After a first-round 69, Bryson DeChambeau went out in six-under 30 on Muirfield Village’s front nine on Friday, briefly positioning himself at the top of the leaderboard before a rain delay. When play resumed, DeChambeau appeared to let the round get away from him, making a bogey at the par-5 11th and then a double-bogey at the par-4 14th to drop three shots.
Since then, the 2015 US Amateur winner has not made bogey, playing his next 22 holes in eight-under, including today’s six-under 66 that included four birdies on his final six holes. A bogey at the 18th for Kyle Stanley gave DeChambeau the 54-hole lead at the Memorial Tournament at 14-under 202.
Improving on the greens has been key for DeChambeau not only this week, but this year. In 2017 he finished the season 146th in strokes-gained/putting, and is currently 88th in that same category in 2018. Through three rounds, he ranks sixth in the field.
“We changed the loft a little bit,” DeChambeau said of his putter. “And that’s what helped in that aspect of the game. Then my ball-striking kind of left me a bit this week, so I’ve been on the range long hours practising. Fortunately I’ve been able to miss it in the right places and get up and down when necessary, because this rough’s not easy. If you can get up and down out of here you can get up and down anywhere.”
DeChambeau has gotten up and down as well as anyone in the field at Muirfield Village, ranking second in scrambling.
“If I can control my emotions and make sure I’m executing every shot to the best of my abilities, making sure it gets right in the fairway, not getting ahead of myself, not even thinking about the last hole, I’m going to have a pretty good chance to get it done tomorrow.”
Three players, including Stanley, are one behind at 13-under 203. Patrick Cantlay is one of them thanks to a wild round of six-under 66. He made four birdies, an eagle, two bogeys and a hole-in-one with a 7-iron at the 169-metre, par-3 eighth.
“It was perfect,” Cantlay said. “Landed just short of the flag and pitched in. Second one of the year. So it was good.”
His first ace of the year came in the opening round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, where he knocked one in on the 11th hole at Monterey Peninsula, also with a 7-iron. He wound up finishing in a tie for 35th, but picked up his first win earlier in the season at the Shriners Hospitals For Children Open, and continues to flash the potential he showed in his days as a standout amateur. Taking down a field as strong as the Memorial’s would give him the biggest win of his still nascent career.
“It’s great to be in contention,” he said. “That’s what I play for, that’s what I practise for. And it’s exciting. That’s the most fun I can have out on the golf course, is being in contention. So just go out and stick to my game plan and hit a bunch of fairways and greens.”
He’s joined by Stanley and 19-year-old Chilean Joaquin Niemann, who each fired two-under 70s to keep themselves firmly in the mix heading into Sunday.
Alone in fifth is Byeong Hun An, who shot his third straight sub-70 round, a three-under 69, to get to 12-under 204.
Justin Rose, who earned his first career US PGA Tour win at the Memorial in 2010, shot a three-under 69, putting him in solo sixth at 10-under 206. Tiger Woods (68) and Hideki Matsuyama (71) are among a group at nine-under 207. Rory McIlroy is six back at eight-under 208 after posting an eight-under 64.
Adam Scott is the leading Australian, sitting at eight-under thru three rounds after a 70. Ohio-based Jason Day double-bogeyed the 18th hole to cap a 74 that slid him to six-under, eight shots behind.