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Saturday, 19 January, 2019

Dufner far from certain to repel high-class chasing pack

Spieth among those close enough to challenge

Rickie Fowler is alone in third place
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Jason Dufner was freely available at 66-1 ante-post for the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village, but the former UPSGA champion has excelled over the first two days to forge a five-shot halfway advantage.

Dufner, who enjoyed Major glory in 2013, has won four times on the US Tour and turned 40 in March. Muirfield Village is a far from straightforward assignment, but the early pacesetter has opened with a pair of 65s to set the 36-hole Memorial record and is no bigger than 10-11 going into the weekend.

Dufner revealed new breathing exercises he learned from American snipers is helping him control his nerves over putts.

US Tour maiden Daniel Summerhays is alone in second place, with world number 12 Rickie Fowler in third spot. Jordan Spieth, favourite after day one, struggled to a second-round 72 to finish in fourth spot alongside playing partner Justin Thomas.

Punters looking for US Open clues with the second Major of the season on the horizon will have noted a missed cut for Dustin Johnson (eight over par) and Jon Rahm (six over). Jason Day scraped through by two shots.

Dufner obviously holds the key to this tournament with two rounds to go. How he performs today will go a long way to deciding the destiny of the Memorial title. Jason Kokrak showed in the AT&T Byron Nelson last month how quickly a five-shot halfway lead can disappear (he finished fourth), but Dufner is a more accomplished frontrunner.

Odds-on quotes about Dufner are unappealing given the quality of player lurking close enough over his shoulder to apply weekend pressure. Rickie Fowler (5-1), Spieth (9-1) and Thomas (20-1) should all relish the task of closing the gap on their friend.

Third-round twoball punters are pointed towards Matt Kuchar, who won the 2013 Memorial and seems to find it easy to negotiate his way safely along Muirfield Village. Kuchar can thrive on a drying track on a hot, sunny Ohio day and outscore Martin Laird in the process (6.10pm).

Marc Leishman has also proven himself on this layout, including a bold performance in the 2013 Presidents Cup. The ever-improving Australian can account for Kokrak in the 5.20pm match.

M Kuchar
2pts 8-11 Power

M Leishman
2pts 5-6 bet365

Jason Kokrak showed in the AT&T Byron Nelson last month how quickly a five-shot halfway lead can disappear
E.W. Terms
Sky bet