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Levin has shot at first 'W'; But veterans in close pursuit

DUBLIN, Ohio -- Spencer Levin realizes that a one-shot lead going into the final round means next to nothing. If he didn't learn this by blowing a six-shot lead at the Phoenix Open earlier this year, he was reminded of it on the back nine Saturday at the Memorial.

For the longest time, Levin simply couldn't miss. He chipped in for eagle from behind the fifth green. He holed a chip from 30 yards short of the 10th green for birdie, this one giving him a four-shot lead on a tough day at Muirfield Village.

Eight holes later, his lead was down to one over Rory Sabbatini.

If that wasn't enough, a collection of stars and proven players was lined up behind him -- including four-time Memorial champion Tiger Woods.

Levin relied on a few good breaks and one good par save to match the low round of the day with a 3-under 69, giving him another chance at his first PGA Tour victory and an opportunity to get into the U.S. Open on Sunday without having to go through a 36-hole qualifier.

The circumstances are far different from when Levin lost that six-shot lead in Phoenix, not only the margin but the caliber of players chasing him. He'll find out Sunday if he learned from his failure, though the self-styled Californian already is loaded with perspective.

"I did learn that I still got to play golf, I still got to eat the same stuff, still have the same friends, still have the same family, so nothing really changed," he said. "Obviously, you want to win when you're in positions. But I'm just going to go out there tomorrow and have fun. Nothing really changed in my life, and I don't think anything will change that big in my life if I do win. It's just going out there and try and do my best."

It might take more than that.

Levin, who had one of only three rounds in the 60s, was at 8-under 208 and will play in the final group with Sabbatini, a six-time PGA Tour winner who shot 71.

The attention figures to be on the twosome in front of them -- Rickie Fowler (69), the Quail Hollow winner who has been playing his best golf over the last month, and Woods, whose other win this year came in demanding conditions at Bay Hill. Woods bogeyed two of the last three holes for a 73.

Right behind them were Ryo Ishikawa (71), Henrik Stenson (71) and Jonathan Byrd (72), with Vijay Singh (69) on the outskirts of contention, six shots behind.

For a guy who has never won, Levin is easy to identify. He twists and turns his body on just about every shot, willing it to turn in various directions. He rarely is without a cigarette. And he lets the world know exactly what he's thinking. This is not the stereotype of a golfing robot.

If he sounds as if winning or losing doesn't matter, don't believe it.

Levin's father, Don, played against tournament host Jack Nicklaus in the early 1980s, including a U.S. Open. Levin grew up in the game, and knows exactly what's at stake today -- his first win on tour, a chance to shake hands with Nicklaus in more than just a casual greeting.

"I'm excited," he said. "It's all the practice and work from being a kid. This is what I've dreamed of, to be in the lead of a tournament, especially Jack's tournament."

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Around the greens

Stacy Lewis holds a commanding six-stroke lead in the ShopRite Classic at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club in Galloway Township, N.J., after tying a tournament 36-hole record of 130 with a second-round 65 entering today's final round.

Jay Haas will carry a three-shot lead into the final round of the Principal Charity Classic at Glen Oaks Country Club in West Des Moines, Iowa, after shooting a bogey-free 6-under 65 on Saturday.

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