Bill Haas played the best golf in the toughest conditions on Friday to take a three-stroke lead in the rain-delayed Memorial.
When the second round was suspended as dark clouds rolled in and forced the third stoppage in play, Haas found himself a long way clear atop the leaderboard, following a five-under 67 for a two-round total of nine-under 135.
Matt Kuchar was in second place at six-under after his completed second round, along with Charl Schwartzel, Bubba Watson and Kyle Stanley, who got through 15, 14 and 13 holes respectively, with the second round to be finished yesterday morning.
Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy were close to each other on the leaderboard at one-over and two-over respectively, but a long way off the leaders.
Woods, the five-time Memorial winner, had a most peculiar round in wind and on fast greens. He three-putted from five feet for double bogey on the par-five 15th, chopped up the final hole for a bogey and wound up with a 74.
“Tough conditions out there, and I didn’t exactly play my best, either,” said Woods, who had his worst 36-hole total (145) at the Memorial since he first played it in 1997.
McIlroy was in danger of missing the cut until he fired off five birdies, looking more comfortable with his putts and attacking with his driver. He was four-under for his round and one shot inside the cut line. McIlroy was in a greenside bunker in two shots at the par-five 15th when play was stopped.
“The major goal today was to try to make it into the weekend,” McIlroy said. “I’m on the right track to do that.”
Slugger White, the tour’s vice president of competition, said more storms were expected early yesterday afternoon and into this morning. Ohio is on the western edge of the eastern time zone, allowing for long hours of daylight, which meant delays could be accommodated, but several players have US Open qualifying tomorrow, which meant there was no room to maneuver on the schedule.
Morning or afternoon, Muirfield Village was no picnic. The wind was a factor in the morning and it began to increase in strength, while the greens were firm and crispy and required caution even on the shorter putts.
Haas played through it beautifully, taking advantage of one bad tee shot that he thought was headed out-of-bounds on the par-five 11th. He hit a provisional, did not need it and wound up making a birdie. He also holed a bunker shot for eagle on No. 5 and was at nine-under 135.
Haas has been playing the Memorial since 2005, and he has been coming to Muirfield Village even longer when his father, Jay Haas, was a regular. The son even caddied for the father one year, and he received a sponsor’s exemption his first year out of college.
“Even though I’ve never really had great success her personally, I love coming back, look forward to it every year,” Haas said. “And part of it might be I’ve always known how much my dad liked it and how well he did here. Hopefully, I can continue on the weekend and get a better taste in my mouth on how to play it, as opposed to just liking it.”
Only six players from the morning round managed to break 70, a testament to a course that is dry and fast, especially on the greens. The wind was strong early and showed no sign of letting up, even after a 20-minute delay in the afternoon as storms threatened.
Woods was not making birdies and made a mess of the par-five 15th for the second straight day. From the fairway, he pulled his approach well left of the green and chipped through the green, just into a thick collar of round. He chipped out to about five feet, and his par putt caught the lip and spun about eight feet away. Woods wound up three-putting for double bogey from five feet.