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December 19, 2018

Niemann, Stanley lead as Woods climbs Memorial leaderboard

Niemann, Stanley lead as Woods climbs Memorial leaderboard
'Tiger Woods admitted the first weather delay he's faced in his comeback from injury this season had him a little worried about how his surgically repaired back would respond at the Memorial' - By: GETTY/AFP ANDY LYONS

Tiger Woods ignited the crowd with a sensational hole out for eagle, but a storm delay dampened his charge at the Memorial where he was six shots behind halfway leaders Joaquin Niemann and Kyle Stanley.

Woods, a three-time champion at Muirfield Village, bounced back after three-putting his opening hole

He birdied four holes from the third through the ninth to make the turn at three-under for the tournament.

With 97 yards to the flagstick at the par-five 11th, Woods landed his wedge shot some six feet behind the flag, fans roaring their delight when his ball spun back into the hole for an eagle.

"I had 97 yards and normally it is a 60-degree sand-wedge for me but it was perfect with the slope there behind the flag so I took off about 15-yards on a 56 and I hit a little dead one in there," Woods said. "It just worked out perfectly."

The noise was so loud that many of Woods fellow competitors, including World No. 1 Justin Thomas, simply stopped play.

A surging Woods then hit the flagstick at the par-three 12th, but moments later play was suspended due to the threat of thunderstorms.

The former world number one resumed play staring at a six-foot birdie putt and with an expectant crowd awaiting his move to six-under he failed to hit the hole and walked off with a par.

It was the first of three birdie putts Woods faced over his closing seven holes. He rolled in just one -- a 12-footer for birdie at the par-five 14th -- and he also dropped a shot after missing the green at the 17th and signed for a five-under 67.

- Could have been a 62? -

"I did not putt well today. It could have been easily a nice little 62 or 63," said Woods who finished the day with a five-under total of 139. "I turned it into a 67."

After the miss on 12, Woods said, "I missed everything".

Woods admitted that the first weather delay he's faced in his comeback from injury this season had him a little worried about how his surgically repaired back would respond.

"I was hoping the delay wouldn't be that long," he said. "I really didn't sit down as I was walking back and forth to keep it loose and keep myself warm because these are the things I don’t know yet."

There were no such worries for 19-year-old Chilean Niemann, who closed with a birdie in a 68 to join Stanley on 11-under par 133.

Stanley had eight birdies in his six-under par 66 and he and Niemann were two strokes in front of South Korea's An Byeong-hun, who signed for a 67 for 135.

Japan's world number 10 Hideki Matsuyma and former world number one Jason Day were among a group of five players on 136.

Australia's Day, an Ohio resident and Muirfield member who has never found much success in the Memorial, carded a 68 and Matsuyama posted a 71. They were joined at eight-under by American's Wesley Bryan, JB Holmes and Bryson DeChambeau.

Northern Ireland star Rory McIlroy faced an anxious wait after his second-round 70 but made the cut on the number at even par.

Jordan Spieth was less fortunate, missing the cut with scores of 75-72 in his final tuneup for the US Open that starts June 14 at Shinnecock Hills.

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