Sports

Davis Thompson takes 2-shot lead into the final round of the low-scoring John Deere Classic

SILVIS, Ill. — Davis Thompson made birdie on half of his holes Saturday on a soft and defenseless TPC Deere Run, matching his career low with a 9-under 62 for a two-shot lead going into the final round of the John Deere Classic.

Thompson made birdie even after his one bad swing, escaping from the trees on the par-5 17th and then hitting wedge from a bad angle over a knob of rough to 8 feet.

He was at 21-under 192, his first time with the 54-hole lead in his second year on the PGA Tour.

That doesn’t feel like much of a lead this week.

“The guys behind me are playing really well,” Thompson said. “I know it’s going to be tough to finish off a golf tournament, but I’ve done it before. I just have to stay present-minded.”

His lone win was on the Korn Ferry Tour two years ago.

Eric Cole hit 3-wood from 274 yards to just inside 15 feet for eagle on the 17th that carried him to a 64 and into the final group. He was two shots behind. Joining them will be Aaron Rai of England, in the final group for the second straight week after a 66.

The final round will be in threesomes off both tees for a slightly later start Sunday with hopes of avoiding storms that already have made the course vulnerable to low scoring.

Jordan Spieth played early and at one point was tied for the lead — the leaders had not even reached the practice range at that point — and wound up with a 63. By the end of the day, he made up only one stroke on the lead. Spieth was seven shots behind in a tie for 12th.

“It would take something extremely flawless to have a chance,” Spieth said. “But I’ll try and do what I did today.”

Hayden Spring finally shot a round in the 60s — he opened with a course record-tying 59 and fell back with a 71 on Friday — and his 66 put him four shots behind at 17-under 196 along with C.T. Pan, who had a 68.

Still in the mix were a pair of youngsters — one still in college, one just out. Michael Thorbjornsen, who has a card as the No. 1 player in the PGA Tour University ranking after his senior year at Stanford, had a 66. Florida State sophomore Luke Clanton had a 67. They were among those five shots off the lead.

Clanton made the cut in the U.S. Open, and then tied for 10th last week in the Rocket Mortgage Classic. He’s trying to become the first amateur since 1958 to finish in the top 10 on the PGA Tour in consecutive weeks.

Clanton looks so comfortable that he even agreed to do a walk-and-talk with the CBS booth while playing on the back nine.

“It’s crazy, I can’t even really fathom what’s happening right now, honestly,” Clanton said. “I’m still a 20-year-old kid in college just having fun. Doing that stuff is unreal.”

Thompson got into the mix quickly by making a 25-foot birdie putt on the first hole and getting up-and-down from the bunker for a birdie on the par-5 second. He also holed out from a bunker for birdie on the fifth and then got a break on the sixth when his drive hit a tree and kicked out to the fairway, setting up wedge to close range for birdie.

“I guess it was just my day today,” Thompson said. “Hit a lot of good shots on the back nine and finished the round off well.”

He surged into the lead with three straight birdies on the back nine — a tee shot to a foot on the par-3 12th hole, a 15-foot birdie putt on the 13th and then driving into a bunker on the reachable par-4 14th and blasting out to a foot.

Now comes the hard part — going for his first PGA Tour win, seven players within five shots of the lead on a course that is giving up low scores to just about everyone.

“Everybody is hungry. That’s what makes it difficult out here,” Thompson said. “There is a lot of losers every week out here. You can have great weeks and finish top 10. At the end of the day your goal is to win the golf tournament.

“Yeah, it’s frustrating at times, but at the end of the day this is what you work for, to put yourself in these positions.”

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AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf

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