US veteran Steve Stricker closed with a hole-in-one and a birdie to finish a five-under par 67 and seize a three-stroke lead after Friday's second round of the $6.2 million PGA Memorial tournament.
Stricker stood on nine-under par 135 after 36 holes in the US Open tuneup event hosted by Jack Nicklaus, three strokes ahead of countrymen Jonathan Byrd and Ricky Barnes, Australian Rod Pampling and Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy.
"I'm happy to be where I'm at, but you've just got to keep doing the same things I've been doing and try to play to my strengths," he said.
"Heading into the weekend things change, your body changes. Guys get more aggressive, especially tomorrow. So you just kind of got to be patient and hang in there and keep doing the things you know how to do."
Stricker, who began on the back nine, birdied the par-5 15th but followed with bogeys on the next two holes but began his second nine with a birdie at the first before a run of three birdies and an eagle in his final five holes.
"I was kind of running out of patience on my front nine, which was the back, at 1-over, but I just was trying to get it under par for the day," Stricker said.
"Once we got it going, then you can get on a roll. But there's a lot of danger and that's why I think you see some up and down scores."
After birdies at the par-5 fifth and par-4 sixth, Stricker sank his tee shot at the 186-yard par-3 eighth and followed with a birdie at the ninth to seize command, his ace the shot of the tournament.
"That shot there is always a bonus. You don't expect to make a 1, but it was a good number for me there," he said. "That shot has always provided me with trouble over the years and it's just a tough par-3.
"There's not a lot of room there to hit it and what I had going for me there was a little bit of a left-to-right wind and I draw the ball so I could pretty much hold up against the wind. It started off right at the hole and went in. It is a shock when you see that go in, but a great way to finish the round."
McIlroy, who opened with a 66 to share the first-day lead, fired six birdies, four bogeys and a double bogey to stumble back. The 22-year-old star who has contended in his past three majors was dismayed at his mistakes.
"I felt as if I played good enough to shoot something in the 60s but I just made too many mistakes," he said. "I made two bogeys on the front nine from the middle of the fairway with a 9-iron and a sand wedge in my hand. You just can't do that sort of stuff.
"I was happy with how I handled everything because I did make mistakes but it seemed like every time I made a mistake I came back with a birdie or came back to just sort of rectify it. I'm playing OK, just need to limit the mistakes."
New World No. 1 Luke Donald of England fired a 69 to join a group in sixth on 139 that also included Australian Aaron Baddeley and Americans Ryan Moore, Kevin Stadler, Brandt Jobe and Josh Teater.
"Doing a lot of good things, some careless mistakes out there, mostly short game mistakes," Donald said. "This is kind of the first time I've played rough that is this long and gnarly and I'm struggling a little bit with it. Obviously a lot of positives though and I'm still in a great place for the weekend."
Scores on Friday after the second round of the $6.2 million US PGA Memorial tournament (USA unless noted):
135 - Steve Stricker 68-67
138 - Ricky Barnes 68-70, Rod Pampling (AUS) 72-66, Jonathan Byrd 71-67, Rory McIlroy (NIR) 66-72
139 - Aaron Baddeley (AUS) 71-68, Kevin Stadler 71-68, Brandt Jobe 71-68, Luke Donald (ENG) 70-69, Ryan Moore 69-70, Josh Teater 67-72
140 - Matt Kuchar 69-71, Matt Bettencourt 68-72
141 - Ryuji Imada (JPN) 71-70, John Senden (AUS) 71-70, Eduardo Molinari (ITA) 72-69
142 - Camilo Villegas (COL) 73-69, Phil Mickelson 72-70
143 - Alex Cejka (GER) 71-72, KJ Choi (KOR) 70-73, Charl Schwartzel (RSA) 72-71, Angel Cabrera (ARG) 70-73
144 - Brian Davis (ENG) 73-71, Marc Leishman (AUS) 73-71, Arjun Atwal (IND) 73-71, Ernie Els (RSA) 71-73, Brendon de Jonge (ZIM) 71-73
145 - Nick O'Hern (AUS) 73-72, Robert Karlsson (SWE) 74-71, Charlie Wi (KOR) 73-72, Vijay Singh (FIJ) 73-72
Failed to qualify
146 - Henrik Stenson (SWE) 79-67, Robert Allenby (AUS) 71-75, Justin Rose (ENG) 71-75, Martin Laird (SCO) 75-71, Thomas Aiken (RSA) 75-71
147 - Jhonattan Vegas (COL) 79-68
148 - Noh Seung-yul (KOR) 76-72, Trevor Immelman (RSA) 78-70
149 - Carl Pettersson (SWE) 76-73
150 - Stuart Appleby (AUS) 75-75
152 - Eugene Wong (CAN) 80-72
157 - Matt Jones (AUS) 82-75
158 - Mike Weir (CAN) 76-82
162 - Jin Jeong (KOR) 76-86