Third-ranked Cameron Smith of Australia remained atop the leaderboard, but now he’s all by himself.
Smith, who was in a six-way tie for the lead to start the day, carded a three-under-par 69 to take a one-stroke lead over K.H. Lee of South Korea and Denny McCarthy midway through the 47th Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.
The Memorial is hosted by the great Jack Nicklaus.
“I haven’t played very well in the past around this course, which is always tough, but I have been playing so well this year,” said Smith, who captured the Players Championship and the Sentry Tournament of Champions in addition to tying for third in the Masters. “I’m really happy with where my short game’s at. I feel like I’m rolling the ball really good and I’m just happy with the way I stuck in there and made some tough pars.
“I’ve been hitting my irons so well and giving myself a lot of birdie chances. I’ve been working extra hard with my driver, sticking around on the range for an extra 15-to-20 minutes or so rather than quitting early.
“I’m playing some of the best golf of my life. I think mentally I’m in a good spot. I’ve just got a few things to tidy up with my longer stuff.”
Smith, who has five victories as a pro including three on the PGA Tour, followed his opening 67 by making two birdies on each nine to offset his lone bogey at No. 6 while recording a 36-hole total of 8-under 136.
McCarthy, whose only pro victory came in the 2018 Web.com (now Korn Ferry) Tour Championship, started at No. 10 and made three birdies on the back nine en route to another 69, and Lee, who recently won the AT&T Byron Nelson, shot 70 after also being tied for the first-round lead.
“Everyone has the best part of their game and obviously, putting is part of mine,” said McCarthy, who is ranking in the top five in the key putting statistics on the PGA Tour this season. “But I’m no slouch around the rest of the course, either.
“Like putting, is not the only thing I do well. Everyone brings up my putter. Yes, I’m a good putter. But I need to do good things to get to those putts.”
Davis Riley, Cameron Young and Luke List, who also were tied for the lead after 18 holes, all shot 71 and are two shots behind in a tie for fourth with Billy Horschel, who had two birdies on each nine in a bogey-free 68, and Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela, who made three straight birdies on his front nine in a 69.
Eighth-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland sank a six-foot eagle putt on the fifth hole to highlight his 69 and is three down in a tie for ninth with Francesco Molinari of Italy, who birdied two of the last three holes to cap a 68, and Aaron Wise of Lake Elsinore, who made four birdies on the front nine while finishing off his 69.
Sixth-ranked Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA, the defending champion, is tied for 17th after a 69, second-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain, the 2020 Memorial champion, totaled 70 and is tied for 24th, and 11th-ranked Xander Schauffele, the 2021 Olympic Gold Medalist from La Jolla and San Diego State, is tied for 29th following a 73.
Seventh-ranked Viktor Hovland of Norway also finished at 73 and is in a tie for 39th that includes 10th-ranked Jordan Spieth, who didn’t make a birdie in his 74, while fourth-ranked Collin Morikawa of La Canada Flintridge and Cal struggled to a 77 and missed the cut by two strokes.
Adam Hadwin of Canada hit the shot of the tournament thus far, making a hole in one from 194 yards on the 16th hole and is tied for 39th after a 68.
For complete results, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html