Martin Kaymer is 18 holes away from ending a five-year victory drought.
He is mildly surprised. He is not the least bit stressed.
And he has plenty of company among contenders at the PGA Tour’s Memorial for whom winning has become more of a memory than a habit.
Kaymer was bogey-free Saturday at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio, for a 6-under-par 66 that gave him a two-shot lead over Adam Scott, who also shot 66. That set up a final pairing of two major champions and former No. 1 players in the world in the midst of long droughts.
Four shots behind and very much in the mix are Jordan Spieth (69) — a three-time major champion and former No. 1 — and Hideki Matsuyama (64), both winless since 2017. Joining them was Patrick Cantlay (68) with a skill set that suggests he should have more than his one victory that came in 2017.
“We can all play good golf, and it’s quite nice for tomorrow because no one is really holding back,” Kaymer said. “I think you only hold back if you don’t know the situation because then you don’t know how to react and you play safe, defensive. … No one is playing like that in that group.”
Kaymer was at 15-under 201 in his first appearance at the Memorial in 10 years.
Photo: Sam Greenwood / Getty Images
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The German was on the verge of falling out of the top 200 in the world ranking until a tie for eighth in the British Masters last month. His road back began with an emphasis on the short game, and it paid off in a big way on a course that slowly is getting faster.
He holed par putts of 8 feet and 20 feet on the front nine to keep within range of the leaders, took the lead with a wedge into 3 feet for birdie on the par-5 11th, saved par from a tough bunker shot behind the 12th green with water in front of him, and then holed a 35-foot birdie putt on No. 13 that breaks sharply over the last few feet. Spieth, playing with Kaymer, raised his putter as he watched it break, appreciating the difficulty of it.
Scott had only one blemish, on the ninth hole, and did enough right to pile up birdies on the par 5s and a few other holes that he’s in a spot to win again. A year ago, Scott left the Memorial and had to go through U.S. Open qualifying. While he hasn’t won, he chased Brooks Koepka all the way to the finish line at Bellerive in the PGA Championship last summer and feels comfortable where he is.
“I’m just going to play as good as I can tomorrow,” Scott said. “I like where it’s all at. I feel like the last few times I’ve been in with a chance, going back to the PGA Championship last year, I felt comfortable. So I’m not worried. I feel like this is the spot I’m meant to be.”
Spieth has put together his best three-week stretch since the end of the 2017 season, and he was most pleased that he is keeping his tee shots in play and overcame some spotty iron play with a short game that appears to have returned full force. He finished with a 15-foot par putt on the 18th.
“Just trying to hit plenty of greens in regulation and let the flat stick work itself on Sunday,” Spieth said.
Tiger Woods also started strong by holing a bunker shot, nearly holing another and making the turn in 32. But on the 10th, his fairway bunker shot didn’t get out and came back in his footprint, leading to a double bogey. That slowed momentum, and Woods finished with a bogey for a 70 that left him 11 shots out of the lead.
PGA Tour Champions: Scott Parel shot a 6-under 66 to extend his lead to five strokes in the Principal Charity Classic in Des Moines, Iowa. Parel had a 15-under 129 total at Wakonda Club to break the tournament 36-hole record of 13-under set a year ago by eventual winner Tom Lehman.
Marco Dawson shot a 65 to match Jerry Kelly (67) at 10-under.
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