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By Mark Lamport-Stokes
DUBLIN, Ohio (Reuters) - Trying to trust unpredictable winds was the biggest problem for the players in Saturday's third round at the Memorial Tournament, as Americans Matt Kuchar and Kevin Chappell found out to their cost.
Kuchar bogeyed the par-five 15th after his three-wood second shot drifted unexpectedly to the right of the green, ending up in a creek he never realized was there.
Chappell was left scratching his head with a wedge in hand for his approach into the par-four 14th, not knowing where he should start the shot with water lurking to the right of the green while being totally confused by the wind direction.
"It's a 105-yard wedge shot," Chappell told reporters of the challenge after carding a four-under-par 68 to end a grueling day at Muirfield Village Golf Club in a tie for second on six-under 210, two strokes behind leader Kuchar.
"The flag is blowing towards the water, but the wind is right-to-left, maybe a little in right-to-left. And where do I have to start this ball to hit it close?"
Chappell's playing partners Charlie Wi and Scott Piercy both hit good wedge shots that were not affected by the wind.
"I hit one and it made a left-hand turn," said Chappell, lifting his eyebrows in disbelief. "It's tough to start that ball right of the flag. There's a grandstand there so the wind swirls a lot. It hits that and then shoots back the other way."
Chappell, still seeing his first PGA Tour victory after joining the U.S. circuit in 2011, had no doubt about the biggest challenge for the players on Saturday as winds gusted up to 32 mph.
"Just trusting that the wind was where it was supposed to be," he said. "There were multiple times you're seeing the wind blow the flag the opposite way as it's supposed to be."
"I kept saying, 'Wow, this is tough out here.' You hit a good shot and end up in a bad spot. What can I do?"
DAY OF SURVIVAL
Kuchar mixed five birdies with three bogeys to emerge at the top of the leaderboard after what he described as a day of survival, his biggest surprise coming with his second shot at 15.
"It was just going to take a full three-wood for me to get home," the five-times PGA Tour champion said of the task facing him on the par-five hole. "I thought no problem.
"With the pin on the left, you don't want to miss left. I want to make sure if I do anything, I miss right. I hit a really solid shot. It just took off really high. I thought that will be fine, it will just end up in the right greenside bunker."
However, Kuchar watched in horror as his ball kept leaking further right.
"With the wind blowing as hard as it was and as high as the ball got launched, it just kept drifting and found its way into a hazard I didn't even know existed over there," he said.
"I knew what the wind was doing. I just didn't realize that I hit it that high and the wind would take that much affect on it."
Tiger Woods, hunting a record sixth victory at the Memorial Tournament, struggled as much as anyone as he carded a 79 to match his second worst score as a professional.
Kuchar, though surprised, was not at all shocked after hearing about the world number one's nightmare round.
"It's understandable in these conditions," Kuchar said. "If you're not on good form, these conditions are really going to beat you up."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Julian Linden)