Bettencourt, Wilson share Memorial lead

Published 11:04 pm Saturday, June 6, 2009

DUBLIN (AP) — Even when he was on the verge of giving up golf, Matt Bettencourt believed he was good enough to beat the best players in the world. He gets his chance at the Memorial.

Bettencourt ran off four straight birdies Saturday on the super slick greens of Muirfield Village, survived a few scary moments on the back nine and wound up with a 4-under 68 to share the 54-hole lead with two-time tour winner Mark Wilson.

They were at 9-under 207, with a host of major champions lurking, including Tiger Woods.

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Jim Furyk steadied himself for a 1-under 71 and was one shot behind with Jonathan Byrd, who overcame a triple bogey on the par-3 fourth and finished with a birdie for a 71.

Former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, who started the third round nine shots out of the lead, turned in a tournament-best 63 and was atop the leaderboard for most of the warm afternoon. Ogilvy wound up at 209, tied with former PGA champion Davis Love III, who chipped in for birdie on his last hole.

Woods turned away a half-dozen times on birdie putts that burned the edge, but he climbed into contention on the back nine and shot a 68, leaving him four shots behind.

‘‘I put myself back in the tournament,’’ Woods said.

But not even Woods was taking anything for granted at Muirfield Village, where the greens were as fast as any on tour this year.

‘‘I have to play well,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s the difference between being out front and trailing.’’

Bettencourt is a true rookie, having never played a PGA Tour event until this year. He earned his card by winning the Nationwide Tour money list, and it’s a wonder he’s even on any tour. The California native had intentions of a career in baseball until hurting his arm, and he didn’t start playing competitive golf until after college.

Even during his seven years in the minor leagues of golf, he considered finding a new career path.

But he stuck it out, made the big leagues, and gave him a chance to prove he belongs on the course Jack Nicklaus built against a leaderboard that features so many stars.

Wilson, who won in Mexico earlier this year when the world’s best players were at a World Golf Championship, didn’t figure to be in the mix when he came up short of the green on his first three holes and quickly fell behind with bogeys. He got those shots back by the turn, overcame a blunder on the tricky 14th hole with consecutive birdies and wound up in a share of the lead.