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Casey Jumps to Top of Memorial; McIlroy Fades after 78
While 18-hole leader Rory McIlroy ballooned from an opening 9-under 63 to a 6-over 78 on Friday, England's Paul Casey took over the top spot in the Memorial leaderboard after his second straight 6-under 66. The PGA Tour stop hosted by Jack Nicklaus is taking place at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.
Over two rounds the 36-year-old Casey - whose only Tour win came in the 2009 Shell Houston Open - has carded 12 birdies, two eagles and four bogeys to reach 12-under 132, three strokes ahead of Bubba Watson, who's shot 66 and 69.
"I was ecstatic with the way I played," said Casey, who has managed to overcome physical issues and a divorce. He's now engaged to be married to English TV personality Pollyanna Woodward, and will become a father for the first time in September.
"There were a couple of mistakes in there. But that's Muirfield Village. It's a tricky golf course and you don't need to do a lot wrong to make a mistake. I know where everything fits now certainly in my life. I don't necessarily have it figured out. But I know how things stack up in importance."
Watson was only a stroke behind Casey toward the end of his round before closing with two straight bogeys to drop three behind.
Still, the two-time Masters champion wasn't displeased with his outing. "Any day you can shoot in the 60s at Muirfield you're pretty happy with," said Watson. "I'm in a good position going into the weekend and that's what you want."
Starting on the 10th tee, McIlroy's second round went south pretty quickly. He bogeyed his first hole before a birdie on the par-3 12th (his third hole). Then the 25-year-old Northern Irishman reeled off three straight double-bogeys and bogeyed the 18th to make the turn in a whopping 7-over 43. It got so bad that McIlroy - on the par-5 15th - double-hit a chip shot.
On his back nine, the two-time major winner managed two birdies - but dropped a shot on the par-5 fifth (his 14th hole) - to come home with a 78. McIlroy, who won a European Tour major - the BMW PGA Championship - last week, dropped into a share of 24th at 3-under 141 heading into the weekend.
On Thursday, McIlroy winced and needed medical attention on his knee after hitting his second shot on the seventh hole. He still managed seven birdies, two eagles and a double.
McIlroy told reporters after the second round that the knee wasn't bothering him, but his accuracy off the tee was. "On the course it was fine, the painkiller kicked in . . . I didn't realize how thick the rough is until I got into it today," he said good-naturedly. "I just kept missing fairways and making it tough for myself."
As for his triple-double streak, he added, "Take those three holes out and it wouldn't have been that bad a day, but these little runs I'm getting on it just seems to get away from me. I was able to avoid that last week. Not so much this week."
Four back of Casey is American Chris Kirk (70), while five behind are Japan's Hideki Matsuyama (67) and American Martin Flores (68).
Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen (67) and Americans Hunter Mahan (70), Ryan Moore (70) and Scott Langley (66) are tied for sixth at 138.
Sharing 10th at 5-under 139 are Colombian Camilo Villegas (68), Aussies Adam Scott (70) and Marc Leishman (68), and Americans Scott Brown (69), Brendon Todd (68), Gary Woodland (68) and Robert Streb (67).
Scott, the No. 1-ranked player in the world and winner of last week's Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial in Texas, had five birdies and two bogeys Friday. Scott continues to enjoy his position in the World Golf Ranking. "When you're a kid dreaming of being No. 1 and you're out on tour when you're 19, 20, you think you're going to roll into it; and it's not really the case all the time," said the 33-year-old.
"It does happen for some, but it wasn't the case for me. And a lot's gone into it. I felt I was No. 1 by such a small margin last week, it was just motivation to stay there for another week. It's going to take continued hard work and determination to stay there. We'll see how it goes. But it certainly was a fun experience last week to be No. 1, and then obviously to win the tournament will make it a pretty sweet memory for my career."
The cut was set at even-par 144. Defending champion Matt Kuchar rebounded from his opening 74 with a 69 to qualify for the weekend by a stroke. After posting a 72 Thursday, 42-time PGA Tour winner Phil Mickelson shot a 70 to also move on to the last two rounds.
"My game is feeling good. I just have some challenges," Mickelson said cryptically. "And I'm glad I'm playing this weekend. It will give me two more rounds on a good golf course to see if I can have something to build on."
Reigning U.S. Open champion Justin Rose didn't make the cut. The 33-year-old Brit posted rounds of 72 and 73. On Friday, he assessed himself a one-stroke penalty after - like McIlroy - he double-hit a pitch shot.
For all the scores, visit http://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html.