DUBLIN, Ohio, June 1 (Reuters) - Former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel birdied his last two holes to trim Bill Haas’ overnight lead to one shot when the weather-delayed second round of the Memorial Tournament was completed on Saturday.
South African Schwartzel, the first-round pacesetter after opening with a sizzling seven-under-par 65, rolled in a 12-footer at the 17th and a four-footer at the 18th to card a 71 on a challenging layout made more receptive by overnight rain.
That left him at eight-under 136, a stroke behind American Haas who had fired a 67 in tough, windy conditions at Muirfield Village Golf Club on Friday to take control of the PGA Tour event hosted by Jack Nicklaus.
Five-times champion and last year’s winner Tiger Woods was 10 strokes off the pace, having battled to a 74 the previous day, while Northern Irish world number two Rory McIlroy made the cut right on the number, after returning a 69.
Schwartzel, one of 42 players who had to finish the second round on Saturday morning after almost two hours of weather delays on Friday, was delighted with his unexpectedly strong finish.
“I thought if I could somehow get one back and get my round back to even, I’d be very happy,” the 2011 Masters champion told reporters about his hopes with three holes to play.
“I managed to make two, coming up 17 and 18. I‘m very pleased with the way it turned out. Yesterday we had some tough conditions, everyone did.”
McIlroy, who had four holes to complete on an overcast Saturday morning at Muirfield Village, scraped into the third round despite a messy bogey-bogey-par finish.
The 24-year-old found a fairway bunker off the tee at the par-four 18th and had to sink a four-footer for par and a three-under 69 to join 72 other players who made the cut at three-over 147.
”Relieved and frustrated at the same time, I guess,“ said McIlroy, who had left himself with an uphill task to make the cut after opening with a 78. ”Bogeying 16 and 17 wasn’t really the plan, and having to make one up and down at the last.
“Happy to be in on the weekend with a couple of rounds to work on things, but I need to commit more to my shots and not guide the ball as much, just let it go.”
Kyle Stanley was alone in third at seven under after shooting a 70, with fellow Americans Matt Kuchar (70) and Bubba Watson (67) a further stroke back.
Among those failing to make the cut were U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, world number five Brandt Snedeker, three-times major winner Vijay Singh and 14-year-old Chinese Guan Tianlang.
With heavy thunderstorms forecast for Saturday afternoon and evening, the players were set to start the third round in groups of three with a two-tee start.
Organisers have made provision for a possible Monday finish. (Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Ken Ferris)