PGA: Scottie Scheffler shoots 68 to take control at Memorial

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Scottie Scheffler eagled the 15th hole and birdied the last to build a three-shot lead at the Memorial Tournament on Friday in Dublin, Ohio.

The World No. 1 is back atop a PGA Tour leaderboard, seeking his fifth win of the season. In his past seven starts dating to March, he has won four tournaments and tied for second twice.

Scheffler’s 4-under 68 was the second-best round of the day as Muirfield Village Golf Club played tougher in the second round than the first. At 9-under 135 through two days, Scheffler has a healthy advantage over Norway’s Viktor Hovland (69 Friday) and Canada’s Adam Hadwin (72) back at 6 under.

South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout posted the round of the day early on Friday, a 5-under 67, to jump up the leaderboard. He is tied for fourth at 5 under with Keegan Bradley (69).

Scheffler started the day one shot off Hadwin’s pace and made three birdies on the front nine to climb to 8 under, alone in the lead. A few poor shots at the par-5 11th led to a bogey, which he duplicated two holes later after a bad drive and an even worse approach.

But it was all smiles at the par-5 15th, where his second shot rolled up to about 9 feet from the pin to set him up for eagle.

“I think I had about 235 (to the) pin,” Scheffler said. “It was just a kind of nice hold 3-iron and, yeah, felt like I had a good number and it’s nice when I have a number where I want to cut it and the pin’s on the right and that was one of those instances.”

Despite missing the fairway at the par-4 18th, Scheffler went from bunker to green and sank a 12-foot, right-to-left birdie putt.

Asked if golf is “easy” for him right now, Scheffler laughed.

“Easy is definitely not the right word,” he said. “I feel like what I love about this game is how difficult it is. I love coming out here and competing against the best players in the world on the best golf courses, and this is obviously a pretty challenging track. I love kind of the — I really just love competing out here, and I don’t really think about whether or not it’s easy or hard, and some days I play good and some days I don’t, and outside of that, I’m just out here trying to compete.”

Hovland had two bogeys and two birdies on his front nine before birdieing Nos. 13, 15 and 18 coming in. The three birdies he made at par-4 holes were the result of tight approach shots — leaving him putts no longer than 4 1/2 feet — while he needed to make a 17-foot birdie putt at the par-5 seventh hole and an 11-footer at the par-5 15th.

Hovland, the defending Memorial champion, continues to see signs of improvement with his swing after reuniting with his coach, Joe Mayo, earlier this year.

“Now, I’m at least getting closer to where I was at this tournament last year,” Hovland said. “So not quite there yet, I feel like, but can’t argue against results. I’m playing some nice golf, so just got to keep it going.”

Bezuidenhout salvaged a poor drive on his first hole by making a 38-foot birdie putt there. He converted an 18-footer for birdie at the second, setting the tone for his day. He went on to make his next three birdies from 18, 13 and 13 feet at the fifth, ninth and 13th. He finished with six on the day against one bogey.

“I haven’t had a putting round like this for a while,” Bezuidenhout said. “Like, (Thursday) wasn’t my best putting round at all. I think I lost like 2 1/2 strokes on the field putting yesterday. It was nice to see the ball go in for a change and post a low number.”

Ludvig Aberg of Sweden (72) is alone in sixth at 4 under. PGA Championship winner Xander Schauffele (73), Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland (71), Tony Finau (70) and Akshay Bhatia (72) are tied at 3 under.

Though the Memorial is a $20 million signature event, its status as a player-hosted invitational means that it retains a 36-hole cut to the top 50 players plus ties. Jack Nicklaus’ event will not see the likes of Jordan Spieth (5 over), Wyndham Clark (5 over), Patrick Cantlay (7 over), Englishman Justin Rose (9 over) or Rickie Fowler (14 over, last place) on the weekend.

–Field Level Media

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