DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — One last birdie for Jim Furyk put him one more stroke under par, which he found more gratifying than being in a share of the lead with Jonathan Byrd on Friday at the Memorial.
A blue sky and warm sun translated into fast greens at Muirfield Village, leading to a crammed leaderboard going into a weekend loaded with possibilities.
Tiger Woods had his worst score in nearly two years – a 2-over 74 – and still was only six shots behind.
Furyk had two bogeys from the bunker on the back nine, but finished with an 8-iron that stopped on the top shelf about 8 feet away for birdie on the 18th that gave him a 2-under 70. He hasn’t been atop the leaderboard this deep into a tournament since winning the Canadian Open in 2007, his last PGA Tour victory.
Byrd had a bogey-free 68 in the morning, also making a birdie on the 18th.
They were at 7-under 137.
Asked how he felt about being tied for the lead, Furyk replied, “I’d rather be as many under par as possible.”
“I just want to go out there and play one more solid round tomorrow and hopefully sit in the same spot, and put myself in good position for Sunday’s round,” said Furyk, the 2002 Memorial winner. “I’ll just be jockeying for position and trying to play another good round.”
And he’ll have plenty of company.
Mike Weir (69) and Mark Wilson (70) were another shot back at 6-under 138. The top 16 players were separated by a mere three shots going into the weekend.
Woods was not among that group, but came away from a pedestrian round with a fighting chance.
He missed only two of the generous fairways in the second round, but bogeys kept piling up with shots that were just enough long or short to present problems. He went long on the 18th hole into rough and had no hope of getting the ball closer than 30 feet. And on the par-5 fifth, he came up short and in the water, compounding the error by missing a par putt inside 4 feet.
“If you’re missing it on the short side, you’re not going to make pars here,” Woods said after the 74, his highest score since also shooting a 74 in the second round of the 2007 British Open at Carnoustie. “You have to make sure you hit the ball on the correct side. I didn’t do that today.”
Woods was at 1-under 143. That was only six shots from the lead with 36 holes to play, although he had 23 players ahead of him, a list that includes Ernie Els (70), Stewart Cink (72) and Davis Love III (68) at 4-under 140.
A victory by Love would allow him to skip 36 holes of U.S. Open qualifying on Monday.
Also at 140 was Luke Donald, who opened with a 64 and a three-shot lead that vanished with a 40 on his opening nine. He wound up a dozen shots worse with a 76, although he was very much in contention.
The question was whether the leading score would continue to dwindle as the greens got even faster.
Woods said he ran into the course superintendent before teeing off in the morning and was told the greens were running at 14 on the Stimpmeter. “That’s not slow,” he said.
“If you’re putting uphill for birdies or pars, it doesn’t look that hard,” Love said. “If you’re putting down hill all day, which you can easily do, or you’re hitting it over the greens and chipping back, it’s tough.”
Els continues to struggle with the putter, missing three birdie chances inside 8 feet. He made it easy on himself at the end of the round, holing a bunker shot at No. 9 for birdie that put him in the mix.
Furyk made all three of his bogeys from a bunker, but he atoned for that with enough quality shots to share the lead. Among his more impressive birdies was a 3-iron to about 10 feet on the par-3 fourth hole, especially because it was above the hole.
“One of those you just breathe on it and hit the right line,” he said.
Byrd failed to make birdie on any of the par 5s, but the disappointment was soothed by keeping bogeys off his card. He realized the course was getting tougher, and he welcomed a chance to show his mettle on the weekend.
“We’re halfway home on this golf tournament. There’s a lot left,” Byrd said. “The course is going to get more difficult and a lot faster, which I’m prepared for. I feel my game is sharp enough to suit tougher conditions.”