Bettencourt gets his shot at Memorial
AP Golf Writer
DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) – Even when he was on the verge of giving up golf, Matt Bettencourt believed he was good enough to beat the best players in the world. He gets his chance at the Memorial.
Bettencourt ran off four straight birdies Saturday on the super slick greens of Muirfield Village, survived a few scary moments on the back nine and wound up with a 4-under 68 to share the 54-hole lead with two-time tour winner Mark Wilson.
They were at 9-under 207, with a host of major champions lurking, including Tiger Woods.
Jim Furyk steadied himself for a 1-under 71 and was one shot behind with Jonathan Byrd, who overcame a triple bogey on the par-3 fourth and finished with a birdie for a 71.
Former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, who started the third round nine shots out of the lead, turned in a tournament-best 63 and was atop the leaderboard for most of the warm afternoon. Ogilvy wound up at 209, tied with former PGA champion Davis Love III, who chipped in for birdie on his last hole.
Woods turned away a half-dozen times on birdie putts that burned the edge, but he climbed into contention on the back nine and shot a 68, leaving him four shots behind.
“I put myself back in the tournament,” Woods said.
But not even Woods was taking anything for granted at Muirfield Village, where the greens were as fast as any on tour this year.
“I have to play well,” he said. “That’s the difference between being out front and trailing.”
Bettencourt is a true rookie, having never played a PGA Tour event until this year. He earned his card by winning the Nationwide Tour money list, and it’s a wonder he’s even on any tour. The California native had intentions of a career in baseball until hurting his arm, and he didn’t start playing competitive golf until after college.
Even during his seven years in the minor leagues of golf, he considered finding a new career path.
But he stuck it out, made the big leagues, and gave him a chance to prove he belongs on the course Jack Nicklaus built against a leaderboard that features so many stars.
Wilson, who won in Mexico earlier this year when the world’s best players were at a World Golf Championship, didn’t figure to be in the mix when he came up short of the green on his first three holes and quickly fell behind with bogeys. He got those shots back by the turn, overcame a blunder on the tricky 14th hole with consecutive birdies and wound up in a share of the lead.
A victory for Wilson would give him the day off Monday from 36-hole U.S. Open qualifying, because it would be his second PGA Tour victory since the U.S. Open last year.
That exemption also applies to Love, who won at Disney at the end of last year. That was the furthest from his mind, however. Love has been on the bubble for majors all year and decided to concern himself only with winning a tournament that has eluded him for two decades.
“I said going into the tournament that I’m playing for this week,” Love said. “I want to win.”
Woods was in the group at 5-under 211 that included Ernie Els, a three-time major champion who also looked to be a strong factor until he chopped up the par-5 15th hole and took double bogey.
The Big Easy was only the one player who took his spills.
Stewart Cink was in range of the lead until he bogeyed his last three holes. Luke Donald, who opened with a 64, also dropped a costly shot at the end of his round and had to settle for a 72.
About the only guy who didn’t go backward was Ogilvy, who was disgusted with himself Friday when he shot 74. That gave him an early tee time Saturday, which worked in his favor. The greens were as pure as can be, Ogilvy was in a good frame of mind, and it helped by sticking his approach on the first hole about a foot from the cup.
He kept at it all day, zooming up the leaderboard, taking the early lead by holing out a bunker shot.
“I guess the longer you play on tour, the more you realize that you’re probably going to have a lot more 74s than you’re going to have 63s,” Ogilvy said.