DUBLIN, Ohio — That other Rory – Rory Sabbatini – played his best golf in the worst weather Friday at the Memorial and made a surprising appearance atop the leaderboard. Right behind him was a Tiger Woods that looked all too familiar.
The other Rory – U.S. Open champ Rory McIlroy – shot 71-79 and missed the cut.
Sabbatini played bogey-free over his final 12 holes, and despite missing a 5-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole, put together 3-under-par 69 in the cool, blustery conditions at Muirfield Village to take a one-shot lead going into the weekend.
Woods looked strong for the second consecutive day, though he also had another double bogey that slowed his progress. What pleased him was controlling his ball in the wind for plenty of birdie chances that led to a 69.
“I hit the ball well all day, and it was a day that I needed to,” Woods said. “The wind was blowing out there, swirling in those trees, and it was just a tough day.”
Sabbatini was at 6-under 138, the highest score to lead the Memorial in 22 years.
“We basically just kept the ball in play all day, and that’s the challenge out there,” Sabbatini said. “And we did that very well, and I’m very, very excited, very content with the way that things went.”
Woods, coming off his worst three-tournament stretch as a pro – he hasn’t been better than 40th – said he played as well as when he won at Bay Hill in late March to end a 30-month drought on the PGA Tour.
Woods has 72 wins on the PGA Tour, one away from tying Jack Nicklaus for second on the career list. What better place to catch him than on the course Jack built, though Woods wasn’t ready to entertain such thoughts only halfway through the tournament.
And while he commands attention at Muirfield Village – a four-time champion who has shot par or better in 22 of his last 23 rounds on this course – there were plenty of possibilities going into the weekend.
Spencer Levin (72) and Scott Stallings (73) played in the morning and joined Woods at 5-under 139.
Jim Furyk, another former champion, matched the best score Friday with 68 and was in the group only two shots behind.
There were 21 players within four shots of the lead, a list that includes Quail Hollow winner Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson, former Clemson golfer Lucas Glover and Adam Scott.