DUBLIN, Ohio, June 1 (Reuters) - While Tiger Woods battled to the second worst score of his professional career, Matt Kuchar held his nerve in tricky gusting winds to grab a two-shot lead after Saturday’s third round at the Memorial Tournament.
American Kuchar, who clinched one of the biggest victories of his career at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in February, ground out a two-under-par 70 to post an eight-under total of 208 in the weather-delayed PGA Tour event.
Though every player in the field struggled on lightning-fast greens at Muirfield Village Golf Club as the shifting winds gusted up to 32 mph (51.5 kph), ice-cool Kuchar mixed five birdies with three bogeys to take over at the top.
Americans Kevin Chappell (68) and Kyle Stanley (73) were tied for second at six under with Australian Matt Jones (70), 2010 champion Justin Rose of England (71) and second-round leader Bill Haas (76) a further stroke adrift.
South African Charl Schwartzel struggled to a 76 to finish at four under. The 2011 Masters champion had birdied his last two holes for a 71 to trim Haas’ overnight lead to one shot when the weather-delayed second round was completed earlier in the day.
Danger lurked at every corner of the tree-lined course designed by tournament host Jack Nicklaus and five-times champion Woods struggled as much as anyone in the unpredictable gusts as he carded a 79.
The American world number one recorded a bogey, two doubles and a triple to reach the turn in eight-over 44, his worst nine as a professional, and declined to speak to reporters after bogeying his final hole, the par-four ninth.
“It was a rough day,” Woods later told a PGA Tour official after totalling 30 putts for the third successive round for his worst ever score at Muirfield Village, winding up joint 69th in the field of 72 - a distant 16 strokes off the pace.
“It was tough out there from beginning to end. I tried to fight back on the back nine, just didn’t quite materialise.”
Northern Irish world number two Rory McIlroy, who missed the cut here last year, also struggled, mixing two birdies with three bogeys and a double for a 75 to end the day at six over. (Editing by Julian Linden)