DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) Ben Curtis grew up just a few miles from Muirfield Village Golf Club.
He’s seen the course designed by Jack Nicklaus bare its fangs. But most of the time, it’s been a docile track when the pros come to town about the same time the spring rains drench the course.
Maybe not this year, however.
A dry week – there are areas in the central part of the state that haven’t had rain in 10 days – has helped the course play harder and faster than usual. Curtis, who grew up in nearby Ostrander, Ohio, thinks it could get treacherous if, as is predicted, the rains stay away and the sun stays out throughout the weekend.
”Yesterday the balls were kind of hitting and stopping; today they were taking one or two bounces before they would stop and weren’t quite spinning back as much with the wedges,” said Curtis, who is at 4-under 140 after rounds of 69 and 71. ”So, yeah, with the dry conditions and no rain in the forecast, it’s going to be fun.”
Last summer, Nicklaus was relishing the course hosting the Presidents Cup in the autumn because there usually is not much rain in Ohio in the fall. But the international competition – much like the Memorial, traditionally the first PGA Tour event up North each year – was plagued by hard rains, high winds and soft conditions.
But this tournament might be different.
”If it does stay dry, it’s going to be a great test over the weekend because we’re going to see the greens get a little fiery,” said Adam Scott, tied for ninth at 5-under 139.
LATE DISAPPOINTMENT: It appeared for a short time that Justin Rose had made the cut on the number by birdieing the final two holes.
But he knew better.
His iron shot into the signature par-3 12th hole in Friday’s second round of the Memorial Tournament nestled into the deep, thick grass just over the green.
”It was one of the worst lies I’ve had for a while,” Rose said. ”Through the green and a shocking lie.”
Rose, who won the Memorial four years ago, took a limited swing at the ball because he feared that he might hit it more than once.
”I actually tried it and I knew that double-hitting it was a possibility,” he said. ”So I tried to sort of leave the club there.”
Still, he felt a second impact on the club after he first struck the ball. He knew immediately that he faced, at the very least, a one-stroke penalty.
So, he notified an official on the course and played on, the extra shot likely awaiting him. He wondered if he might have even hit the ball three times and was unsure what the penalty might be for that unlikely possibility.
He made two bogeys on the next four holes but birdied the final two holes, completing a 1-under 71 that left him at even-par 144 – on the scoreboard, at least.
”Obviously people were excited because I got back to even because the scoreboard hadn’t adjusted for the double-hit,” he said. ”I knew in my mind I was always one worse than the board, so that wasn’t a surprise to me.”
Rose said he couldn’t remember ever hitting a ball twice with one swing.
”It’s so alien,” he said.
Amazingly, that wasn’t the only double-hit of the day. …
BAD SPAN: Rory McIlroy’s day started out OK. His tweaked knee loosened up after some ice and physical therapy and he played his first three holes in even par. He was clear of the field at the Memorial by three strokes on a sunny, warm Friday at Muirfield Village.
Then it all came tumbling down.
”It seemed like anything that could sort of go wrong did go wrong out there,” McIlroy said.
He caught some tree branches on his second at the relatively easy par-4 13th and the ball ricocheted almost out of bounds into an even more wooded area. He ended up with a double bogey.
At 14 – which he doubled in his opening 63 – he did it again. This time his second shot ended up in the small creek which wends its way through the par-4 hole and he again made a 6.
The real quirky stuff happened at the 15th, a 522-yard hole that almost everyone in the field goes for in two. McIlroy’s shot to the green went into the deep rough left of the green. While blasting out, he had a double-hit which he immediately called on himself, resulting in a one-shot penalty. Once again, he made double-bogey.
He went from a big lead to a tie for 20th through the first wave of players. By the end of the day, he was …
McIlroy said he had been losing tournaments with three or four bad holes in a stretch until he won at Wentworth on Sunday. After his Memorial-record opening round, he had credited the low score to avoiding any bad spell.
And then came 13, 14 and 15 in the second round.
”These little runs I’m getting on where it gets away from me, I was able to avoid that last week,” he said. ”Not so much this week.”
McIlroy’s 43 on the back nine marked the fourth consecutive PGA Tour event – and the fifth time in his last six – that McIlroy had at least a 40 over nine holes. All have come in the second round.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: McIlroy, talking about his bad stretch, sounded a lot like every hacker who ever tried to rationalize a high score: ”Take those three holes out of it, then it wouldn’t actually have been that bad a day.”
GOOD RIGHT UP TO THE END: Camilo Villegas, winless on the PGA Tour since 2010 and with only two top 10s in the last two years, climbed into the lead at the Memorial Tournament early in the second round.
The 32-year-old Colombian, known for his Cirque du Soleil-like style of suspending himself over the green while reading putts, had six birdies in an eight-hole span to get to 7-under. But he had problems on the final two holes to close out a 68 that left him at 4-under 140.
”At 17 I had a good shot, a good second shot, and just had a really bad lie there just to the right of the green. I made bogey there,” he said.
On the closing hole, his second shot landed in deep rough right of the green and he had to muscle it out, the ball flying over the green and across a cart path. From there, his chip down the slick green ran 52 feet past the pin – and he made the comebacker for another bogey.
”I made a very silly mistake on 18. I ended up making a huge putt for bogey,” he said. ”Sometimes you’ve got to take those bogeys.”
Villegas had missed the cut in this last four tournaments on American soil and hasn’t gotten inside the top 20 of a tour event all year.
SO FAR, SO GOOD: Phil Mickelson said his main goal this week at the Memorial was to feel good about his game heading into the U.S. Open in two weeks at Pinehurst.
He didn’t meet that objective with a late collapse in the first round – going from 5-under to even over the final three holes – but still likes where his game is after 36 holes.
”My game is feeling good,” he said after a second-round 70. ”I just have some challenges. And I’m glad I’m playing this weekend. It will give me two more rounds on a good golf course to see if I can have something to build on.”
Mickelson isn’t just working on the technical side of his game. He’s also trying to get back into the swing mentally.
This hasn’t been a vintage year on the course. He missed the cut at the Masters and Players and doesn’t have a top-10 finish in 12 starts.
”Baby steps here. I’ve had a little rough go,” he said. ”Although my game feels good, I still have some challenges mentally – (like) finishing the round yesterday, that’s a great example right there.
”If I finish that round off, I’m up there in the top two or three. So it’s little things like that that are making the big difference between where I’m at, in 30th or so, and the top 5.”
GOING STREAKING: If you don’t know Brendon Todd, you probably should. You haven’t heard the last of him.
Todd is a 28-year-old Georgia grad who stole a few headlines a few weeks back when he won the Byron Nelson. He tied for sixth at the Texas Open before that and then in his most recent start he tied for fifth at the Colonial.
”When I’ve played well, I’ve played really well,” he said. When I’ve played bad, I’ve played really bad for a long time. So I would say I’m definitely a player who gets on runs, good and bad.”
Right now he’s on a good run. He’s broken par in his last 10 rounds, including both at the Memorial Tournament. He opened with a 71, letting a better round slip away when he bogeyed two of the final three holes. In the second round he shot a 68 to stand at 5-under 139 – in his first trip ever to the Memorial Tournament.
He’s had bad spells, too, dropped down to the Web.com tour in 2008 and again in 2011 when he wasn’t ready to make the grade on the PGA Tour. Now he’s climbed to No. 57 in the world, is in the top 10 in FedEx Cup points and is feeling good about himself and where he’s going.
”Last weekend I was much more relaxed at Colonial on the weekend,” he said. ”This weekend is the same way for me. I have a chance to go out there and just really try to put up low numbers.”
HELPFUL TRIP: Several of the stars from the Presidents Cup are back for the Memorial.
Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama said the experience from last fall has paid huge dividends.
”It gave me an idea of what the course is like and helped me to (read the greens),” he said. ”So that was really a plus for me.”
Matsuyama has put up rounds of 70 and 67 and is alone in fifth, five shots behind leader Paul Casey.
DIVOTS: Stuart Appleby withdrew after an opening 77. … McIlroy’s second-round score (78) was 15 shots worse than his opening 63, the biggest difference between rounds. The biggest improvement was by Richard H. Lee, who followed a 76 with a 68. … A total of 76 players made the cut of even-par 144. Among those missing the cut were last year’s runner-up, Kevin Chappell, Rickie Fowler and past champions Justin Rose and Vijay Singh.
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