DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — Matt Kuchar finished the third round of the Memorial in a share of the lead, just how he started Saturday.
If only it were that simple.
Kuchar fell off the pace quickly at Muirfield Village, rallied on the back nine and regained the lead after a 2 1/2-hour storm delay, then chopped the 18th hole for a bogey. It added to a 2-under 70 and a share of the lead with William McGirt (64) and Gary Woodland (69).
They were at 14-under 202, and with the starting times moved up Sunday because of a forecast for more storms, this was far from settled.
Jason Day, the No. 1 player and Muirfield Village member who has never finished in the top 25 at the Memorial, ran off two quick birdies to get within one of the lead, only to watch a chip roll back past him into the fairway on the 18th hole for a double bogey and a 68. He was three shots behind. Rory McIlroy was making headway until he dropped a shot at the last for a 70 that put him five back.
The other member of the modern Big Three never recovered from his mistakes. Jordan Spieth, after two quick birdies, went through a stretch of poor swings and missed putts, dropped four shots in a six-hole stretch. He had a 74 and was 10 behind.
Twenty players were separated by four shots going into the final round.
Eight of them have never won on the PGA Tour. Three of them could skip U.S. Open qualifying on Monday if they were to win. All of them would like nothing better than to shake hands with tournament host Jack Nicklaus.
Asked what it would take to win, Kuchar replied, “Your guess is as good as mine.”
Seven players had at least a share of the lead at some point on Saturday, and the change was even more drastic after play was stopped because of rain and approaching storms. Emiliano Grillo of Argentina returned from the delay and took double bogey on the 17th hole.
That knocked him out of the lead, but not out of the tournament. Grillo (70) was at 13-under 203, along with Adam Hadwin (67), Jon Curran (68) and Dustin Johnson, who returned from the delay to tap in a short birdie putt for a 68.
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Woodland and McGirt are among dozens of players who face 36 holes of U.S. Open qualifying Monday, but they can take care of that with a victory, which would put both well inside the top 60 when the cutoff falls a week later.
“I’m feeling pretty confident about where my game is,” said Woodland, who has made only one bogey in 54 holes at Muirfield Village. “I’ve been playing well for a while, and it’s starting to come together.”
McGirt cares only about winning. He has gone 164 starts on the PGA Tour, and he figures it’s about time. He played like it Saturday, going 5 under through his opening five holes with an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole. McGirt dropped a shot on the tough par-3 16th, answered with a birdie and signed for a 64.
He had a close call in Canada back in 2012. He had a two-shot lead going into the final round at Riviera two years ago and closed with a 73. Last fall in Mississippi, he had a putt that somehow didn’t drop – more than six months later, he still can’t believe it – and missed a playoff by one shot.
“This game owes you nothing,” McGirt said. “I feel like I’ve put myself in position a few times, and it’s one of those things where you kind of have to screw it up a couple of times before you learn. I feel like every time I’ve been in this position I’ve learned something. So hopefully, tomorrow, if I can make it work out, it would be good.”
Kuchar won the Memorial three years ago. Johnson is a powerful presence at any tournament.
And then there’s Day.
He was determined to show he can play the Memorial better than he has, though little mistakes have held him back. Just short of the 18th, he had a pitch mark behind his ball on a delicate shot, caught it fat and watched it roll off the false front (the pin was in front), past his feet and back to the fairway.
“At the start of the day, if they said you’re going to shoot a 68, I would have taken it,” he said. “I think I played pretty good. I hit a lot better than I did yesterday, and there’s a lot of positives going into tomorrow. I did close the gap on that lead a little bit too, so that’s a positive. And I’m pretty sure we’re going to have some tough conditions tomorrow.
“If I can play some good golf tomorrow, that could shoot me back into contention and hopefully win the tournament.”