By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
DUBLIN, Ohio -- A year ago as he won the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance, Steve Stricker positively blitzed the front nine at Muirfield Village.
He was 20 under on that segment -- and ended up finishing 16 under for the tournament. On Friday, though, Stricker had to find a little more magic on the same stretch just to make the cut in his title defense.
Stricker started his second round on the back nine and was 2 over for the tournament after he three-putted the sixth hole for bogey. But the veteran reeled off three straight birdies -- making putts of 7, 9 and 35 feet -- to not only assure his spot on the weekend but get him into the hunt at 1 under.
"I made some putts coming in," Stricker said simply. "Something I haven't been doing for a while, but I made three nice putts coming in and got myself right back in there. I don't think anybody is really going to run away with it today. I hung in there and made three good birdies to finish the round."
Stricker joked that the way he's played Muirfield Village over the first two rounds is more like his norm than last year -- which produced his first top-10 in 12 appearances. "I don't know what happened last year," he said with a smile.
Despite the morning weather delay of nearly two hours on Friday, Striker said he felt like the players who played late-early got the better end of the draw. The rain had pretty much ended by mid-afternoon but the wind picked up considerably, gusting to 30 mph, and the temperature dipped about 15 degrees.
"It was a long day, and dealing with all sorts of different conditions and changing conditions throughout the day, that wears on you mentally, too, while you're out there," Stricker said. "But yeah, I don't know how long it ended up taking us today to play, but glad I'm finished. We probably got the better end of the deal in this, even though we played in some rain.
"The guys who are going off this afternoon are going to have to deal with playing in this wind, and we played the last seven or eight holes in that wind, and it was all over the place. It's tough to pick a club. The temperatures even dropped a little bit, and it's going to be tough for them out there."