DUBLIN, OHIO (AP) - Like a golfing pied piper, an army of kids has trailed Rickie Fowler around the Memorial all week.
They had a lot to cheer about on Saturday.
Fowler followed two rounds of 71 with a 69, matching the day’s best, to move into third place at 5-under 211.
“I’ve hit a lot of good shots around here,” Fowler said, seconds after dozens of youngsters _ and more than a few adults _ chanted his name just a few feet away. “I’m able to go into every hole out here comfortably, knowing that I’ve played it well. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Fowler, who played at Oklahoma State and proudly wears the school’s neon orange, had to play in swirling winds during his college days. He said he wouldn’t have a problem if the gusts kicked up in the final round.
“I love playing in the wind,” he said.
When he finished his round he was five strokes behind Spencer Levin. By the time the last putt fell, he was just three back. He’ll play the final round paired with Tiger Woods, who is four off the pace.
After picking up his first career win a month ago at the Wells Fargo, Fowler is hungry to do it again. And he has no problem chasing down someone from behind.
“It’s not easy to go low,” he said, citing the difficult conditions. “Someone that’s in the lead is going to have a tough time pulling away.”
JACK ON CAMERAS: Jack Nicklaus has not spoken to Phil Mickelson since the four-time major champion withdrew after the opening round of the Memorial. Nicklaus isn’t sure what happened with Mickelson and the number of cellphone cameras. And he’s not sure what do about fans bringing their phones to the course.
“It’s not here. It’s a tour policy,” Nicklaus said Saturday.
Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Masters champion Bubba Watson had to back off several shots in the opening round because of fans taking pictures. The tour began allowing cellphones last year, though pictures are not allowed during tournament rounds.
Mickelson cited mental fatigue for withdrawing after a 79, though it is becoming clear his WD was also a subtle message to the tour.
“I haven’t been on the golf course,” Nicklaus said. “But I’ve always felt like … if you have all the noise like they have at Phoenix, they’re used to it and expect it. It’s not going to be a big deal. If you don’t expect it and it happens, then it becomes a big deal. Either guys have got to get used to it or the tour has got to adjust the policy.”
Nicklaus said the Memorial would follow tour policy. He had no solutions of his own.
“There’s no way in the world they can ask a tournament to police a policy,” he said. “What do you want, to be the Gestapo out there? We’ve got 30,000 or 40,000 people out there. You need 30,000 security (people). You can’t do that. I don’t know the answer.
“From my standpoint? You don’t have to worry about me. I don’t know how to take a picture with a cellphone.”
DOUBLE-DIGITS AT 18: Camilo Villegas matched the tournament record for the highest score on the closing hole when he had a 10 in Saturday’s third round.
Along the way he picked up some intimate knowledge of the sand traps on the par-4 hole.
His drive found a bunker to the right, as did his second, with his third coming up just short of the green. From there he overhit a wedge into the back bunker, leaving him with a downhill chip to a pin in the middle of the slope. He ran his sand shot past the pin and off the front of the green to a collection area.
Again he chipped up and again he rolled it into the same trap. And again his shot out ran all the way off the front of the green.
After dubbing a chip, he finally put the ball onto the green and one-putted, drilling a 6-footer.
His 10 matched the score of John Daly in 1999.
QUOTABLE: Scott Stallings, on playing partner Tiger Woods‘ 146-yard shot from an extremely deep fairway bunker to 10 feet from the pin: “That shot on 17, man, you don’t see that every day. I mean, he hit a wedge over a 20-story building out of a fairway bunker to 10 feet. In all honesty, I thought he was going to lay up and the next thing I saw it come out and go right upside the flag. I said, `That’s why he’s one of the best players that’s ever played.’”
However, Woods missed the putt and had to settle for par.
MUIRFIELD STIFFENS: Kyle Reifers grew up in Dublin, has played Muirfield Village more than almost any other golf course and has attended the Memorial for many years.
After a round of 73 that left him at 2-under 214 and tied for eighth, he said he’d never seen the layout play any harder.
“They’re starting to pick up speed,” he said of the greens. “It’s one of the tougher days that I’ve ever seen.”
The average score has increased every day, from 73.275 on Thursday, to 73.992 in the second round, to 74.324 on Saturday. The same conditions as in the third round _ sunny skies, cool temperatures and gusting winds _ are expected for the final round.
THEN 36 MORE: Many of the pros are sticking around for the biggest of the 11 U.S. Open sectional qualifiers around the country on Monday. They’ll play 18 holes each at Ohio State’s Scarlet Course and Scioto Country Club, separated by just a couple of miles in suburban Upper Arlington.
Among those scheduled to participate are Davis Love III, Ben Curtis, Ricky Barnes, Camilo Villegas, Jhonattan Vegas, Jeff Overton, Chris Dimarco, Rocco Mediate, John Huh, Rory Sabbatini, Kevin Stadler, J.B. Holmes, Henrik Stenson, Brandt Jobe, Sean O’Hair and third-round leader Spencer Levin.
How several players finish in the Memorial could affect whether they get an exemption into the Open by being in the top 60 in the world to be played in two weeks at The Olympic Club in San Francisco.
The USGA usually offers 15 or 20 qualifying spots from the 132-player field in the Columbus sectional because it includes so many pros.
Jack Nicklaus grew up on the Donald Ross-designed Scioto, which will host the 2016 U.S. Senior Open, and he also did the redesign of Alister MacKenzie’s original layout at Scarlet.
DIVOTS: Also playing on Monday, only in the smaller qualifier in nearby Springfield, Ohio, is Levin’s friend and caddie, Jon Torcott. Torcott is filling in this week for his regular caddie, Mike Hicks, who stayed home for his son’s high school graduation. … Past Memorial champion Jim Furyk opened birdie, bogey, double-bogey, par, eagle, double-bogey and ended up with a 75 that left him at 215. … Woods, who shot a 73 and was alone in fourth at 212, said he played with the flu. “I’ve been better,” he said when asked how he felt. … The last time the third-round leader had a higher score than Levin’s 208 was Greg Norman’s 216 in 1990. … Brandt Snedeker withdrew before the third round with a rib injury. … Levin had 11 putts in his first 10 holes, including chip-ins for eagle at 5 and birdie at 10. … The last time Woods came from behind to win a tournament was also in Ohio _ at the 2009 Bridgestone at Akron Firestone, when he erased a three-shot disadvantage to Padraig Harrington through 54 holes. … Woods trails by four strokes, the same disadvantage he overcome against third-round leader Paul Azinger to win the 2001 Memorial. … If Woods ends up winning the Memorial, it’ll mark the third time in his career he’s won at Bay Hill (Arnold Palmer) and Memorial (Jack Nicklaus) in the same year. … Dustin Johnson, making his first start since injuring his back in late March, recorded only the third eagle ever on the 13th hole when he holed a lob wedge from 118 yards.
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