(Reuters) – Former champion Matt Kuchar surrendered the outright lead with a bogey on the tricky par-four 18th to conclude the third round of the weather-hit Memorial tournament on Saturday, setting up the prospect of a Sunday shootout.
Kuchar had stormed a stroke clear of a tightly bunched leaderboard with a run of four birdies in five holes from the 11th but stumbled at the last after finding a bunker off the tee and the right rough with his second to card a two-under-par 70.
That left American Kuchar at 14-under 202, level at the top with compatriots William McGirt (64) and long-hitting Gary Woodland (69) after another intriguing day of fluctuating fortunes at Muirfield Village.
First-round leader Dustin Johnson (68) was a further shot back in a tie for fourth with fellow American Jon Curran (68), Canadian Adam Hadwin (67) and Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo (70), with another eight players no worse than three off the pace.
Among those was Australian world number one Jason Day, who mixed seven birdies with a bogey and a double at the last for a 68 to trail by three in the prestigious PGA Tour event hosted by Jack Nicklaus.
Kuchar had mixed feelings after bogeying the 18th, having lost his back nine momentum with just three holes left when play was suspended for just over two hours due to the threat of lightning in the area.
“It’s part of the deal,” the 37-year-old told reporters about the weather suspension. “We do it a lot during the year.
“It’s something that you kind of better get accustomed to. I came out and hit a not very good shot on 16, made a nice up-and-down. A couple of really good shots on 17.
“It’s never fun to bogey 18, but almost felt glad to bogey 18 at the same time.”
Kuchar, who won the 2013 Memorial tournament and has recorded four top-10s in his last five PGA Tour starts, relished the prospect of challenging for the title in Sunday’s final round at one of his favorite venues.
“I love this golf course, this is the highlight for me of the year,” he said. “Certainly got great memories here. I’ve had a lot of success here … I’ll certainly be looking forward to tomorrow’s round of golf.”
Journeyman McGirt, bidding for his first PGA Tour victory in his 165th career start, put himself in contention with a strong finish as he birdied three of the last five holes.
“My biggest thing right now is I want to win a golf tournament,” he said. “Don’t really care which one it is. But to have a chance to win here at Jack’s place would be extra special.”
Day, who clinched his third PGA Tour victory of the season at the Players Championship last month, was also contemplating the prospect of a Memorial win.
“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,” said the Ohio-based Australian.
“If I can play some good golf tomorrow, that could shoot me back into contention and hopefully win the tournament.”
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Andrew Both/Nick Mulvenney)