Moving day was rescheduled for Friday at the Memorial Tournament, with some of the world’s best vaulting up the leaderboard and positioning themselves for the weekend. Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson all made a charge, as did Tiger Woods, who electrified the Dublin, Ohio, crowd in the late afternoon.
Meanwhile, Kyle Stanley and 19-year-old Joaquin Niemann quietly plugged along, the former carding a second-round 66 and the latter a 68 at Muirfield Village Golf Club to tie for the lead at 11-under.
Niemann, who is making just his fifth start as a professional, showed some impressive resolve on multiple occasions, quickly salvaging bogeys with birdies soon after. A bogey at the par-3 eighth was followed by a 30-foot birdie conversion at the ninth, and he recovered from his third bogey of the day at the 13th with birdies at 14, 16 and the tricky par-4 18th to close out his round. Not bad for a kid that won’t get out of his teens until November.
“It’s been a really long day,” said Niemann, referring to the weather delay. “But, yeah it feels really nice to be on the top of the leaderboard. It does feel really nice for tomorrow and try to keep the same strategy and same game.”
Stanley, 30, cruised to five under through seven holes thanks to one of the better facets of his game, his iron play. He began his round on the back nine, knocking his approach shot to four feet at the par-4 10th. Then he put his tee shot at the par-3 12th to two feet and stuck another approach to eight feet at the 13th. His longest birdie conversions of the day came at the par-3 16th and par-5 fifth, both from 14 feet.
While his ball-striking hasn’t been perfect this season – he ranks 81st in strokes-gained/approach-the-green – he’s found something this week, as he ranks fourth in the same category through two rounds.
“I really enjoy playing this golf course,” said Stanley, who finished solo third here in 2013. “It’s one of my favourites that we play on tour, it just really sets up good to my eye. Driving the ball, I would say it’s a strength of my game and I feel like a course like this kind of caters to a guy that’s hitting a lot of fairways. The rough’s really thick and pretty high and every time I’ve been in it this week, three or four times we pretty much just had to pitch out. So I think the key is just hit a lot of fairways and try to hit your second shots out of the fairway.”
Alone in third at nine-under 135 is South Korea’s Byeong Hun An, who finished off a bogey-free five-under 67 with three straight birdies at the seventh, eighth and ninth holes (his 16th, 17th and 18th).
Day is among a group at eight-under 136 after posting a second straight four-under 68, putting him within three shots at a place where he hasn’t found much success. He’s joined by Hideki Matsuyama, J.B. Holmes and Bryson DeChambeau.
A pair of Major champions, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson, are just four off the lead at seven-under 137 along with Patrick Cantlay and Gary Woodland.
After a pair of 72s on Thursday, Johnson and Woods each made a move, with Johnson posting a 66 and Woods a 67 that included a hole-out for eagle at the par-5 11th. If not for a balky putter, and a rain delay that slowed some of Woods’ momentum, it could have been even lower.
“I did not putt well today,” said Woods, who ranks a distant 114th in strokes-gained/putting. “It could have been easily a nice little 62 or 63. I turned it into a 67.
“I missed one on No.1 and after that I missed everything. Just didn’t putt well. Didn’t feel, I didn’t feel the putter head flowing, I didn’t feel it releasing. These are all normal things I normally feel, but I just didn’t quite have the feel for it.”
Woods is six back at five-under 139, while Johnson is at six-under 140 along with Bubba Watson and Adam Scott, who is still trying to secure a spot in the US Open at Shinnecock. Phil Mickelson is at four-under 138 after shooting a six-under 66.
Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler lurk at three under, while Rory McIlroy hung on to make the cut on the number at even par. The same can’t be said for Jordan Spieth, whose even-par 72 wasn’t enough to overcome a first-round 75.