Daily Wrap-up: Round 3, the Memorial Tournament

June 04, 2011
Staff and wire reports

DUBLIN, Ohio -- Steve Stricker went from doing everything right to having just about everything go wrong as his lead was cut in half over the final five holes at the Memorial tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance on Saturday.


The good news for Stricker is that he had a six-shot lead at one point, and his 3-under 69 at Muirfield Village still kept him three shots clear of Jonathan Byrd going into the final round. He was at 12-under 204 as he goes for his 10th career victory.

Stricker holed out for eagle from 113 yards on the second hole, made another eagle with a 3-iron into 6 feet on the par-5 fifth and looked as though he might run away from the field when he rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt on the par-3 eighth.

But he missed three putts inside 7 feet -- one of them for par -- over the final five holes, and his tee shot on the 18th landed in the middle of a sand-filled divot, sending his approach beyond the green in thick rough. Stricker chipped out to 3 feet to escape with par and leave himself some decent vibes going into Sunday.

"All of a sudden, things seemed pretty hard, when at the start of the day, things were really going my way," he said. "But I understand that, and I understand that's the nature of this game. So you add them up at the end, and it was a 69. And it was a good score."

Byrd made birdie on the 18th hole for a 69 that will put him in the final group on Sunday with a chance to win for the second time this year. Thanks to the late fade by Stricker, several others have a chance that at one time didn't look possible.

"I'm doing everything pretty well," Byrd said.

Matt Kuchar, who made six birdies in his opening nine holes, had a 68 despite two bogeys in his last four holes. He was four shots behind, along with Brandt Jobe, who shot a 69.

Rory McIlroy couldn't get the clean round he wanted. Making a rare U.S. PGA Tour appearance, McIlroy chopped up the par-3 fourth hole for a double bogey, hit into the water on the par-5 11th for a bogey and was falling back until he rallied with an eagle putt on the 15th. He wound up with a 71 and was five shots behind, along with Mark Wilson (66) and former U.S. PGA champion Shaun Micheel (67).

"Even though I didn't play my best stuff today, I'm still in a decent position going into tomorrow," McIlroy said. "And that's all you can ask for."

Luke Donald was trying to make a charge on the back nine until he made two careless bogeys and had to settled for a 73. Donald was at 4-under 212, eight shots out of the lead. About the only thing Donald can likely achieve on Sunday is to go for his 10th straight finish in the top 10. Donald was tied for 17th.

Phil Mickelson shot a 72 and was 10 shots behind, which he attributed mainly to his putting.

An amazing start gave Stricker strokes to burn toward the end of his round.

Shot of the Day

Steve Stricker holes a 116-yard shot for eagle.

After an 8-footer to save par from a bunker on the opening hole, Stricker had 113 yards on No. 2. He reached into his pocket for a tee to clean out a chunk of dirt in his 53-degree wedge, set up over the ball and hit a perfect shot that spun into the cup for an eagle. Three holes later, he hit 3-iron over the water with just enough draw to catch the ridge and settled 6 feet away for another eagle.

Going back to the second round, it was his third eagle in seven holes. And he became only the 13th player on the PGA TOUR since 1983 to make an eagle on a par 3, par 4 and par 5 in the same tournament.

He had it going so well that his lone bogey on the front nine came on a shot that was about a yard away from being an easy birdie, his wedge just hopping into a buried lie beyond the green instead of rolling down the ridge. But he answered with an 8-foot birdie on the seventh, and a 25-foot birdie on the eighth to go out in 31.

Staked to a five-shot lead on the back nine, however, Stricker began looking tentative. He missed a 4-foot birdie putt on the 14th, chopped up the par-5 15th and made bogey, then looked as though he would save par from a bunker on the 16th until missing another 4-foot putt. And with a chance to steady himself, he caught the lip on a 6-foot birdie on the 17th.

He wasn't alone in fading.

Kuchar made six birdies on the front nine and went out in 31 to try to stay in range of Stricker. But he also took bogey on the 15th, then went long on the 18th and missed a 6-foot par putt to fall back.

Muirfield Village: Saturday
The par-5 fifth hole was the easiest with a Saturday scoring average of 4.616.
The par-3 fourth hole was the toughest with a Saturday scoring average of 3.301.
About the leader
• To kick off the third round, Steve Stricker recorded an eagle-2 on the 442-yard second hole with a 53-degree sand wedge from 116 yards out. He followed three holes later with an eagle-3 on the 529-yard fifth hole. The last eagle on No. 2 was Chris Riley in 2001.
• Stricker is the 13th player since 1983 to record eagles on a par-3, par-4 and par-5 in the same week (in stroke play events on TOUR). It is the first time in Memorial Tournament history. Rocco Mediate was the last to accomplish the feat at the 2010 Frys.com Open. In 2010 at the Frys.com Open, Mediate had a hole-in-one in the first round followed by an eagle-2 in round two, an eagle-3 in round three and an eagle-2 in the final round. In Strickers first 592 holes this season he had two eagles. He has three in his last 20 holes. Stricker aced No. 8 Friday with a 6-iron from 188 yards in the second round, the second of his career on the PGA TOUR (1997 Phoenix Open/No. 16/4th round). The hole-in-one was the fifth on the eighth hole at the Memorial.
• Stricker is the only player in the field to post his opening three rounds in the 60s. The last player to record four rounds in the 60s at the Memorial was Bart Bryant on his way to victory in 2005 (69-69-66-68). Four rounds in the 60s has only been accomplished eight times in Memorial Tournament history, with Fred Couples (1998 and 2004) the only player to do it twice. The others are Hal Sutton (1986), Paul Azinger (1993), Tom Lehman (1994), Steve Elkington (1995) and Tiger Woods (2001). Only Elkington and Couples, in 2004, did not win the tournament.
• Stricker has converted five of 11 third-round leads/co-leads on TOUR, including three of his last four. He failed to convert his last lead/co-lead at the 2011 Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
• Stricker has held the outright lead four times on TOUR after 54-holes and he has converted each into victory. Stricker's largest 54-hole lead on TOUR is six strokes at the 2010 Northern Trust Open and 2010 John Deere Classic.

"A little disheartening," Kuchar said. "Stricker was matching me shot-for-shot out there. I felt like I really had it going, and a little disappointing to drop a couple coming in. But it's a tough golf course."