Reuters, DUBLIN, Ohio
US journeyman Spencer Levin stole the limelight from four-times champion Tiger Woods at the Memorial tournament on Saturday, twice chipping in to grab a one-shot lead in the wind-buffeted third round.
In pursuit of his first USPGA Tour victory, Levin survived a few anxious moments on the back nine to card a three-under par-69 and take control of the event hosted by golfing great Jack Nicklaus.
The 27-year-old shrugged off bogeys at the 12th and 16th, then sank a clutch par putt from 14 feet at the 17th to post an eight-under total of 208 at Muirfield Village Golf Club.
Overnight pacesetter Rory Sabbatini of South Africa returned a 71 to finish at seven-under, two better than American Rickie Fowler, who birdied two of the last four holes for a 69.
Woods, who briefly led by one shot early in the third round, was alone in fourth at four-under, recording four bogeys after the turn for a 73 as winds gusted up to 56kph.
“I had my opportunities to move up that board,” Woods said greenside after covering the back nine in three-over 39. “I missed a few putts that I should have made. I’m only four back, but I’ve still got a lot of work to do tomorrow.”
Woods made a fast start to the third round, sinking a 22-foot birdie putt from the fringe of the green at the par-four first to join Sabbatini in a two-way tie at the top.
Moments later, Woods held the outright lead when Sabbatini bogeyed the opening hole after finding a greenside bunker with his approach.
Woods was briefly caught by Levin and Sabbatini before Levin took control, chipping in from greenside rough to eagle the par-five fifth and grab a two-shot lead.
The chain-smoking Levin forged three ahead after hitting a superb approach to five feet at the par-four sixth and calmly sinking the birdie putt.
Though Levin had his lead cut to one after he bogeyed the seventh where Woods had birdied, he never relinquished control.
Out in four-under 32, he chipped in from 30 yards to birdie the par-four 10th and stretch his lead to four shots, Woods having bogeyed the hole playing one group ahead.
Levin stumbled at the treacherous par-three 12th, where he was bunkered off the tee, and also at the 16th where he missed the green, but he parred the last two holes to stay in front.