Justin Suh signed for a 6-under 66 at the Memorial and then made a few stops to speak with the media. His putter stayed with him the entire time, which probably was wise.
The way it behaved Friday when he holed eight putts from the 10-foot range or longer, he might not want to let it out of his sight.
Suh made one last birdie on the 18th that gave him a one-shot lead over past champion Hideki Matsuyama, with two-time Memorial champion Patrick Cantlay another shot behind.
“On the first hole, I made a 12-footer for par on the fringe. I just kind of kept the confidence with the putter going,” Suh said.
Two of his longer putts were to save par, and there were plenty of birdies along the way on another sunny, hot afternoon at Muirfield Village.
Matsuyama and Cantlay played in the morning, two players who consider the course Jack Nicklaus built among their favourites all year. Matsuyama’s putting was equal to Suh produced in the afternoon, rolling in big birdie putts on his way to a tournament-best 65.
“To make those putts at 7 and 8 were huge,” Matsuyama said. “I made some good par-saving putts today. The course is playing tough, especially the greens. If the greens get even harder than they are now, it’s going to be a challenge this weekend. But today, the putts went in and so I’m satisfied.”
Cantlay was superb again from tee to green — the brand of golf that usually succeeds at Muirfield Village — and made enough putts for a 67. Several burned the edge of the cup. He also made a 50-foot birdie putt from the back of the green on No. 17.
The course played about a stroke easier, though it was a fair balance. On both days, the morning wave had relatively calm and warm, and the afternoon wave got wind and heat.
Suh was at 8-under 136 going into the week as he aims for his first PGA Tour title.
The PGA Tour packaged him with a strong college class in 2019 that featured Suh, who reached No. 1 as an amateur while playing at Southern California; Collin Morikawa of Cal; U.S. Amateur champion Viktor Hovland and Matthew Wolff of Oklahoma State.
Within weeks of turning pro, Wolff and Morikawa were PGA Tour winners. Hovland was not too far behind. Suh began missing cuts, dealt with a wrist injury and took a different route. He said it wasn’t difficult to watch their instant success.
“I thought the better they do, almost better for me. Because they’re the same year as me. If they can do it, I can do it. So it brought a little bit more confidence,” Suh said. “Over the course of three years, I didn’t really think about what they were doing. I knew what I had to do to get better and I’ve stayed consistent doing the same things ever since I was in college.
“I think everyone is kind of on their own path.”
Suh won the Korn Ferry Tour points title last year, and he’s been on the upward trend — he contended at the Honda Classic, had a top 10 at The Players Championship and was two out of the lead going into the weekend of the PGA Championship before faltering.
This should be another strong test.
Matsuyama won his first PGA Tour title at Muirfield Village in 2014 and being back gives him an emotional spark in a year that has been slowed by a neck injury. Cantlay has a game that fits anywhere, but he loves the Memorial, and it shows.
David Lipsky (69) joined Cantlay at 6-under 138.
The group four shots behind included Rory McIlroy (68) and Jon Rahm (70).
McIlroy was mostly satisfied with his finish. He played well on Thursday only to get a terrible break when his ball hung in thick grass on the slope of a bunker, leading to a triple bogey on the 18th hole that wiped out his good work and gave him a 72.
This time he finished strong for a 68 which puts him in the mix going into the weekend.
“I felt good about everything that I did yesterday,” he said. “I got one bad break on 18. So I really feel like I’m one shot out of leading this golf tournament. ... I can’t let that one unlucky break hide the fact that everything else was working pretty well.”
Rahm opened with back-to-back bogeys and stayed the course, waiting for birdie opportunities that eventually fell his way. He played bogey-free the rest of the way, picked up two birdies on par 5s and closed with a birdie on the 18th to get in range.
“You’ve got to assume very few players in the afternoon were going to play bogey-free, so you have to go to work and take advantage of the holes coming up,” Rahm said.
The cut was at 3-over 147, and Scottie Scheffler made it on the number.
Scheffler, back to No. 1 in the world ranking, has not finished worst than 12th all year. Keeping that streak alive will take some work, not to mention some putts. He ranks last in putting among the 66 players who made the cut.
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