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JJ Spahn birdied two of the last three holes to shoot a two-under 68 for a one-shot lead after Saturday’s third round of the US PGA Tour St. Jude Championship.

The Spaniard birdied the par-5 16th and made a 17-foot birdie putt at the 17th, then stood alone at the top as Austrian Sepp Straka missed a nine-foot par putt on the 18th at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee.

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The 31-year-old American shot 13-under 197 through 54 holes to tie Straka at 198 and shoot a 68.

British Open champion Cameron Smith of Australia shot a 67 to tie for third at 199 with Americans Will Zalatoris and Trey Mullinax. Americans Tyler Duncan and Troy Merritt were the other stroke surfers.

However, Smith had to take some stick from fans as he walked the course.

The tournament opens the FedEx Cup playoffs, three season-ending events with an $18 million prize pool.

Only 125 players advance to the BMW Championship, where 30 qualifiers are selected for the Tour Championship in Atlanta, and only the top 70 are selected.

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Spann won his first PGA title since his 147th tour debut at the Texas Open in April.Straka, who had missed six straight cuts this week, won his first PGA title at the Honda Classic in February.

Spann started with 9 pars before a bogey on 10, but sank an 11-foot birdie putt on the par-3 11th and Strachan reached the close.

After a birdie-bogey start, Straka sank a 15-foot birdie putt on the fifth hole and another from 12 feet on the sixth, but fell short with a bogey at seven.

Straka took the lead solo with a 16-foot birdie putt on the 13th and sank a six-foot birdie putt on 15 to take a two-shot lead and set the stage for Spann’s run.

Still chasing his first PGA Tour victory, Zalatoris was runner-up at this year’s PGA Championship and US Open and last year’s Masters debut.

“I have played on three major levels and felt comfortable in these positions,” he said.

“I haven’t won yet. We will do it eventually and hopefully it will be tomorrow.

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World No. 14 Zalatoris, who turned 26 on Tuesday, has a PGA-record eight top-10 wins this season.

“Today was awesome,” Zalatoris said of the 65-year-old.

“Tea to Green was great and I rolled in a pretty nice (coat), so I’ll have to keep that going.”

Zalatoris parted ways with caddy Ryan Goble last week and new caddy Joel Stock read the last 36 holes.

“It was great,” Zalatoris said.

“He’s been great. It’s obviously paid off. He’s doing a great job,” he said.

Mullinax, who shot a 66, won his first PGA title at last month’s Barbasol Championship.

He started the week 70th in points, last place to pass, but is on pace to jump into the top 30.

“I was playing really well,” he said. “Just going out and sticking to the game plan.”

Duncan birdied four of the first six holes to shoot a 67.

After his only PGA victory at the 2019 RSM Classic, it’s 77 starts for Duncan without a top-10 finish.

Rickie Fowler hit the water twice on the 18th hole en route to a quintuple-bogey nine. He shot 72 to stand at 208.

Leaderboard (after 3 rounds)

1st: JJ Spahn -13

2nd: Sep Castes -12

T3: Will Zalatoris -11

T3: Trey Mullinax – 11

T3: Cameron Smith -11

T6: Tyler Duncan -10

T6: Troy Merritt -10

AUSSIES in action

T3: Cameron Smith -11

T25: Adam Scott -7

T36: Cam Davis -5

69th: Marc Leishman +3

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