Saturday, June 1, 2013
Matt Kuchar posts 70, up by 2
ESPN.com news services
DUBLIN, Ohio -- Matt Kuchar couldn't think of conditions more difficult than Saturday in the Memorial, and he had plenty of evidence.
The swirling wind that made it difficult to pull the right club. Fast greens that led to 65 three-putts in the third round alone. And a 44 on the back nine for Tiger Woods, the highest nine-hole score of his professional career.
"I think most of us would tend to be surprised any time Tiger shoots a number like that, but a lot more understandable in these conditions," Kuchar said after hanging on for a 2-under 70 that gave him a two-shot lead.
"If you're not on good form, these conditions are really going to beat you up."
Woods rallied on the front nine to salvage a 79, matching his second-worst score on the PGA Tour. And that wasn't even the highest score on a tough day at Muirfield Village. Jordan Spieth shot 45 on the front nine for an 82, while Zach Johnson and Justin Hicks each had an 81.
Kevin Chappell matched the best round of the day with a 4-under 68, leaving him two shots out of the lead, along with Kyle Stanley, who had a 70. Chappell loves having a chance to win his first PGA Tour event, which isn't to suggest it was fun getting to that position.
"I guess it's like a prize fighter," Chappell said. "He enjoys winning, but I don't know if he enjoys getting hit that much."
Kuchar was at 8-under 208, among 10 players separated by four shots.
"It was a bit of survival," Kuchar said. "I was fortunate to make a handful of birdies. I think anytime you make a birdie in these conditions, you feel like you're really up on the field here. Most of these holes, you're looking at just getting out with a par."
The tournament was happy to complete 54 holes with mid-afternoon storms that avoided Muirfield Village.
Bill Haas, the 36-hole leader, ran off three straight bogeys late in his round for a 76, and he wasn't all that upset about it. Haas was still only three shots back, and it wasn't hard to determine that par was a good score.
Like so many other players, Chappell wasn't sure which way the wind was blowing. On the 14th hole, with a wedge in hand from 105 yards, he felt the wind coming into him from the right, yet the flag was blowing in the opposite direction.
"I kept saying, 'Wow, this is tough here.' You hit a good shot and end up in a bad spot," Chappell said. "What can I do? You've just got to keep doing it, put one foot in front of the other and finish each hole."
Past winner Justin Rose had a 71 and joined Haas and Matt Jones (70) at 5-under 211. Masters champion Adam Scott had a 69 and was in the group at 4 under that included Charl Schwartzel, who was within one shot of the lead after completing the second round Saturday morning. The South African bogeyed both par 5s on the back nine and took double-bogey on the 14th. He had a 41 on the back for a 76.
Kuchar surged into the lead with two birdies on the front nine and didn't drop a shot until the ninth hole, when he missed the green to the left. The wind got him on the 15th when his high fairway metal drifted beyond the bunker and into a hazard that Kuchar didn't know existed, leading to bogey.
He saved par with a 10-foot putt on the par-3 16th, and made regulation pars coming in to give himself the 54-hole lead for the second straight week. He also was atop the leaderboard at Colonial, only to finish second to Boo Weekley.
"If you're not hitting the ball solid, you don't have a chance," Kuchar said.
Rory McIlroy had a 75, and part of him was happy to do that. He was safely inside the cut line when he returned Saturday morning to finish his round, and he birdied the 15th hole. He followed with back-to-back bogeys, and then came up short of the green and had to get up-and-down to avoid missing the cut. He made a 4-foot par save.
Pat Perez and former Masters champion Bubba Watson were among those at 3-under 213, still with a chance but needing some help. Tee times were pushed back for Sunday in case of early storms that might require time to clean up the course.
Perez was asked whether he wanted more wind.
"I'd like it to be dead calm," he said. "But I haven't hit a shot when it's not blowing 40 mph."