Third-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland has been fighting himself and his game for a while, but seems to have things headed back in right direction.
McIlroy (pictured), who has battled back from a triple-bogey 7 on the final hole of the first round, shot two-under-par 70 and is tied for the lead with David Lipsky of Los Angeles and Si Woo Kim of South Korea heading to the final round of the 48th Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.
There are 23 players within three strokes of the lead and the winner will receive the trophy and the famed handshake from tournament founder and host, the great Jack Nicklaus, when it’s all over.
“My game feels really improved and I’m really comfortable out there because I’m not fighting the clubhead,” said McIlroy, who has not been right since he won the CJ Cup last October for his 23rd PGA Tour victory last October. “I’m getting it right again because I’m just doing it naturally and hanging in there. I’m just trusting it.
“This is a difficult golf course, but if you can keep the ball in play you can score well, so I’ve been hitting a lot of 3-woods and irons off the tees to keep the ball in the fairways, and give myself a chance to go for the greens.
“If I can keep doing that tomorrow, stick with my gameplan, I will have a chance to win and it would be great to shake Jack’s hand.”
McIlroy, who has 36 victories in his pro career including four major titles, highlighted his day with a 10-foot birdie putt at No. 5, a 26-foot chip-in for a birdie on the 12th hole and a seven birdie putt at No. 17 to finish 54 holes with a score of six-under-par 210.
Said Nicklaus: “Rory is a great player and a great guy, so it would be nice to see him win, but there are a lot of guys with a chance.”
Lipsky held a two-stroke lead until making bogeys on the last two holes to finish at 72 and slip back into the tie, while Kim, who claimed his fourth PGA Tour victory earlier this year in the Sony Open in Hawaii, overcame two double bogeys with three birdies on the back nine to card a 71.
“I played very well there until the end, when I gave up two shots and the solo lead,” said Lipsky, who has four victories as a pro, but is seeking his first on the PGA Tour. “I didn’t know exactly where I stood because I don’t like to look at the leaderboard and it’s too hard to focus on anything else but your game. My short game was pretty good until then.
“I grew up watching Mr. Nicklaus play and used to come to this tournament all the time when I was younger and going to Northwestern. I know this course, so I’m going to be out there tomorrow doing the same things, and it would be amazing to be standing there with Mr. Nicklaus at the end.”
Seventh-ranked Viktor Hovland made three straight birdies down the stretch and is one stroke back in a tie for fourth with Denny McCarthy, who had eagles on the seventh and 15th holes in a 68, Wyndham Clark, who posted three birdies on the front nine in a 70, Lee Hodges, who eagled the 11th hole and birdied the 18th for another 70, and Mark Hubbard, who slipped with bogeys on the last three holes for a 70.
Fourth-ranked Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA struggled to a 74 with only two birdies and is two shots behind in a tie for ninth with Collin Morikawa of La Canada Flintridge and Cal, who birdied five of the first eight holes and the last two for a 68; Patrick Rodgers of Stanford, who made four birdies coming home in a 72; Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, who birdied the first two holes but then struggled to a 72, and Keegan Bradley, who went out early and posted the round of the day with a 65 that included nine birdies.
Second-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain, the 2020 Memorial champion, made only one birdie in a 74 and is in a tie for 23rd that includes eighth-ranked Matt Fitzpatrick of England, who birdied three of the first seven holes in a 70, while top-ranked Scottie Scheffler bogeyed only the last hole in a 68 and is in a tie for 32nd that includes fifth-ranked Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State, who had two birdies and two bogeys in a 72.
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