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Berger nears 1st PGA title

Daniel Berger (AP)

Daniel Berger (AP)

MEMPHIS, Tennessee (AP) – Daniel Berger has yet to win on the PGA Tour. He’s confident enough to believe that’s just a matter of time, and he has put himself in position to make the FedEx St. Jude Classic his first title.

Having Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker just three strokes behind isn’t shaking his self-assurance either.

“If it was Tiger Woods behind me, I would have the same mentality,” Berger said Saturday after a 1-under 69 that left him with the same three-stroke lead he had after 36 holes. “It doesn’t matter. It’s golf. The golf course doesn’t know who is playing it, so I’m just going to go out there and be aggressive and have some fun, and that’s all I can do.”

Berger, the 2014-15 rookie of the year, had led after a round on tour only once before this event back in 2014. Now he has led consecutive rounds, and Berger had four birdies, a bogey and a double bogey on a hot, sticky day to reach 10-under 200.

Mickelson (68), Stricker (66) and Points (64) were 7 under.

Seung-yul Noh (67), Colt Knost (67) and Brooks Koepka (69) were 6 under.

Mickelson has 42 career wins and is looking for his first win since the 2013 British Open. Berger, who refused to concede a 1-foot putt to Mickelson in March at the WGC-Dell Match Play, said Woods was the player he admired growing up. The 23-year-old Floridian also calls Mickelson by his full name Phillip.

“He says only his wife calls him that, I can’t call him that until I win on the PGA Tour,” Berger said. “But I still call him that anyway.”

Mickelson played two groups ahead of Berger on Saturday and will be in the group ahead of the leader in the final round.

“That’s always an advantageous spot if you can get off to a good day,” Mickelson said. “It’s much more difficult to follow birdies than it is to lead by them.”

With so many experienced players and big names chasing him on a day where the temperature felt close to 100 degrees, Berger hit 13 of 18 greens playing conservatively enough with six straight pars at one point that he finished Saturday with the same three-stroke lead he had after the second round.