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Stricker's big lead shrinks

Steve Stricker begins his round with good cheer after holing out for eagle on the par-4 second hole.

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Steve Stricker begins his round with good cheer after holing out for eagle on the par-4 second hole.

DUBLIN, Ohio — Steve Stricker holed out from the fairway for one of his two eagles Saturday and wound up with 3-under 69 on a steamy afternoon at Muirfield Village and finished with a three-shot lead in the Memorial.

He still had to convince himself it was a good day.

Right when it looked as though Stricker might leave everyone in his wake, he missed a 4-foot birdie on the 14th hole. He bogeyed the par-5 15th, then missed a 4-foot par putt on No. 16 and had a 7-foot birdie on the next hole catch the lip. And when he arrived at his ball in the middle of the 18th fairway, it was in a sand-filled divot.

Stricker saved par, and perspective soon followed.

"All of a sudden, things seemed pretty hard, when at the start of the day, things were really going my way," he said. "But I understand that, and I understand that's the nature of this game. So you add them up at the end, and it was a 69. And it was a good score."

Stricker holed out for eagle from 113 yards on No. 2 and had another eagle with a 3-iron into 6 feet on the par-5 fifth.

He was at 12-under 204, three shots clear of Jonathan Byrd heading to today's final round.

Byrd, who won the opener at Kapalua after playing in the final group with Stricker, hit his approach within 2 feet on No. 18 for birdie to cap 69. His only blunder came on the par-5 11th, his only bogey in 43 holes.

Matt Kuchar dropped two shots in his last four holes and settled for 68. That put him in a tie for third with Brandt Jobe (69), four shots behind.

Rory McIlroy was still in the hunt. After double bogey on the par-3 fourth, the 22-year-old rolled in a long eagle putt on the 15th and wound up with 71. He was 10 shots behind with six holes to play, then drew within five shots by the end.

"Even though I didn't play my best stuff (Saturday), I'm still in a decent position going into (today)," McIlroy said. "And that's all you can ask for."

He was at 7-under 209, along with former PGA champion Shaun Micheel (67) and Mark Wilson (66).

Luke Donald, in his debut as No. 1 in the world, shot 73 and was eight shots behind in a tie for 17th. Four-time major champion Phil Mickelson (72) was 10 shots behind.

LPGA: Brittany Lincicome of Seminole had the round of the day, shooting 7-under 64 that featured seven birdies and no bogeys to jump into contention at the ShopRite Classic in Galloway Township, N.J. Cristie Kerr (65) birdied No. 18 for 8-under 134 total and a one-shot lead over Catriona Matthew after two rounds. Lincicome was third at 136. Matthew, 41, shot 67 and seeks to become the first player in her 40s to win on tour since Helen Alfredsson won in 2008 at 43. Tampa's Cindy LaCrosse shot 68 and was at 140, tied for 14th.

CHAMPIONS: Mark Brooks shot 4-under 67 to lead Mark Calcavecchia by a stroke heading into the final round of the Principal Charity Classic in West Des Moines, Iowa. Brooks, who totaled 10-under 132, is vying for his first victory since the 1996 PGA Championship.

Stricker's big lead shrinks 06/04/11 [Last modified: Saturday, June 4, 2011 9:09pm]
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