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Spaun leads PGA; three stars absent

Pro Golf

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — J.J. Spaun hopes he’s only getting started on the road to the FedEx Cup finale. Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth will have to wait another week.

As for Jason Day, his season is over.

Spaun made a late birdie for a 3-under 67 to take a one-shot lead Friday in the FedEx St. Jude Championship, the opening event in the PGA Tour postseason that no longer has three of its biggest stars for the weekend at the TPC Southwind.

Scheffler, the Masters champion and No. 1 player for the last five months, never quite recovered from what he could only describe as an “out-of-body experience” with his putting in the first round. He had birdie chances on two of the last three holes he couldn’t convert and his 68 was one shot short of making the weekend.

“Obviously, it’s really frustrating coming into the playoffs,” Scheffler said. “I was practicing really hard at home, actually playing really good, and I showed up and had the worst putting day ever. Golf smacks you in the face sometimes.”

McIlroy went from rough to gallery to fringe to bogey on his last hole for a 69 for only his second missed cut of the year. Spieth’s hopes of playing the weekend ended with a tee shot into the water on the par-3 14th that led to a 74.

At least they get to play next week in the BMW Championship, being high enough in the standings not to lose too much sleep over it.

Day opened with a 65 and was hopeful of a big finish to advance into the top 70 who made it to the next playoff event. Instead, the former world No. 1 dropped five shots over the last eight holes, shot 74 and missed the cut by one shot.

Day was among 31 players who started outside the top 70 in the FedEx Cup and missed the cut, meaning their season is over.

Rickie Fowler, who came in at No. 125, ended the back nine (double bogey) and front nine (bogey) poorly and shot 71. He was tied for 33rd, around for two more days but needing to contend to advance.

Spaun was at 11-under 129.

Elsewhere:

n Ewen Ferguson of Scotland followed up his big opening round with an even-par 70 but it kept him in the lead at the ISPS Handa World Invitational on Friday.

Ferguson carded a course-record 61 on Thursday at Galgorm Castle, one of two courses used for the event that features men’s and women’s tournaments taking place simultaneously.

n Rory Sabbatini can get a full PGA Tour card for next season, courtesy of the players who have signed up with Saudi-funded LIV Golf and have been suspended.

The circumstances evolve from the PGA Tour’s decision to make sure suspended players do not affect the eligibility criteria of players in good standing.

The tour now has two lists — the official FedEx Cup standings and an “eligibility points list” with the suspended players removed. That was how Rickie Fowler got the 125th spot in the FedEx Cup playoffs that start this week.

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