Friday 21 October 2016

'Big 3' battle to get in contention

William S Callahan

Published 04/06/2016 | 02:30

Rory McIlroy watches his tee shot on the second hole at The Memorial Tournament yesterday. Photo Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy watches his tee shot on the second hole at The Memorial Tournament yesterday. Photo Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy occupied centre stage in round two of The Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village in Ohio, but the 'Big 3' of golf are not in the top three of this $1.85 million tournament - yet.

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Two Americans, Brendan Steele and Matt Kuchar, jointly lead the field into the weekend on 12-under par, shooting 67 and 66 respectively.

Argentina's Emiliano Grillo's 66 positioned him on 11-under alongside another US competitor Gary Woodland, who filed an impressive 65.

Behind them came a host of challengers, but Day, McIlroy and Spieth had to be content with progress rather than perfection.

World number one Day sought to build on a 66 which could have been a shot or two better, and instead, he found himself fighting to avoid a meltdown.

On paper, the Australian's 71 suggested a moderate performance. Day, always honest, reckoned he did well to avoid an 80.

Speaking to the Golf Channel, Day said: "Past 75, I really should have shot over that because if I didn't have my short game, it would have been close to 80.

"It was bad, but to be able to walk off at one-under par instead of shooting way over par and getting yourself out of contention, getting yourself out of the tournament, I'm actually quite pleased with it.

"Sunday's going to play tough with the wind and rain, but we'll see how it goes," said Day.

A player carding only 23 putts could reasonably expect to have a super score going, but that was the measure of Day's round.

He scrambled and fought in typically gritty style and bounced back from a bogey on the par-three eighth hole, his 17th, with a birdie three on the ninth.

Rory McIlroy had a spring in his step from the start, and turned in 32, with five birdies and just one bogey blemish on his card. The Northern Irish star holed from 35 feet for a birdie three on the 10th, and pitched to two feet for a birdie four on the par-five 11th.

His momentum faltered with a missed green on the 12th which led to bogey four, and McIlroy's wild hooked drive on 13 led to the ball hitting a spectator. Happily the victim was able to smile, shake hands, and accept a signed glove as a token of apology from McIlroy, who went on to pitch and putt to save par.

Another birdie putt dropped on 15, moving the dial to seven-under. McIlroy narrowly missed for birdie on 17, and rounded off his day with par on the final hole. A 66, seven-under par, only five off the lead, was a good day's work for McIlroy. Spieth could also be reasonably happy with 68 and six-under, despite a narrow miss for birdie on the 18th.

Meanwhile, England's Matthew Fitzpatrick had a three-shot lead after 36 holes of the Nordea Masters in Sweden.

Fitzpatrick shot 65 for 11-under par 133. Nicolas Colsaerts and Ross Fisher, who shot 66 and 68 respectively, were in a group of five in joint second place on eight-under. Michael Hoey led the Irish challenge at minus-four after a 71.

Peter Lawrie shot 72 for one-under and made the cut.

Paul Dunne's 75 for one-over par 145 was one shot too many to go through to the weekend.

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