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Looking for 1st PGA Tour title, Lee Hodges takes 5-shot lead onto 3M Open final round

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BLAINE, Minn. (AP) — Chasing his first PGA Tour victory Lee Hodges shot a 5-under 66 on Saturday to stretch his lead to five strokes with a round left in the 3M Open.

Hodges had a 20-under 193 total at the TPC Twin Cities to break the tournament 54-hole mark of 195 set last year by Scott Piercy. Hodges led at 8 under after the first round and a record 15 under after the second.

“I have nothing to lose,” Hodges said. “I’m out here playing with house money. I have a job next year on the PGA Tour, this is all great. This is just icing on the cake.”

J.T. Poston was second after a 66. Defending champion Tony Finau was another stroke back at 14 under after a 67.

Hodges’ best finish in 64 prior events was a tie for third at The American Express in 2022, the only other time the 28-year-old Alabama player has led or shared the lead after 54 holes.

And he almost certainly has played himself into the playoffs that begin in two weeks. He began the week 74th in the FedEx Cup standings, with the top 70 players qualifying.

“I honestly don’t think I’ll be that nervous tonight.” Hodges said. “I’ll hang out with my wife. We’ll go do something fun. I mean, yeah, it’s just golf at the end of the day. I’m lucky to be here.”

Hodges opened with an up-and-down even nine holes, then had five on the back nine.

“I didn’t think I played bad on the front nine, I just couldn’t really get it close to the hole and when I did, I couldn’t make the putt,” he said.

Things were much different after the turn.

Hodges dropped birdie putts from 12 feet on No. 10 and nearly 11 feet on No. 11. His tee shot on the par-3 13th stopped 4 1/2 feet from the cup for another birdie. He added a 5-foorter for birdie on 16 and a 7-footer on 18.

He’ll be paired with Poston on Sunday the final group.

“We play some practice rounds together and I know him really well,” Poston said. “He’s a good friend. So, if I can’t get it done tomorrow, I’ll be pulling for him.”

Finau birdied four of his final eight holes. Last year, he trailed by five shots early in the final round and won by three at 17 under.

“It was just nice to make a run on the back nine today just to give myself a chance,” Finau said. “If I’m eight back, that’s a whole different feeling than five or six. I was just happy with the way I finished my round today and to creep up and just be a little closer to the lead.”

Aaron Baddeley was fourth at 13 under after a 65.

Sam Ryder (65), Keith Mitchell (67), Billy Horschel (68) and Kevin Streelman (69) were 12 under. Ryder birdied in his final five holes — and seven of nine — to toe the tournament back-nine record of 29. Mitchell set that mark two years ago.

Kevin Yu shot 29 on his first nine, tying a score recorded by five others, but he was 5 over for his final six holes to finish with a 67. He was tied for 11th.

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AP golf: and



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