The leader struggled and Matt Kuchar took full advantage with a 2-under-par 70 in the third round to lead the Memorial Tournament at 8 under, two shots ahead of Kevin Chappell and Kyle Stanley.
Kuchar, whose last win came at the 2012 Players Championship, played steady – making five birdies against just three bogeys in windy conditions with gusts up to 25 mph during a round that saw the forecast rain hold off until after the round.
Here are 5 Things to Know about the third round Saturday at Muirfield Village:
• • •
1. EARLY CONTENDER: J.J. Henry was in the first group off on the back nine at 9:40 in Saturday’s third round and took full advantage of pure greens shooting a 4-under 32 on his first nine and holding even the rest of the way for a 4-under 68.
Henry’s performance Saturday propelled him from a tie for 36th to a tie for seventh at 4 under, four shots behind the leader, Kuchar.
“Really the difference for me is making those couple extra 8-, 10-, 12-, 15-foot birdie putts, maybe save for par somewhere and that’s what you’ve got to do because you’re not going to hit every green obviously,” Henry said of his best ever round at Memorial. “I was saying earlier on a day like today it’s not necessarily hitting it on the green, a lot of times it’s where you’re trying to miss it to give yourself a chance at par. Because as fast as these greens are and undulating and sloping, and deep bunkers and hazards with raised greens and stuff, on a day like today it’s all about where can you still try to make 4 from. And that’s what I did a pretty good job of today.”
In his previous four appearances, Henry has never done better than T-34 in 2006, but is now in position to record his first top 10 this season. His best previous finish is a T-13 at the shortened Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Henry was on fresh greens when he teed it up Saturday; next he will be in the third-to-last group with Adam Scott and Scott Piercy trying to win his third and biggest event of his career.
“I know its going to be another trying, tough day tomorrow,” Henry said. “Any time you can shoot under par in these conditions, you feel like you played pretty good.”
• • •
2. UNDER THE RADAR: Kyle Stanley won a Tour event after blowing one. It all started in San Diego, where Stanley faltered down the stretch at Torrey Pines and lost his best chance at his first win.
Just a week later in Phoenix, Stanley slayed all the demons and won the Waste Management Phoenix Open, his first and only win of his young career.
That was it for 2012; Stanley played in 23 more events recording no top 10s and missing nine cuts.
The 2013 season started as an extension of the 2012 season. In his first 10 events, Stanley missed five cuts and again could not crack the top 10 in the five events he played on the weekend.
But then a third in New Orleans at Zurich, a sixth at Wells Fargo and a 33rd at the Players Championship was Stanley’s best stretch since the West Coast last year.
So even with a 1-over 73 in the third round, Stanley is the final group with 18 holes remaining.
“It’s hard to win out here,” Stanley said, two shots off of Kuchar’s lead. “But just been in that position a few times. Gets you a little more comfortable. Just kind of something you’re used to as opposed to never having been there before. So, yeah, it will probably calm me down a little bit tomorrow.”
• • •
3. NO SUCCESSFUL DEFENSE: Only one player has successfully defended his title here – Tiger Woods won three consecutive Memorials from 1999 to 2001. Tied for 69th, Woods is too far back to defend his 2012 title.
However, six players have won multiple Memorials: Jack Nicklaus, Hale Irwin, Tom Watson, Greg Norman, Kenny Perry and Woods.
At just three shots off the lead, Justin Rose, the 2010 champion can add his name to that multiple winner list.
Rose was four shots off Rickie Fowler’s lead after the third round in 2010, but surged ahead in Sunday’s final round with a 6-under 66 to win by three shots.
“Anytime you’ve done it, you can draw strength from that,” Rose said reflecting back on 2010. “I had a pretty specific game plan going into the final round in 2010, being three back. And I’m sure that will play again this week.”
• • •
4. SOMEONE ELSE WAS WORSE: Tiger Woods struggled, but if you take his back-nine 44 and add it to Jordan Spieth’s front-nine 45 the pair would have barely broken 90, with a smooth 89.
For Spieth, who started on the back, the round actually started relatively well with three birdies and a lone bogey through the first six holes, moving him from 1 over to 1 under as he reached the 16th tee.
But then the carnage started with a double-bogey 5 on the par 3, followed by a bogey on the par-4 17th. Spieth made the turn at 1-over 37, 2 over for the tournament.
After two pars while making the turn, he went bogey, double bogey, bogey, bogey, bogey, bogey, double bogey for his 9-over 45, finishing with an 82 at 11 over for the tournament.
• • •
5. SHORT SHOTS: The third round started at 9:40 a.m., with 73 players making the cut. . . . For the third consecutive round there were no bogey-free rounds. . . . The scoring average for the third round was 73.603, with a cumulative average of 73.439. . . . Four eagles were recorded during the third round, two at the par-5 fifth hole and two at the par-5 11th hole. . . . The hardest hole was the third round was the par-3 16th, with a scoring average of 3.466. . . . The easiest hole was the par-5 fifth, with a scoring average of 4.575. . . . Tee times for the fourth round will start about 10:40 a.m. off of two tees. . . . The final group of Kyle Stanley, Kevin Chappell and Matt Kuchar will go off at 12:40 p.m. . . . Tiger Woods, 16 shots off the lead, will go off at 12:10 off the back side with Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Marc Leishman.