Irishman Power leads St. Jude Classic at 65

Séamus Power of Ireland played 36 holes in a qualifier for the 118th U.S. Open on Monday at had to come back the next day for a playoff to earn an alternate’s spot in the second major of the year next week at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y.

The 31-year-old Power kept it going on Thursday, shooting 5-under-par 65 to take a one-stroke lead over 11 players in the FedEx St. Jude Classic at TPC Southland in Memphis, Tenn.

“I played here last year and it kind of suits my eye, so I kind of feel good going out,” said Power, whose three pro victories include the 2016 United Finance and Leasing Championship on the Tour and two wins on the eGolf Professional Tour. “I feel like you have to take advantage of the first three holes here because you have some chances there and there’s a tough stretch after that. I was able to get a couple early birdies.

“You have to stay patient here and hit the ball well off the tee to keep it in the fairway. I drove the ball well today, hit some other good shots and was able to take advantage of them.”

Power, who grew up playing junior golf with Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry in addition to representing Ireland in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, birdied three of the first five holes and two of the last three, sinking a six-foot putt on No. 18 that gave him the lead.

Brooks Koepka, who will defend his title next week at Shinnecock Hills, made four straight birdies in the middle of his round and carded a 66 to wind up in the logjam right behind Power, which also includes Phil Mickelson, Michael Kim of Alameda and Cal, 51-year-old Steve Stricker, Wesley Bryan, Troy Merritt, Brandon Harkins, 2015 St. Jude champion Fabian Gomez of Argentina, Chris Kirk, Stuart Appleby of Australia and Mackenzie Hughes of Canada.

Second-ranked Dustin Johnson, who won the 2012 St. Jude Classic and can regain the No. 1 ranking with a victory this week, holed a chip shot for birdie from 40 feet with his bare right foot in a greenside lake and is tied for 13th at 67.

Two-time defending champion Daniel Berger recovered from a horrendous start that included four bogeys on the first eight holes, and made three birdies in a span of five holes coming home to salvage a 70 that put him in a tie for 56th.

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