Chilean teenager Joaquin Niemann birdied the 18th hole Friday to reach 11-under par and grab a share of the lead with Kyle Stanley following the second round of the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio.
South Korea’s Byeong Hun An is two shots off the lead at 9-under, followed by a group of five players at 8-under that includes Wesley Bryan, Bryson DeChambeau, J.B. Holmes, Australia’s Jason Day and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama.
Tiger Woods had one of the rounds of the day going, reaching 5-under with a hole out for eagle from 95 yards on the par-5 11th hole. His tee shot on the par-3 12th hole hit the flag and settled six feet away, but that’s when the horn blew signaling a weather delay.
After close to a 90-minute delay, Woods missed the birdie putt and missed another birdie opportunity on the next hole as his charge up the leaderboard stalled. He mixed a birdie and a bogey in the rest of the way while missing two more makeable putts, settling for a 5-under 67 that moved him up 23 spots and into a tie for 24th.
Woods took to the practice green shortly after his round. He is 102nd in strokes gained putting against the field this week.
“I did not putt well today,” Woods said. “It could have been easily a nice little 62 or 63, and I turned into a 67.
“I felt like I had good control of pretty much everything. Unfortunately I missed a lot of short putts, which is something I don’t normally do. Which is just frustrating, I’ve got to clean that up this weekend and hopefully I can get something going.”
Other big names within striking distance entering the weekend include world No. 3 Justin Rose and Sweden’s Henrik Stenson at 7-under, No. 2 Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and Adam Scott at 6-under and Masters champion Patrick Reed, who is tied with Woods at 5-under.
Phil Mickelson also made a charge with a 6-under 66 that tied the low round Friday and got him to 4-under. Top-ranked Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler are another shot back, while Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy made the cut on the number at even par.
The story of the tournament continues to be the play of Niemann, a former top-ranked amateur who is the youngest player in the field at 19 and playing in just his fifth professional event. He dropped to 8-under after his third bogey of the day on No. 13, but reeled off three birdies over his final five holes, including one on the difficult 18th hole to post a 4-under 68.
“I’ve been learning a lot since I just turned professional,” Niemann told the Golf Channel during the weather delay, which came after he finished his front nine. “I think I learned a lot at the Masters as an amateur, and I have gained a lot of confidence in my game. Just feeling every week more comfortable with me being out here.”
Stanley was one of 10 players to card 6-under 66s on Friday. Beginning his round on the back nine, Stanley had five birdies and one bogey through his first seven holes to make his turn in 4-under 32. He poured in three more birdies against a lone bogey as he led for most of the late afternoon. Stanley also got up-and-down from a difficult lie just off the green on his final hole of the day to salvage par.
Fifth-ranked Jordan Spieth (3-over) and defending champion Jason Dufner (4-over) were among the notable names to miss the cut. Others who will not play the weekend include 2016-17 Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele and three-time Memorial winner Kenny Perry at 2-over.
Many eyes will remain on the 42-year-old Woods, a five-time winner of the Memorial whose best scoring round average this season has be on Saturdays. He said the weather delay did not affect his back, which Woods said was tight during much of Thursday’s opening round.
“If I hit the ball like this on the weekend, then I have a great chance of winning the tournament,” he said. “I’ve always felt comfortable here. And this golf course has been one that I’ve just had a good feeling about. Just everything about it.”
–Field Level Media