DUBLIN, Ohio — Billy Horschel is more concerned with the way he is playing than the size of his lead in the Memorial Tournament. Either way, he's in good shape going into the final round.
On a Muirfield Village course that is getting increasingly firmer, Horschel hasn't made a bogey since the 10th hole of his opening round. There were five players tied for the lead at one point in the third round, and Horschel finished the day five shots ahead.
It was the second straight year for a sizable 54-hole lead at the tournament where a handshake from Jack Nicklaus awaits the winner. Horschel at least will get a chance to finish the job.
One year after Jon Rahm built a six-shot advantage — only to be forced to withdraw after the third round because of a positive COVID-19 test — Horschel delivered a gem on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon with a 7-under-par 65 for the largest 54-hole lead of his career.
Horschel chipped in for a birdie on his opening hole. Everything else was simply solid, with only one other birdie putt outside the 10-foot range, and he was at 13-under 203, with Aaron Wise (69) and Australia's Cameron Smith (72) his closest pursuers at 8 under.
"I just go to the tee understanding I'm leading the tournament. I know I've got however many shots I have ahead," Horschel said. "I'm not going to be protective, I'm not going to be overly aggressive. I'm going to play the way I have the last three days. We're going to hit the golf shots that are required, and I know if we do that it's going to give me the best chance to be victorious come tomorrow."
The 35-year-old Floridian will be going for his sixth individual title and seventh PGA Tour victory of his career.
Daniel Berger had a 67 for the day's second-best score and was six shots behind, tied for fourth with Venezuela's Jhonattan Vegas (71) and 2018 British Open champion Francesco Molinari, the 39-year-old Italian who hasn't had a top-five finish since the 2019 Masters.
"I'm just happy to be up there," Molinari said. "Billy is a really good player, but in golf you never know. On a course like this, it's showing today that if you hit the fairways you get plenty of chances and you can shoot 6, 7 under par. If you start missing fairways, it's a whole different challenge. I think there's going to be an outside chance, but it's just nice to be kind of up there."
First-round co-leader Luke List remained near the top of the leaderboard, but the former Baylor School standout lost position with a par round that had him part of a five-man tie for seventh at 6 under with reigning tournament champion Patrick Cantlay (69), Denny McCarthy (73), rookie Davis Riley (72) and Chile's Joaquin Niemann (70).
Baylor grad Keith Mitchell shot a 76 and was tied for 35th at 1 under.
Smith started the round with a one-shot lead and ran into trouble immediately, with bogeys from the bunker on the first two holes. He played alongside McCarthy, who on three occasions in the first hour was putting for birdie from closer than where Smith was putting for par.
It was a struggle for Smith to get back to even for the day, but by then Horschel was starting to pull away from everybody.
He took the lead with a wedge shot to set up a three-foot birdie putt on the par-5 seventh, then stuffed his tee shot to a front pin within six feet of the par-3 eighth hole. He made birdies on all the par 5s. The four times he missed the green, he chipped in on No. 1 for birdie and made tough saves from bunkers and a delicate pitch behind the 12th green that ran quickly away from him.
Smith saved himself one shot at the end. The greens are firm enough that anything in the rough makes it hard to stop near the hole, and his shot from deep grass right of the 18th fairway bounded to the back of the green with a front pin. The Aussie went with a flop shot that trickled near the hole and settled three feet away for par.
"It was a nice one to get par out of," Smith said. "There was lots of not so good stuff out there today, and just stuck in there. Managed to have a couple of birdies on that back nine. Just nice to get away with level par and keep myself in the tournament. I think especially today it could have got away from me a little bit."
Cantlay began his round by pulling his tee shot into a stream and making a double bogey. He atoned for that with a pair of eagles and finished with three straight par putts from outside eight feet, but he was seven behind.
That would appear to be too far back — the largest comeback at the Memorial is five shots, most recently 15 years ago by K.J. Choi. Then again, players have rallied from seven shots behind to win via playoff the past two weeks, with Sam Burns the champion in the Charles Schwab Challenge and Justin Thomas coming out on top at the PGA Championship.
"I wouldn't be surprised if it's any different," Wise said. "Anything is possible."
Minjee Lee's major move
SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. — Minjee Lee appears to be on mission.
The 26-year-old Australian shot a 4-under 67 to take a three-stroke lead over American player Mina Harigae into the final round of the U.S. Women's Open.
At 13-under 200, Lee was within striking distance of the U.S. Women's Open scoring record in relation to par held by Juli Inkster, who finished at 16-under 272 in 1999 at Old Waverly. Inkster did that on a par-72 course, while par is 71 at Pine Needles.
"I haven't really thought about it," Lee said. "If I play good, it's going to come with it, right?"
The fourth-ranked Lee won the Founders Cup three weeks ago in New Jersey for her seventh career victory on the LPGA Tour. She's trying to win her second major title after taking the 2021 Evian Championship.
Harigae (70), the first-round leader who shared the 36-hole lead with Lee, was three strokes ahead of England's Bronte Law (68). Six players were at 6 under, including Swedish amateur Ingrid Lindblad, who has followed an opening 65 with back-to-back 71s.
Champions: Four share the lead
DES MOINES, Iowa — Steven Alker topped yet another PGA Tour Champions leaderboard, shooting an 8-under 64 for a share of the second-round lead in the Principal Charity Classic.
Coming off a victory last weekend in Michigan in the Senior PGA Championship, Alker played the four par-5 holes at Wakonda Club in 5 under — he made an eagle and three birdies — to match fast-closing Jerry Kelly (66), first-round leader Kirk Triplett (63) and Brett Quigley (66) at 13-under 131.
"Things are going well," Alker said "And my caddie is saying I have got a good plan. I'm just in a good place. Just hitting the targets that I need to. And obviously putting nicely this week, too."
Alker is trying to win for the fifth time in his past 12 events. The 50-year-old New Zealander spent the bulk of his career on the Korn Ferry Tour and a few seasons on the PGA Tour and European tour. Last week at Benton Harbor, he closed with an 8-under 63 for a three-shot victory.
Bernhard Langer was a stroke back — the 64-year-old German star birdied three of the last five holes in a bogey-free 66 — and Brandt Jobe (67) was next at 9 under.