustin Johnson and Adam Putnam are the 54-hole leaders at 15-under after having rounds of 65 and 66, respectively.

The round ties his career-best at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, shooting a 65 during last year’s final round to earn a top-five finish in his Tour debut.

“Everything throughout the bag was really solid,” Thornberry said. “The putter was really hot. Maybe even hotter than the other (days). I was pretty happy with the way everything came around.”

For the fifth competitive round in a row this week — including Monday’s two U.S. Open qualifying rounds — Thornberry began the day with a birdie on his opening hole. That was followed up with a birdie on the par-5 third hole for a quick two-under start in his first three holes.

A string of back-to-back-to-back birdies on holes 6-8 capped a front-nine 30. Thornberry is shooting five-under on the front nine this week.

“I did exactly what my goal was today,” Thornberry said. “I was trying to play a good front-nine and kind of get myself into it early so I could to the back-nine and not have to force the issue on some of those shots.”

The final nine holes have not been as kind to Thornberry. He is shooting one-under golf on the finishing holes and Saturday proved to be no different.

A birdie on the par-three 14th hole was negated by a bogey on 17 after Thornberry was unable to use his short game to get up and down from a green side bunker.

“The back nine just requires a little bit more precision in spots,” Thornberry said. “It might actually be shorter than the front, but you’ve got to put it in the right position. A couple loose shots will really penalize you back there.”

With his name near the top of the leaderboard entering Sunday the big names joining Thornberry’s do not seem to bother the rising Ole Miss senior.

After rising up the leaderboard, the crowd swelled and the television cameras followed Thornberry on his final two holes, giving him a taste of what to expect on Sunday if he finds himself in one of the final groups.

“You have to think of yourself as the best of the best and that’s what I do when I get out here,” Thornberry said. “I don’t think I’m any lesser than the guys I’m playing with. I just really enjoy the competition out here and to know when I play well there’s other guy’s playing well and just let the best man win.”

The course record is 61 (nine-under), something Thornberry will have to shoot or better if he wants to make a run at the tournament championship in his final tune-up round before heading to New York for next week’s U.S. Open.