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Schwartzel leads PGA Memorial; Tiger at 71

Charl Schwartzel shoots 7-under 65 at the Memorial, finishing with a 12-foot birdie.

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Charl Schwartzel shoots 7-under 65 at the Memorial, finishing with a 12-foot birdie.

DUBLIN, Ohio — Charl Schwartzel made sure one hole didn't ruin an entire round Thursday in the Memorial.

Schwartzel hit the ball so consistently well at Muirfield Village that the former Masters champion twice had stretches of four straight birdies. And when he made double bogey with an 8-iron in hand and his ball on a tee toward the end of the round, he got rid of that bad taste with one last birdie for 7-under 65.

Schwartzel had a one-shot lead over Scott Piercy, who went from smashing it to playing it safe, and he was six shots clear of five-time winner Tiger Woods.

Woods hit the ball well enough to be much closer, though he missed too many birdie chances and didn't make up any ground on the par 5s.

"That's probably the highest score I could have shot," Woods said after his 1-under 71. "Didn't capitalize on a few opportunities I had. Short irons, I didn't hit them close enough."

Woods was one shot worse than 53-year-old Fred Couples, the Presidents Cup captain at Muirfield Village this fall, and one shot better than 14-year-old Guan Tianlang, who has played more PGA Tour events than Woods over the past two months.

Rory McIlroy, meanwhile, might be headed for another short week at the tournament Jack Nicklaus built. After opening with a birdie, McIlroy didn't putt nearly well enough to atone for some loose shots.

McIlroy four-putted the par-3 12th for double bogey, had a three-putt bogey on No. 7 and ended his round by missing a 4-foot birdie. That gave him 78.

"I don't really have many explanations for this," he said.

Schwartzel played in the morning, when the slick greens were still smooth, and he made 10 birdies. Most of them were in the 10-foot range, though he picked up a bonus with a 25-foot putt down a slight ridge on the 16th.

He thought a great round might turn into just a good one with one swing. His 8-iron on the par-3 eighth hole drifted right and caught the downward slope of a bunker. He tried to put a little more spin on the difficult shot and sent it over the green. He chipped past the hole to about 8 feet and missed that to take double bogey.

But on his final hole he made a 12-foot birdie putt down the hill.

Bill Haas and Matt Kuchar each shot 68, the best scores of the afternoon.

goosen ailing: Two-time champion Retief Goosen withdrew from the U.S. Open because of a back injury. His spot in the June 13-16 event at Merion Golf Club will be added to the qualifying positions available at 11 sectional qualifying sites June 3.

Schwartzel leads PGA Memorial; Tiger at 71 05/30/13 [Last modified: Thursday, May 30, 2013 9:46pm]
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