---- — DUBLIN, Ohio — Bill Haas played the best golf in the toughest conditions Friday in the rain-delayed Memorial.
When the second round was suspended as dark clouds rolled in and forced the third stoppage in play, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy were close to each other on the leaderboard, even if they were miles away from Haas, who had a 5-under 67.
That didn’t bode well for Woods, the five-time Memorial winner who had a most peculiar round in wind and on fast greens. He three-putted from 5 feet for double bogey on the par-5 15th, chopped up the final hole for a bogey and wound up with a 74.
“Tough conditions out there, and I didn’t exactly play my best, either,” said Woods, who had his worst 36-hole total (145) at the Memorial since he first played it in 1997.
McIlroy was in danger of missing the cut until he fired off five birdies, looking more comfortable with his putts and attacking with his driver. He was 4 under for his round and one shot inside the cut line — and one shot behind Woods. McIlroy was in a greenside bunker in two shots at the par-5 15th when play was stopped.
“The major goal today was to try to make it into the weekend,” McIlroy said. “I’m on the right track to do that.”
The second round was to resume at 7:30 a.m. Saturday.
The Memorial has a long history of bad weather, and it’s a tough spot for it to happen. Slugger White, the tour’s vice president of competition, said more storms were expected early Saturday afternoon and into Sunday morning. Ohio is on the western edge of the eastern time zone, allowing for long hours of daylight. But several players have U.S. Open qualifying Monday.
Morning or afternoon, Muirfield Village was no picnic. The wind was a factor in the morning and it began to increase in strength, while the greens were firm and crispy and required caution even on the shorter putts.
Haas played through it beautifully, taking advantage of one bad tee shot that he thought was headed out-of-bounds on the par-5 11th. He hit a provisional, didn’t need it and wound up making a birdie. He also holed a bunker shot for eagle on No. 5 and was at 9-under 135.
He was three shots clear of Matt Kuchar, who had a 70, among those who finished the round.
Charl Schwartzel, who made 10 birdies in an opening-round 65, struggled on the greens and was 1 over for his day and three shots behind. He had three holes remaining. Bubba Watson was at 6 under through 14 holes, and his biggest battle was with allergies. He wore sunglasses under gathering clouds and kept a wet towel around his neck, anything to keep his allergies under control.
The advantage for those still on the course was the rain delay of 1 1/2 hours. It rained hard for a short time, which slightly softened the greens, and the afternoon starters returned to a course with only a breeze.
“The wind died down, made it a lot easier to play the holes,” Watson said.
Kyle Stanley also was at 6 under and had five holes remaining.
McIlroy got the short end on the par-3 12th, slightly downhill and over the water. The wind not only was strong, it was unpredictable. McIlroy hit his tee shot and could only watch, hopeful it landed somewhere on dry land and in a reasonable spot. The horn to stop play sounded moments later.
Haas has been playing the Memorial since 2005, and he has been coming to Muirfield Village even longer when his father, Jay Haas, was a regular. The son even caddied for the father one year, and he received a sponsor’s exemption his first year out of Wake Forest.
“Even though I’ve never really had great success her personally, I love coming back, look forward to it every year,” Haas said. “And part of it might be I’ve always known how much my dad liked it and how well he did here. Hopefully, I can continue on the weekend and get a better taste in my mouth on how to play it, as opposed to just liking it.”
Only six players from the morning round managed to break 70, a testament to a course that is dry and fast, especially on the greens. The wind was strong early and showed no sign of letting up, even after a 20-minute delay in the afternoon as storms threatened.
The resurgent Robert Karlsson had a 71 and was five shots behind.
For a short time, it looked as though Woods’ first objective was to stick around for the weekend. Along with not making birdies, he made a mess of the par-5 15th for the second straight day. From the fairway, he pulled his approach well left of the green and chipped through the green, just into a thick collar of round. He chipped out to about 5 feet, and his par putt caught the lip and spun some 8 feet away. Woods wound up three-putting for double bogey from 5 feet.
It could have been worse. Woods made six par putts from the 4-foot to 7-foot range, and he wound up at 1-over 145. When he played the Memorial his first full year on tour in 1997, Woods opened with 72-75 and tied for 67th in a tournament cut short to 54 holes.
“I thought I had a good chance to at least get to even par for my round,” Woods said. “The last hole I ended up making bogey. All in all, it was a hard-fought day, and that’s all I have.”
Woods has never won a PGA Tour event from 10 shots behind going into the weekend. He won at Torrey Pines in 1999 when he was nine shots behind Ted Tryba. Woods has never made up more than a six-shot deficit on the weekend at Muirfield Village.
His tough day wasn’t nearly as bad as some of those around him.
Matt Every started the back nine with a birdie and finished it with a 44 on his way to an 84. Brendan Steele had an 81, while Innisbrook winner Kevin Streelman had an 80. And it proved far too tough for Guan Tianlang. The 14-year-old from China missed his second straight cut after a round of 79.
“Those greens are lightning fast,” Haas said. “I think that’s the biggest deal.”
Even more significant for Haas was how he played the par 5s. He is 7 under on them for the week.