Golf: Late birdie blitz earns Matt Kuchar tie for early Memorial lead

Matt Kuchar waves to the gallery after making a par on the 10th hole during the second round.
Matt Kuchar waves to the gallery after making a par on the 10th hole during the second round.PHOTO: AFP

(REUTERS) - Former champion Matt Kuchar continued his love affair with the Memorial tournament on Friday as he took advantage of calm conditions with a late birdie flurry to surge into a two-way tie for the early lead in the second round.

Kuchar birdied four of his last six holes to shoot a sparkling six-under-par 66 at Muirfield Village, finishing level with fellow American Brendan Steele (67) at 12-under 132.

Argentina's Emiliano Grillo (66) and long-hitting American Gary Woodland (65) were at 11-under while Australian world number one Jason Day followed his opening 66 with an erratic 71 to drop five strokes off the pace.

Kuchar, who won the 2013 Memorial tournament and has recorded four top-10s in his last five PGA Tour starts, was delighted to benefit from another benign day at Muirfield Village in the prestigious event hosted by Jack Nicklaus.

"I've been in some great form," the 37-year-old told reporters after mixing seven birdies with a lone bogey.

"The last three weeks, all good solid finishes. Nice to keep it going.

"The course is in fantastic shape... it's as easy at this place as I remember ever seeing it, even though the greens are still fast.

"You can get in the wrong spot, but you don't have to worry too much about the wind. It's fun to be out there playing and making some birdies around this place."

Kuchar, a seven-times winner on the PGA Tour, has always enjoyed competing at Muirfield Village.

"I love this golf course," he smiled.

"I've certainly had a great track record here. I've got great feelings, winning in 2013, but a lot of nice solid finishes.

"It's certainly been a nice Thursday, Friday start, and I'm looking forward to a great weekend."

Day was also looking forward to a great weekend after relying on his deft touch around the green and his scrambling abilities as he eked out a 71 that included five birdies and four bogeys.

"If I didn't have a short game, I probably would have shot high 70s," said the Australian, who clinched his third PGA Tour victory of the season at the Players Championship last month.

"You wake up some days and you just feel like you don't have any control over your swing, and that's just the way I felt today. I just had no control for some reason.

"But to be able to stick it out and shoot one under on a tough day like this was pretty nice. I'm five back right now, so I've got to do some work on the weekend."

American Dustin Johnson, who fired an eight-under 64 to seize a one-shot lead after the opening round, was among the late starters on Friday.