DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) – Bill Haas hit one shot he thought might be out-of-bounds and he walked off with a birdie. Tiger Woods kept hitting fairways and rarely made better than par.
They finished 10 shots apart Friday at the Memorial, in a spot that felt unfamiliar to both of them.
Haas, who has never fared better than 30th at what he considers one of his favorite tournaments, handled a tough wind and a crispy Muirfield Village for a 5-under 67 that gave him a three-shot lead among the early starters.
Woods missed only one fairway and briefly flirted with the cut line until birdies at the par 5s on the front nine gave him a 74. A five-time winner and the defending champion, Woods had his worst 36-hole score at the Memorial since he first played this tournament in 1997.
“Tough conditions out there, and I didn't exactly play my best, either,'' Woods said.
Haas has been playing the Memorial since 2005, and he has been coming to Muirfield Village even longer when his father, Jay Haas, was a regular. The son even caddied for the father one year, and he received a sponsor's exemption his first year out of Wake Forest.
“Even though I've never really had great success her personally, I love coming back, look forward to it every year,'' Haas said. “And part of it might be I've always known how much my dad liked it and how well he did here. Hopefully, I can continue on the weekend and get a better taste in my mouth on how to play it, as opposed to just liking it.''
He was at 9-under 135, three shots clear of Matt Kuchar, who bogeyed his last hole for a 70.
Only six players from the morning round managed to break 70, a testament to a course that is dry and fast, especially on the greens. The wind was strong early and showed no sign of letting up, even after a 20-minute delay in the afternoon as storms threatened.
The resurgent Robert Karlsson had a 71 and was five shots behind.
Charl Schwartzel, who opened with 10 birdies in his round of 65, was among those playing in the afternoon.
For a short time, it looked as though Woods' first objective was to stick around for the weekend. Along with not making birdies, he made a mess of the par-5 15th for the second straight day. From the fairway, he pulled his approach well left of the green and chipped through the green, just into a thick collar of round. He chipped out to about 5 feet, and his par putt caught the lip and spun some 8 feet away. Woods wound up three-putting for double bogey from 5 feet.
It could have been worse. Woods made six par putts from the 4-foot to 7-foot range, and he wound up at 1-over 145. When he played the Memorial his first full year on tour in 1997, Woods opened with 72-75 and tied for 67th in a tournament cut short to 54 holes.
The forecast is for storm activity over the weekend. Woods figured his best chance to get back into the tournament was an early tee time on Saturday and conditions that would allow a low score before becoming tougher for the afternoon crowd. If the third round is played early from a two-tee start to avoid weather, the players who make the cut will be bunched together.
“I thought I had a good chance to at least get to even par for my round,'' Woods said. “The last hole I ended up making bogey. All in all, it was a hard-fought day, and that's all I have.''
Woods has never won a PGA Tour event from 10 shots behind going into the weekend. He won at Torrey Pines in 1999 when he was nine shots behind Ted Tryba. Woods has never made up more than a six-shot deficit on the weekend at Muirfield Village.
His tough day wasn't nearly as bad as some of those around him.
Matt Every started the back nine with a birdie and finished it with a 44 on his way to an 84. Brendan Steele had an 81, while Innisbrook winner Kevin Streelman had an 80. And it proved far too tough for Guan Tianlang. The 14-year-old from China missed his second straight cut after a round of 79.
“Those greens are lightning fast,'' Haas said. “I think that's the biggest deal.''
Even more significant for Haas was how he played the par 5s. He is 7-under on them for the week, including that birdie on No. 11 when he discovered his tee shot was in play.
Turned a 7 into a 4 real quick,'' Haas said.
He also holed a bunker shot at No. 5 for an eagle.
“Anytime you hole out of a bunker, a lot of things have to go your way,'' Haas said.
He has had few complaints so far. His first child – William Harlan Haas, Jr. – was born two weeks ago. Haas is away from home for the first time, though he is getting plenty of pictures and videos sent his way. And he is getting plenty of sleep.
If the conditions don't change, Haas and everyone else will need plenty of rest.
“This course is hard without wind,'' Kuchar said. “It's difficult and challenging on a normal day. With 20-plus wind, it becomes really difficult.''