DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — Defending champion Jon Rahm took dead aim with an 8-iron that dropped for an ace Saturday morning, sending him to a 7-under 65 and a two-shot lead in the Memorial.
Rahm was among 44 players who had to complete the second round in the rain-delayed event at Muirfield Village. He left Friday night having tapped in a 2-foot birdie putt on the 13th hole that had him tied with Patrick Cantlay, who finished his round Friday.
Rahm took bogey from the bunker on the 14th, failed to birdie the par-5 15th, and this his fortunes turned in a hurry. He hit 8-iron over the bunker on the 16th hole, and it landed in front of the pin and dropped for a hole-in-one.
Rahm tossed his club, this time in celebration.
A birdie on the 17th and a closing par put him at 10-under 134, two shots ahead of Cantlay.
The location was not lost on Rahm. It was a year ago when Rahm chipped in for an apparent birdie behind the 16th green, only for it to become a bogey when video showed he caused his ball to slightly move before hitting it. That affected only his margin of victory.
“I was walking down after I picked up the ball, I’m, like, ‘Well, that is some good karma and payback from last year,’” Rahm said he told his caddie.
Still to be determined is whether Rahm can join Tiger Woods as the only repeat winners at the Memorial since Jack Nicklaus created this tournament in 1976. Woods won the last of his three straight titles 20 years ago.
“I’m leading the tournament after 36, so, yeah, I’m in a good position,” Rahm said. “I’ve been doing a lot of backdoor top 10s and I’m happy I’m in contention for once.”
Collin Morikawa, who won at Muirfield Village last year in the first of back-to-back events at the club because of the pandemic, had a triple bogey on the par-3 12th hole and bounced back Saturday morning with a pair of birdies for a 72. He was four shots behind at 6-under 130, along with Max Homa (69), Xander Schauffele (70) and Scottie Scheffler (71).
Rickie Fowler had a 70 and was in the group at 5-under 131. This is the first time Fowler has opened with consecutive rounds under par since he went 70-70 at the Masters last November. Fowler faces U.S. Open qualifying on Monday unless he can finish alone in second.