Matt Kuchar thrived in tough conditions at the Memorial Tournament that sent Tiger Woods to the worst nine holes of his US PGA Tour career on Saturday.
Kuchar survived a nasty combination of swirling wind and fast greens at Muirfield Village for a two-under 70, giving him a two-shot lead over Kevin Chappell and Kyle Stanley going into the final round.
“It was a bit of survival,” Kuchar said. “I was fortunate to make a handful of birdies. I think anytime you make a birdie in these conditions, you feel like you’re really up on the field here. Most of these holes, you’re looking at just getting out with a par.”
Woods did not get away with anything.
Going for his sixth win at the Memorial, and his fourth victory in his past five tournaments, Woods had two double-bogeys and a triple-bogey on the back nine for a 44, breaking by one shot his highest nine-hole total as a pro. And he made that without a penalty shot.
“The conditions were tough and when I missed, it cost me,” Woods said through a tour media official. “I caught the wrong gusts at the wrong time, made a couple bad swings and all in all, it just went the wrong way.”
He wound up 16 shots out of the lead. Woods was to tee off late yesterday, but on the opposite side of the course in the two-tee start because of weather.
The tournament was happy just to complete 54 holes after mid-afternoon storms avoided Muirfield Village.
Kuchar was at eight-under 208, among 10 players separated by only four shots.
Bill Haas, the 36-hole leader, ran off three straight bogeys late in his round for a 76, and he was not all that upset about it. Haas was still only three shots back, and it was not hard to determine that par was a good score.
That is what made Chappell’s round so impressive — a 68 to match the low score of the third round, his only bogey on the par-five 11th hole when he drove out-of-bounds, and his second tee shot nearly did the same.
Like so many other players, Chappell was not sure which way the wind was blowing. On the 14th hole, with a wedge in hand from 105 yards, he felt the wind coming into him from the right, yet the flag was blowing in the opposite direction.
“I kept saying: ‘Wow, this is tough here.’ You hit a good shot and end up in a bad spot,” Chappell said.
Past winner Justin Rose had a 71 and joined Haas and Matt Jones (70) at five-under 211. Masters champion Adam Scott had a 69 and was in the group at four-under that included Charl Schwartzel, who was within one shot of the lead after completing the second round in the morning. The South African bogeyed both par-fives on the back nine and took double bogey on the 14th. He had a 41 on the back for a 76.
That was still better than Woods, whose round was somewhat of a mystery — not only because the world’s No. 1 player was in great form coming into a course where he has won five times, but because he was in good position off the tee. Woods, who started the round on No. 10, missed only one fairway on the back nine.
He took double bogey on the par-three 12th when he was in such a bad spot in the front bunker that he had to play out sideways to the wrong side of a long green, and then he three-putted. On the par-five 15th, he pulled his second shot well to the left, and then took two chips to get onto the putting surface only for the ball to run through the green. He really was fooled on the 18th, with a chip that spun back down the hill and a three-putt from short range.