DUBLIN, Ohio – Charl Schwartzel made the most of an early start to move within a shot of leader Bill Haas early Saturday morning during the completion of the rain-delayed second round of The Memorial Tournament.
Rory McIlroy needed to rally to get up and down from 45 yards just to make the cut.
Play was suspended for the third time on Friday night with 42 players still on the course. Haas, who followed an opening 68 with a 67 before the heavy weather came in, was safe and secure in his hotel with a three-shot lead overnight.
First-round leader Schwartzel began play on the 16th hole Saturday with a par, then birdied the final two holes to put the finishing touches on a 71 that left him at 136.
''I thought if I could somehow get one back and get my round back to even, I'd be very happy,'' he said. ''I managed to make two (birdies), coming up 17 and 18. I'm very pleased with the way it turned out.''
Kyle Stanley played his final four holes on Saturday morning and was another shot back at 137. Next came Matt Kuchar and Bubba Watson at 138. Watson had to complete a 67. Robert Karlsson (71), Scott Stallings (70) and former Memorial winner Justin Rose (70) shared sixth place at 140, five shots behind Haas.
McIlroy had opened with a 78 and knew he needed to go low just to stick around for the weekend. He was 4 under for his round through 14 holes when the third suspension of play finally brought the players in on Friday night. When he returned in the morning he birdied the 15th, but then had bogeys at 16 and 17.
Needing a par to make the cut, he hit his drive on the closing par-4 into a deep trap, then spun his approach shot off the false front and it ended up 45 yards short and below the green. But he chipped to 4 feet and made the putt to salvage par.
He slammed his club into his bag as he was leaving the green.
''Bogeying 16 and 17 wasn't really the plan. And obviously having to make one up and down at the last,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm 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, I guess – just let it go.''
One player who didn't have to worry about returning to the course was five-time Memorial winner Tiger Woods. He never could get anything going and surprisingly had problems on the par 5s, shooting a 74 to stand at 1-over 145.
''Tough conditions out there and I didn't exactly play my best either,'' said Woods, who had to battle gusting winds but still is only even on the par-5 holes over 36 holes. ''It's not that hard to make bogeys and doubles on this golf course. You miss the ball in the wrong spot, get the wrong gust, it's tough.''
Haas, playing in just the fourth group off the tee on Friday, took advantage of conditions without a lot of wind and with little or no precipitation. He opened with three pars and then went birdie, eagle, birdie. He would have had an even bigger lead but he needed three to get down from over the green on his last hole.
The tournament, the course, and the legend behind both – Jack Nicklaus – have meant a lot to the Haas family, especially Bill.
''I caddied here for my dad when I was in college and loved it,'' he said. ''Mr. Nicklaus gave me a sponsor exemption when I first turned pro to play in this event. It's something I'll never forget. It meant a lot to me.''
Back in the days when Haas caddied for his dad, who now plays on the Champions Tour, he always brought home a memento.
''I used to always get a T-shirt here every year I came,'' said Haas, who is at 9-under 135 after rounds of 68 and 67. ''I do have tons of Muirfield Village T-shirts. They have the softest T-shirts.''
Now, as is often the case, the course will also have soft greens. Heavy rains resulted in a round being interrupted for the 40th time in the tournament's 38 years – more than one of every four rounds played.
Play was suspended for 22 minutes earlier on Friday, then for 1 hour and 27 minutes later. A major storm front then hit the area, stopping play early in the evening.
Kuchar's 70 featured four birdies and included two bogeys, one on his final hole also.
He said the conditions made everything a trial – and he avoided the biggest storms.
''This course is hard without wind. It's difficult and challenging on a normal day,'' he said. ''Putting is challenging. These greens are similar to Augusta National. You throw in 20-plus mile-an-hour winds and it becomes really difficult.''
Guan Tianlang, the 14-year-old Chinese eighth-grader, shot 79 on Friday after an opening 72 and missed the cut.
Third-round play began under threatening skies soon after the completion of the second round.
Getting through the third round might be difficult as well. A line of storms is expected Saturday afternoon and into Sunday morning.