- Associated Press - Friday, June 1, 2012

DUBLIN, Ohio — That other RoryRory Sabbatini — played his best golf in the worst weather Friday at the Memorial and made a surprising appearance atop the leaderboard. Right behind him was a Tiger Woods that looked all too familiar.

Sabbatini played bogey-free over his final 12 holes, and despite missing a 5-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole, put together a 3-under 69 in the cool, blustery conditions at Muirfield Village to take a one-shot lead going into the weekend.

Woods looked strong for the second straight day, though he also had another double bogey that slowed his progress. What pleased him was controlling his ball in the wind for plenty of birdie chances that led to a 69.

“I hit the ball well all day, and it was a day that I needed to,” Woods said. “The wind was blowing out there, swirling in those trees, and it was just a tough day.”

It was plenty tough for Rory McIlroy.

The U.S. Open champion, who returned to No. 1 in the world only four weeks ago, missed the cut in his third straight tournament. McIlroy was in good shape until a shot just outside a creek hit the bank and went backward into the water, leading to the first of two double bogeys on the back nine. He shot 79 and missed the cut by three shots.

“I’m definitely hitting the ball better than I did last week, so I can see an improvement there,” he said. “But I’ve still got a long way to go.”

It was tough for everyone on a day that began with a two-hour rain delay in the morning. That softened the course, but the wind featured gusts strong enough that it was difficult to attack the pins. It showed in the scores.

Sabbatini was at 6-under 138, the highest score to lead the Memorial in 22 years.

“We basically just kept the ball in play all day, and that’s the challenge out there,” Sabbatini said. “And we did that very well, and I’m very, very excited, very content with the way that things went.”

Woods has 72 wins on the PGA Tour, one away from tying Jack Nicklaus for second on the career list. What better place to catch him than on the course Jack built, though Woods wasn’t ready to entertain such thoughts only halfway through the tournament.

And while he commands attention at Muirfield Village — a four-time champion who has shot par or better in 22 of his last 23 rounds on this course — there were plenty of possibilities going into the weekend.

Spencer Levin (72) and Scott Stallings (73) played in the morning and joined Woods at 5-under 139.

Jim Furyk, another former champion, matched the best score Friday with a 68 and was in the group only two shots behind. There were 21 players within four shots of the lead, a list that includes Quail Hollow winner Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson, Lucas Glover and Adam Scott, who was contending for the lead until closing with three straight bogeys for a 72.

The surprise was Sabbatini. He has missed the cut eight times this year, and his only top 10 came at the season opener in Kapalua, when he was 10 shots behind. The spunky South African has been toiling with his swing coach, Rick Smith, and for all the work they have done with his swing, even more crucial was keeping his patience.

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