Friday’s roundup: Steele, Kuchar tied at Memorial
Dublin, Ohio — Two matches at home against Phil Mickelson made Brendan Steele feel inadequate. Two rounds at the Memorial gave him a share of the lead.
Steele put in a little more work and it paid off over two days in soft conditions at Muirfield Village. He had a 5-under 67 on Friday and was tied for the lead with past Memorial champion Matt Kuchar (66) going into a wide-open weekend.
Brian Stuard (Jackson) shot par 72 and is at 3-under 141.
Steele, whose only PGA Tour victory was in his rookie season five years ago, took the last two weeks off to attend a wedding, go fishing with his father and venture over to San Diego to play a few games with Mickelson at The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe.
“He just drummed around for a couple days, so I knew that I needed to really work hard on my game when I got here,” Steele said.
The mathematical definition of getting drummed turned out to be 2 and 1 on the first day, 5 and 4 on the second day.
“But the second day, he shot 10 under, I just felt like my game was very inferior to his,” Steele said.
He made a quick fix with swing coach Rick Smith, had time for a few more tweaks, and he took that straight to the course for solid play over the last two days. And while there was nothing at stake, he has Mickelson by five shots at the moment.
Mickelson gets credit for a tip.
“I think it’s hard in an off week to find out where your game is at unless you play against some good competition,” Mickelson said. “It identified the area that he needed to work on. He called up Rick, he came out and worked on it, and now here’s the result. That was kind of the benefit.”
As for the description of Mickelson “drumming” Steele?
“I use a little more flamboyant term, but that’s fine. You can use that,” he said.
Steele and Kuchar were at 12-under 132, the same score that led a year ago.
The scoring was so good, however, that the cut was at 2-under 142, the lowest since Jack Nicklaus started this tournament in 1976.
Jordan Spieth for a brief moment looked as though he might be on the wrong side of it when he opened with two bogeys in four holes. He made six birdies over his last 12 holes for a 68 to at least stay in range, six shots behind at the halfway point.
“The more you think about the cut line, the easier it is to hang around the cut line,” Spieth said. “I looked up at the board when I was at even and I thought, ‘You know, I’m 12 back. That’s a lot. How can we do our best just to do a little dent in it and maybe make some magic happen after that?’ ”
Rory McIlroy was mildly disappointed with his 66, but only because he played the last seven holes in even par.
“I thought it had the potential to be something quite special after 11 holes,” McIlroy said. “I don’t think you can ever be too disappointed with a 66, but at the same time, it had the potential to be a little bit better.”
Jason Day was thrilled with a 71 because he lost his swing and figured it should have been something in the upper 70s.
All of them are still in the chase, and they have plenty of company.
Emiliano Grillo of Argentina, who won his first PGA Tour event as a member at the Frys.com Open, feasted on the fast greens for a 66 and was one shot behind with Gary Woodland, who has quietly gone about rounds of 68-65. That included a shot into 3 feet for eagle on the par-5 15th.
Dustin Johnson, who opened with a 64, never caught the morning leaders. He had a pair of bogeys on the back nine that slowed him, and he took a double bogey on the par-4 sixth hole. It led to a 71, though he was only three shots behind.
Kuchar also got a tip from Mickelson — a tip of the cap, anyway — when he got up-and-down with a flop shot on his final hole at No. 9 for a share of the lead. Dating to his 68 in the final round of The Players Championship, Kuchar has shot in the 60s in 10 of his last 11 rounds.
“I feel like I’ve put it all together,” Kuchar said. “The tough thing and the great thing about golf is there’s so many facets of the game, so many pieces, that need to come together for you to play well. It seems like some weeks the putter is hot but the driver’s not. If you get them all clicking, it’s great. And it feels like everything’s coming along on good form now.”
At Galloway Township, N.J., Anna Nordqvist and Stacy Lewis know their way around the Donald Ross-designed Bay Course at Stockton Seaview.
Nordqvist opened her ShopRite LPGA Classic title defense with a 7-under 64 for a share of the lead with Ai Miyazato and Paula Reto. Lewis, the tournament winner in 2012 and 2014, had a 66.
Nordqvist bogeyed Nos. 11 and 12, the second and third holes of her round, then birdied nine of the last 12 holes. The Swede twice made four straight birdies — on Nos. 16-1 and 6-9.
Miyazato and Reto were paired together in the afternoon.
Haru Nomura, a two-time winner this year, was a stroke back along with Casey Grice and Catriona Matthew. Lewis had five birdies in a bogey-free round to join Beatriz Recari, Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Maude-Aimee Leblanc, Christel Boeljon, Katherine Kirk, Stephanie Meadow and Amelia Lewis at 66.
Down to sixth in the world, the 31-year-old Lewis is winless in 49 starts since taking the North Texas LPGA Shootout in June 2014 for her 11th LPGA Tour victory. She tied for second three weeks ago in Alabama, her 10th runner-up finish during the drought and her 23rd overall.
At Des Moines, Iowa, John Inman shot a 7-under 65 at the Wakonda Club to take a two-stroke lead in the Principal Charity Classic.
It’s the first time Inman, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, has led after the opening round on the 50-and-over tour. The milestone round came three days after he won a qualifying event at a nearby course.
Tom Lehman was tied for second with Todd Hamilton, Gary Hallberg, Mike Goodes and John Riegger.
Miguel Angel Jimenez opened with a 68 in his first start in the event. John Daly, also making his Des Moines debut, had a 74.
At Stockholm, England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick shot a 5-under 65 to open a three-shot lead after the second round of the Nordea Masters.
Fitzpatrick had an 11-under 133 total at Bro Hof Slott. He wn the British Masters in November. English countrymen Ross Fisher (68) and Andrew Johnston (69) were tied for second with Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts (66), Sweden’s Alexander Bjork (68) and Scotland’s Scott Henry (69).
Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 6, was 2 under after a 70.