Karlsson maintains advantage

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A two-under-par 68 from Robert Karlsson was good enough to see him maintain the lead at the St. Jude Classic on Saturday.

A two-under-par 68 from Robert Karlsson was good enough to see him maintain the lead at the St. Jude Classic on Saturday.

The Swede stands ready to move into the top 30 in the FedExCup standings with a win at the TPC Southlands in Memphis this week, and at one stage led by as many as five shots before bogeys on 17 and 18 brought him closer to the field, eventually finishing on 11 under .

Karlsson leads American Harrison Frazar, who shot a third-round 66, by one shot heading into the final round. Another American, John Merrick, lies a further shot behind Frazar in third, while South African Retief Goosen is alone in fourth a shot behind Merrick after carding a 64 himself.

Frazar birdied three of his final four holes in his 64, including a 42-footer for birdie on the 18th, as he focused on his own game under the impression that Karlsson had pulled well away from the field.

This is Karlsson’s first full year on the PGA Tour after earning an exemption when he finished in the top 125 on the money list in 2010. The closest he’s come to winning in America was at this tournament a year ago, where he lost to Lee Westwood on the fourth play-off hole.

Karlsson does have 11 European tour wins, and will be hoping he can carry over some of his ability to close out victories in Europe over to the US come Sunday.

“Robert looks like he’s not going to fall back,” Goosen said (albeit before Karlsson’s late-round stumble). “Playing really solid. Need to get another round like this in tomorrow to get a chance to catch him.

“You have to grind it out there,” he continued. “It’s not one of the longest courses we play on tour, but it’s very tricky and especially these breezy conditions and the heat. The greens are getting crusty out there, too.”

On the 17th, Karlsson stuck his approach in the greenside bunker and failed to get up and down for his first bogey, and another errant approach to 18 led to a failed chip shot from the right of the green that only reached the longer grass just short of it. Karlsson failed to sink the par putt that followed and suddenly his lead had been slashed.

“I hit a poor shot on 17 and on 18 pushed my driver,” Karlsson said. “I’m still very happy. I played well here last year so I’m looking forward to [Sunday].”

Karlsson started his round with two solid pars, and then quickly started opening up a gap between himself and the rest of the field by birdying the third and fourth. He then rolled in a 35-footer for birdie on the sixth.

John Merrick briefly challenged early on with three straight birdies on the front nine, getting to within a shot of Karlsson’s lead, but that was the closest anyone got till the end of the day.

Frazar had seven birdies and a bogey in his round, finishing strongly with birdies on 15, 16 and 18 to make the most of Karlsson’s slips. He is also seeking his first Tour win.

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