All of the talk heading into the Memorial earlier this week seemed to revolve around the game’s aspiring young guns, but by Friday evening the discussion centered around a 44-yr-old who effectively stole the spotlight in brilliant fashion. Steve Stricker, whose best finish at Memorial coming into this week was 13th back in 1996, found a little something during his final 9 holes of play on Friday in the second round. After a shaky start which led to a front-nine score of 1-over 37, Stricker put up four birdies and an ace on the par3 8th on his back-nine to post 5-under 67 on the day, vaulting him to the top of the leaderboard. But the highlight reel was far from over.
Stricker began Saturday on a curious note after his approach found the green-side bunker on the opening hole, but settled his nerves a bit by stroking in a tricky 9-footer to save par. He would then assume the attack mode on the very next hole, dialing in a wedge approach from 116 yards that sucked back and found the bottom of the hole for eagle. He then made ho-hum pars on holes 3 and 4, and began his assault again on the par5 5th by hitting his 2nd shot to within 6 feet, carding yet another eagle. He would take a bogey on the par4 6th, but bounced back with birdies on holes 7 and 8, and made par on the 9th to go out in 5-under 31. Steve Stricker was in the process of lapping the field, until he made the turn. It was at that point that Muirfield Village started fighting back.
After making 6 consecutive pars that had all but ended his impressive birdie run on the inward 9, Stricker pulled his tee shot on the par5 16th into the deep rough. Five shots later he carded a disappointing bogey, and would find trouble once again after short-siding his approach on the par3 17th into the green-side bunker. He missed the 6 footer to save par, settling for bogey. He had to scramble once again on the par4 18th as a result of missing his approach right of the green, but made the 3 footer to save par and post a round of 3-under 69 on the day. When asked about his fast start and then his subsequent return to earth near the end that cut his lead in half, Stricker didn’t sound overly concerned about the two bogeys coming in. “Yeah, it was a perfect start. If you were to draw one up. It was a great start, hole in one out at the second hole and then making another eagle at No. 5. You couldn’t ask for anything more, really. Just kind of a little disappointing that I kind of let it slip away on the back nine and didn’t really finish the round like I had hoped. But all in all, a good day, 69 around here is a good score, still got a three shot lead, so I’m in good position heading into Sunday.”
Stricker goes into the final round at 12-under par, three shots clear of Jonathan Byrd. Byrd likewise fired 3-under 69 on Saturday and currently sits alone in 2nd place at 9-under par. Matt Kuchar and Brandt Jobe both sit 4 shots back at 7-under par. Kuchar shot 4-under 68 in his third round, while Jobe fired 3-under 69.
For an official recap of Saturday’s action at the Memorial, click HERE.