Memphis, TN – Davis Love III shot a two-under 68 on Saturday to climb into a share of the lead after three rounds of the St. Jude Classic, the final tune-up before the U.S. Open.
Love, the United States Ryder Cup captain, moved to six-under-par 204 at TPC Southwind and was joined in first place by Nick O'Hern (67) and John Merrick (69).
The PGA Tour veteran is happy to be back playing after struggling to come back from a muscle tear in his ribs. He started the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but withdrew and didn't return until the Players Championship in mid- May.
"I like that I'm actually playing," Love said. "I got hurt and was at Bay Hill and was out for...close to six weeks and missed some tournaments that I really wanted to play in."
Those three players were able to take the lead because of Rory McIlroy's struggles. The reigning U.S. Open champion and world No. 2 held the second- round lead at minus-seven, but shot a two-over 72 on Saturday and dropped into a tie for fourth place.
McIlroy shares that position at five-under with Dustin Johnson (67), Robert Allenby (67), Kevin Kisner (70), Chad Campbell (70) and Kevin Stadler (71).
J.B. Holmes also shot 72 and sits alone in 10th place at four-under 206.
While there is a three-way tie atop the leaderboard, Stadler was actually well in front shortly after he teed off. He birdied three, four and six to reach nine-under, and was two strokes in front of the field.
But Stadler stumbled to a double-bogey at nine to fell into a share of first, and it didn't get better from there as the wind picked up in the afternoon. He bogeyed 14 and 15 to dip back to minus-five.
As he struggled, the three leaders were having more success. O'Hern was sitting at minus-three after 13 holes, but ran off three birdies in a row from the 14th.
Love, playing several groups later, used a clean back nine to grab a share of first. He birdied 11 and 16 to gain the necessary strokes, and parred his final two holes.
Merrick was several strokes off the lead before birdies at 16 and 17 pulled him up the leaderboard.
They were left in first place thanks to struggles by a few other players, in addition to Stadler.
McIlroy had a roller-coaster day, with four birdies and six bogeys. The Northern Irishman had fallen all the way to minus-four after bogeys at 13 and 15, but regained a stroke with a birdie at the last.
"It was a very testing day with the conditions. I definitely didn't feel as comfortable with my game as I did yesterday," McIlroy said. "So, you know, it was a good experience for me just to try and do what I've been working on in my swing and under real competitive pressure.
"For the most part, I held up pretty well. Few missed shots out there. I'm only one off the lead and still in a good position."
Holmes was tied for second heading into Saturday, but carded two double-bogeys and two bogeys during a difficult round. Jeff Maggert, also tied for second at the start of the round fared even worse. He carded five bogeys during a round of 73 and now shares 11th at three-under.
By contrast, Johnson and Allenby moved upward with strong rounds. Johnson eagled the third, and was sitting at minus-six following birdies at 13 and 16. The primary reason is doesn't share the lead is because of a bogey at the last, but that was his only mistake. Allenby, meanwhile, made his only bogey at the seventh. From there he carded four birdies, including three in a row from the 15th to soar up the leaderboard.
NOTES: Love, 48, has 20 PGA Tour victories to his credit but hasn't won since the 2008 Children's Miracle Network Classic...Johnson is playing in his second event after returning from a back injury.