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Memorial notebook: McIlroy closes with flourish in tuneup for Oakmont debut

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William McGirt talks with tournament host Jack Nicklaus after winning The Memorial on Sunday, June 5, 2016, at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.

DUBLIN, Ohio — A weather delay and ensuing swirling winds stopped low scorers dead in their tracks during Sunday’s final round at the 2016 Memorial Tournament, but not before Rory McIlroy quietly took the clubhouse lead.

The world’s No. 3-ranked player teed off from the first hole 1 hour and 20 minutes before the lead group of William McGirt, Gary Woodland and Matt Kuchar, but birdied two holes on the front nine and four on the back nine, including three straight from 15-17, to shoot a 4-under-par 68.

McIlroy tied for fourth, two strokes back of 72-hole co-leaders William McGirt and Jon Curran with an overall score of 13-under, giving him his fourth straight PGA Tour finish of 15th or better.

“I mean, I knew that I could maybe shoot a 31 or 32 on the back nine to try and at least post a number, and I made four birdies on the back nine. I just made a couple of mistakes as well,” McIlroy said. “But I feel like 68 out there is a pretty solid score today. It’s moved me up the leaderboard a little bit. I can take a lot from how I’ve played for the most part this week.”

The Northern Ireland native decided before this year’s Memorial Tournament to end a three-month-long experiment with a left-hand-low putting grip. With his right hand once again closest to the ground on the flatstick this weekend, he finished the tournament second in the field with 7.306 strokes gained putting.

“Off the tee I was really good this week, and I feel like my putting improved quite a lot,” McIlroy said. “I feel like, if you look at the stats from my putting this week, it’s actually been really good.”

Now, McIlroy’s focus shifts to the U.S. Open at Oakmont, a course he scouted by watching hole flyovers online Saturday and one he will see in person for the first time Monday.

“I remember watching a little bit of (the U.S. Open) back in ’07 when (Angel) Cabrera won,” McIlroy said. “I’d say you’re probably going to expect a similar score to win this year again if conditions are the way they want them to be.”

• McGirt’s win at the Memorial was a first for him on the PGA Tour. He said it also was a first for his caddie, Latrobe native Brandon Antus. Said McGirt: “He’s had, oh my gosh, probably a half-dozen second places as well. So it was a first for both of us. For him, it’s his favorite course, and it’s three hours from home. His wife came in this morning and surprised him.”

• World Golf Hall of Fame memberGreg Norman was announced as the 2017 Memorial Tournament honoree. Johnny Miller was this year’s honoree.

— Andrew Erickson

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