Stricker maintains lead at Memorial

Steve Stricker of the U.S. watches his tee shot on the third hole during the third round of the...

Steve Stricker of the U.S. watches his tee shot on the third hole during the third round of the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, June 4, 2011. (REUTERS/Jay LaPrete)

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, Last Updated: 7:52 PM ET

Dublin, OH – Steve Stricker certainly carried the momentum from Friday's end into Saturday.

Even with a big lead, he's hoping Saturday's end doesn't carry into Sunday.

Stricker eagled two of his first five holes Saturday as part of a three-under 69 and maintained his lead at three heading into Sunday's final round of the Memorial Tournament. The advantage could have been larger, however, but the nine-time tour winner closed with two bogeys in the final four holes.

"Just kind of a little disappointing that I kind of let it slip away on the back nine and didn't finish the round like I had hoped," Stricker said. "But all in all, a good day, 69 around here is a good score. Still got a three-shot lead, so I'm in good position heading into Sunday."

Stricker, who had a hole-in-one and birdie to close out Friday's second round, stands at 12-under 204 through 54 holes, his 12th such lead on the PGA Tour.

If there's one thing the 44-year-old knows how to do, however, it's close out tournaments. Out of his nine wins, five have come when he's held the 54-hole lead; he's never shot worse than 72 on Sunday when he's held at least a share of the third-round lead.

Stricker has held the outright lead four times on tour after three rounds and has converted each into victory.

"This would rank right up there, no question," Stricker said about the prospect of his winning this tournament. "It's a great tournament. It's Jack (Nicklaus') tournament."

Stricker, who has reached as high as No. 2 in the world rankings but has never won a major title, has been remarkably consistent this year with six finishes in the top-13, including four straight. His last win came in the 2010 John Deere Classic.

Jonathan Byrd birdied the last to get into second alone at nine-under 207. He had four birdies and a bogey in a round of three-under 69 and is in search of his sixth PGA Tour win and first since the season-opening Tournament of Champions.

"My scorecard was a little -- I had a bunch of bogeys the first day, and each day it's kind of -- one bogey today and no bogeys yesterday," Byrd said. "I'm doing everything pretty well."

Coincidentally enough, Byrd was tied with Stricker and Robert Garrigus at the Tournament of Champions heading into the final round before shooting four shots better on Sunday and winning in a playoff with Garrigus. If Byrd can duplicate the effort, he would likely be looking at his second win of 2011.

"I played with (Stricker) on the final round in Maui, first tournament of the year, so that was fun playing with him," Byrd recalled. "He didn't have his best that day, but I remember coming down the 17th hole and I had a long two- putt, and he walked by me and kind of gave me a pat on the back and said, 'Get this up-and down.'

"I like playing with guys like that who do that. It's hard not to like Strick and pull for him."

Matt Kuchar (68) and Brandt Jobe (69) share third at eight-under 208, while Mark Wilson (66), Shaun Micheel (67) and first-round leader Rory McIlroy (71) are tied for fifth at minus-seven.

Stricker needed just 10 putts on a fantastic front nine Saturday, continuing where he left off on Friday.

It looked ominous from the start with an approach to the greenside bunker on No. 1, but he got up-and-down and saved par with a nine-foot putt.

His shot of the day came early, on No. 2, with a hole-out eagle from the fairway. From 116 yards away, Stricker spun the ball back from about four feet past the pin, rolling it right in to get to red figures for the day.

"Things are going my way. That's what I was thinking," Stricker chuckled.

Stricker got up-and-down for par again after an errant tee shot on the par- three fourth, then hit a beautiful second shot at the par-five fifth to seven feet, where he promptly recorded his second eagle of the day.

After tripping to bogey at the fifth to fall to 12-under, Stricker got back on track with a nine-foot birdie putt at the seventh and 24-foot birdie putt at the eighth.

From there, however, Stricker lost a bit of his momentum, failing to birdie another hole the rest of the way.

His approaches started to stray further from the pin: 34 feet away on No. 9, 17 feet at No. 10 and off the green at the par-five 11th, all of which ended with pars.

Stricker's tee shot at the par-three 12th landed off the green, though he made another par. On the 14th, he squandered a four-foot birdie putt, and it began a downhill slide in the final holes.

His drive on the par-five 15 landed in the rough, and he had to lay up with his third shot short of the green. Stricker's fourth was 31 feet from the cup, and he two-putted for bogey.

On 16, a par-three, Stricker found sand off the tee shot, but his second was a manageable four feet away. However, he missed the putt and fell to 12-under, where he finished after two final pars.

NOTES: Stricker's last 54-hole lead came earlier this year at the Tournament of Champions, but he finished in a share for fourth. He had won his previous three tournaments with such a lead...The last eagle on No. 2 before Stricker was Chris Riley in 2001...Stricker is the first player in Memorial history to eagle a par-three, par-four and par-five in the same week...Byrd has one bogey in his last 43 holes...J.J. Henry had the only bogey-free round of the day. He shot a three-under 69.


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