Steve Stricker holed out from the fairway for one of his two eagles yesterday, wound up with a 3-under-par 69 on a steamy afternoon in Dublin, Ohio, and finished with a three-shot lead in the Memorial.
He still had to convince himself it was a good day.
Stricker holed out for eagle from 113 yards on the second hole, made another eagle with a 3-iron into 6 feet on the par-5 fifth, and looked as though he might run away from the field when he rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt on the par-3 eighth.
Right when it looked as though Stricker might leave everyone in his wake, he missed a 4-foot birdie putt on the 14th hole that threw his round into reverse. He made bogey on the par-5 15th. He missed a 4-foot par putt on No. 16, and had a 7-foot birdie on the next hole catch the lip. And when he arrived to his ball in the middle of the 18th fairway, it was right in the middle of a sand-filled divot.
Stricker managed to save par on the last hole, and perspective soon followed.
“All of a sudden, things seemed pretty hard, when at the start of the day, things were really going my way,’’ he said. “But I understand that, and I understand that’s the nature of this game. So you add them up at the end, and it was a 69. And it was a good score.’’
The score that matters is 12-under 204, which is three shots clear of Jonathan Byrd.
Byrd hit his approach into 2 feet on the final hole for a birdie and a 69. Byrd’s only blunder came on the par-5 11th, where he made his only bogey in his last 43 holes.
Matt Kuchar dropped two shots in his last four holes and had to settle for a 68. That put him in a tie for third with Brandt Jobe (69), four shots behind.
LPGA — Cristie Kerr birdied the final hole for a 6-under 65 to put her at 8 under and give her a one-shot lead over Catriona Matthew after the second round of the ShopRite Classic in Galloway Township, N.J.
European — Alexander Noren kept his lead at the Wales Open after a third round in which defending champion Graeme McDowell slumped to 11 strokes off the pace following a stunning collapse at Celtic Manor in Newport.
Noren shot par 71 after four birdies on the back nine to total 8-under 205, one shot ahead of Anders Hansen (66) and Peter Hanson (69) and two in front of Jamie Donaldson (71).
McDowell shot an 81, sliding from a shot behind Noren Friday to out of contention. The debacle comes just two weeks before he defends his US Open title.
Champions — Mark Brooks survived a shaky finish for a 4-under 67 and a one-stroke lead after the second round of the Principal Charity Classic in West Des Moines, Iowa.
Brooks salvaged a bogey on No. 18 after twice hitting into bunkers and finished 36 holes at 10-under 132. Mark Calcavecchia, playing in the same group as Brooks, closed with three straight pars after an eagle on 15 to wind up with a 66 and 9 under.
NCAA — Carter Newman birdied the first playoff hole to beat Oklahoma State’s Sean Einhaus and lift defending champion Augusta State into an all-Georgia final round in Stillwater, Okla.
Newman hit clutch putts on the 17th and 18th holes to keep the pivotal match going, then pumped his fist after dropping the winner on the 14th green. Augusta State claimed a 3-2 victory in the match-play semifinal, beating the powerhouse Cowboys in a rematch of last year’s final.
The Jaguars will face Georgia in today’s championship. The Bulldogs beat Duke, 3-2, behind victories from Harris English, Russell Henley, and Bryden MacPherson.
The final will pit Patrick Reed — who throttled US Amateur champion Peter Uihlein, 8 and 7 — against his former school. He played for the Bulldogs as a freshman before transferring to Augusta State, which competes in Division 2 in most sports.
Augusta State set out to prove that last year’s finals upset wasn’t a fluke, also getting a 3-and-1 win by Henrik Norlander against Kevin Tway.