Fitzpatrick Up 2 After 64 in WGC-St. Jude

Matthew Fitzpatrick of England does not have full membership on the PGA Tour, which means he has a three-week vacation scheduled during the upcoming FedEx Cup playoffs.

That would change if he wins the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational on Sunday.

The 24-year-old Fitzpatrick shot 6-under-par 64 to take a two-stroke lead over Jon Rahm of Spain, Cameron Smith of Australia, Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA, and Billy Horschel midway through the WGC event at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tenn.

“Winning is a goal of mine and to qualify for the playoffs would be an added bonus, but if not, I’m looking forward to three weeks off,” said Fitzpatrick, who has won five times on the European Tour. “But we’re only halfway through and I have to keep pushing.

“I played the course for the first time on Tuesday and it was so wet and playing so long that I gave myself absolutely no chance. It’s hard to believe the difference, but I have done well so far this week. I have to keep hitting the greens and giving myself chances.”

Fitzpatrick birdied the first four holes to take the lead and added three more while recording a 36-hole total of 9-under 131.

Horschel sank a 21-foot eagle putt on the third hole en route to a 66, while the 10th-ranked Cantlay overcame a double-bogey 6 at No. 12 in a 68, which Smith matched despite a bogey on the last hole, and eighth-ranked Rahm followed his opening 62 with a 71.

Smith, like Fitzpatrick, has added incentive as he his trying to qualify for the International Team that will play the United States in the Presidents Cup in December at Royal Melbourne.

“My destiny has been in my own hands all year, but it is certainly a huge goal of mine to be on the Presidents Cup team,” said Smith, who captured the Australian PGA Championship in 2017 and 2018. “I think I’ve played well enough to be on (the team). But now it’s up to me to make sure of it. I like having a motive, something to play for.

“I didn’t make as many birdies as I could have today, even though I hit a lot of good putts, but not all of them went it. But overall things are looking good and I have to just keep going.”

Shugo Imahira of Japan is three shots back in solo sixth after a 69, while top-ranked Brooks Koepka totaled 67 and is one more down in a for seventh with fourth-ranked Justin Rose (68) of England, Webb Simpson (66), Alex Noren (69) of Sweden, Ian Poulter (69) of England and Bubba Watson (70).

Third-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland is tied for 13th after a 67, defending champion and ninth-ranked Justin Thomas finished at 69 and is tied for 18th and seventh-ranked Bryson DeChambeau of Clovis struggled to a 74 and is tied for 36th.

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