It’s golf’s chicken-or-the-egg question: Do golfers play well at certain courses because they like them, or do they enjoy certain courses simply because they play well on them? Whatever the answer, this much is true: Patrick Cantlay likes Muirfield Village, and Cantlay plays very well around the Jack Nicklaus design just outside Columbus.
The 2019 and 2021 champion of the Memorial Tournament, Cantlay has four top-fives in six starts at Jack’s event and appears poised for another top finish after a second-round 67 has him at six under after 36 holes and in a tie for third, two behind Justin Suh. In fact, the eight-time PGA Tour winner entered the week holding the tournament record for scoring average (69.96).
Yet earlier this week when posed the chicken-or-the-egg question, Cantlay was having none of it.
“Yeah, I don’t think so at all,” the stoic 31-year-old said of any association between him liking Muirfield Village and playing well there. “There’s golf courses I don’t like that I played really well on, and there’s golf courses I like that I haven’t played that well. This is a golf course that it’s always in really good shape, and it demands you to hit the ball in the fairway off the tee, and it gives you some scoring opportunities with the par 5s. So it’s just a golf course that I’ve liked since I came on property the first time a number of years ago and just happened to have also played really well around here.”
It should be little surprise that the World No. 4 is in the mix again this week, as Cantlay has played well nearly everywhere he’s teed it up this season, tallying seven top 10s, including three in his past four starts. The trend continued on a warm and windless Friday morning at Muirfield Village, where Cantlay opened his round at the par-4 10th by hitting it 306 yards down the center line of the fairway, then stiffing it inside three feet from 152 yards for a straightforward opening birdie. He would add five more circles to the card, including three in the last five holes, offset by just one bogey to shoot five-under 67.
Cantlay sits one back of fellow past champion and playing partner for the first two days, Hideki Matsuyama, who also took advantage of benign scoring conditions to shoot a bogey-free 65. When asked after his round what the best part of his game was on Friday, the 2014 Memorial champion hardly hesitated.
“My putting,” Matsuyama said. The answer was as correct as it was succinct. Typically regarded as a premier iron player who battles a balky putter, Matsuyama was anything but balky on the greens in the second round, gaining nearly three-and-a-half strokes on the field, second-most in the field on Friday. He made over 125 feet of putts, including a 25-footer for birdie at the seventh and a 33-footer to make it back-to-back at the difficult par-3 eighth, his penultimate hole of the day.
Sitting at seven under in second, the eight-time tour winner is searching for his first win since the 2022 Sony Open. Matsuyama has battled a neck injury over the past year, which forced him to withdraw from the Wells Fargo Championship last month after finishing T-16 at the Masters.
“Well, today the result was good. I’m satisfied with that,” he said. “But, I mean, it’s been a tough spell. I had an injury on my neck. Distance is down from where it was, but I’m working through it, and hopefully we’ll have a good summer.”
Matsuyama will start Saturday one back of the rookie Suh, who made seven birdies in his second-round 66 to grab his third career 36-hole lead or co-lead. The 2022 Korn Ferry Tour Player of the Year also led halfway at the Honda Classic in February, ultimately finishing tied for fifth.
Here are a few other takeaways from Day 2 at Jack’s Place.
Collin Morikawa, 26, might want to check for gray hairs after his rollercoaster round on Friday at Muirfield Village. It was anything but the usual straightforward fairways-and-greens kind of day for the two-time major champion and reliable flusher.
The troubles began early. Morikawa hit his second shot of the day just seven yards. The problem is, he was trying to hit it 207. Long, thick rough left of the first fairway swallowed his club and smothered the shot. He was fortunate to get up and down from 115 yards to save an opening bogey.
After a poor bunker shot at the second, all signs were Morikawa would drop another shot, until he knocked in a 35-footer from off the green to save par. The whacky stuff was just beginning.
Coming to the par-5 15th one over on the day and even for the week, Morikawa striped two shots and rolled in the 20-footer for eagle get back into red numbers. He didn’t stay there long. On the par-3 16th, the toughest hole of the week, his tee shot tucked under the lip of the front bunker. He was just 25 feet from the hole, but bladed second shot 43 yards over the green. Bunker to bunker and ultimately a double bogey to give back the two shots he made up on 15. Ball deposited into the pond levels of frustration.
Unable to get up and down from the sand again on 17, the five-time tour winner dropped another shot. But it was the 18th hole that best encapsulated his whirlwind round. Finding the left rough off the tee, Morikawa only managed to advance the ball down the fairway, leaving 94 yards in for his third to the closing par-4. It was his final shot of the day. Spinning a wedge back into the cup, Morikawa lifted his arms in celebration but appeared to quickly temper the happiness, giving a sarcastic air high five to his caddie. Golf.
Perhaps it’s a coincidence that three Northwestern alums—David Lipsky, Luke Donald and Matt Fitzpatrick (OK, we concede he did only spend one semester in Evanston, Ill.)—played well on Friday, but then again, perhaps not. The Midwestern parkland layout incorporates many of the features common to many of the region’s courses that the former Wildcats would have seen plenty of in Chicago.
Lipsky (69), Donald (69) and Fitzpatrick (68) each posted low rounds in the morning wave that could have been several lower. Lipsky, who, at 34 years old, has competed on every continent except Antarctica, is looking for his first PGA Tour win, having won twice on the DP World Tour.
Out early in the second round, Lipsky made four birdies in his first seven holes and at one stage opened up a three-shot lead. Dropped shots at the difficult 16th and 17th stripped him of the lead, but tied for third, he remains in the best position after 36 holes of his PGA Tour career. Asked after the round if he was aware that he had raced out in front, his response seemed of a multi-time tour winner, not a guy looking for his maiden win on the New World’s big stage.
“It’s Friday. It was Friday morning,” Lipsky said. “I don’t think it really matters that much. If I have a three-shot lead on Sunday, I think I’ll care more about that then.”
Fellow Wildcat alum and European Ryder Cup captain Donald also posted a second-round 69 to get to three under, just outside the top 10. The 45-year-old Englishman has dipped to 441st in the World Ranking as much of his attention has turned to reclaiming the cup when the biennial match heads to Rome in September. He is looking for his first top 10 on tour since 2019, and his game is showing signs it might happen this week.
The final player of the Northwestern trio, Fitzpatrick only found seven fairways on Friday but managed five birdies and an eagle to shoot four-under 68 to get back to even par for the week. It was a gritty rebound from the reigning U.S. Open champion, who was five over through 17 holes on Thursday and in jeopardy of missing his second straight cut after a disappointing week at the PGA.
Putting woes: That Scottie Scheffler came to Ohio with 14 straight top-12 finishes is remarkable. That he has done so while ranking 114th on tour in strokes gained/putting. The trend has continued this week, as the World No. 1 is ranked second-to-last in the field on the greens through two rounds. He made the cut on the number at three over.
Solid comeback: Making his first start of the season and less than seven months removed from what sounds like an extremely painful “experimental” surgery, Brandt Snedeker opened with 73-72 to make the cut at Muirfield Village. An impressive feat considering the lengthy layoff, made even more so considering doctors took a bone the size of a thumb out of the 2012 FedEx Cup champ’s hip.
Friday free fall: For the second consecutive year, Davis Riley was atop the leaderboard after the first round at the Memorial, and for the second consecutive year, he was unable to capitalize on the great start. Riley took a tumble on Friday, ballooning to 78, 11 shots worse than his first-round score.
Rebounding: Think an 11-shot differential between two rounds is a lot? Try 14. That’s how many shots Chad Ramey shaved off his Thursday score, rebounding from an 88 (which included a final-hole 13) to post 74 in the second round. The highest score on Ramey’s card on Friday? Five. Xander Schauffele also took a chunk out of his first-round score, bouncing back from 77 to make seven birdies to shoot 66 and get back to red numbers.
Cashing in: After posting 71 in the opening round of his professional debut, reigning U.S. Amateur champ Sam Bennett said he didn’t feel any different playing as a pro as he did as an amateur but noted one minor difference: “I can get paid now for good finishes.” Bennett will cash that first check as a professional this week, as he shot 73 on Friday to head into the weekend tied for 34th place.