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(Reuters) - Daniel Summerhays was surprised to find himself with a three-shot lead after roaring past a faltering Jason Dufner in the third round at the Memorial tournament in Dublin, Ohio on Saturday.
Summerhays started the day five strokes behind Dufner, but took only five holes to tie his fellow American for the lead, after Dufner ran up four early bogeys on another fine day at Muirfield Village.
Summerhays subsequently pulled away, carding 68 for 13-under 203 to move within sight of a first PGA Tour victory, while Matt Kuchar shot 67 to move into second place on 10-under.
Dufner endured a nightmare with the putter and compounded his misery by driving into a water hazard at the last for a closing bogey and a five-over 77, only one shot shy of the day’s worst score.
He fell back into a tie for third at nine-under with compatriots Bubba Watson (68) and Justin Thomas (69).
Summerhays has not won in 184 previous starts on the PGA Tour, but takes hope from the fact the three previous Memorial tournaments have been won by first-time champions.
“I’d love to keep that trend going,” he said. “My goal was to get in contention, be in this situation, and I’m here so I’m really excited for tomorrow to see how I perform.
“I definitely didn’t think I would be three shots ahead with a 68. Maybe a 63. It couldn’t have gone for worse for Duf (Dufner) out there.”
Summerhays has led after 54 holes three times on the PGA Tour.
“I think there’s only a couple of guys who have not gone through the learning curve, said the 33-year-old, who finished a quiet third at last year’s PGA Championship.
“My game’s really solid right now. I’ve had two months of playing really good golf and not getting any results.
“I drove it really well. I had so many good looks at birdie, so many putts were just so close. Given the circumstances, the Memorial tournament, performing under the gun, it was really fun.”
Dufner, meanwhile, did not make a putt longer than five feet, but took at least some consolation from still being within sight of the lead.
“Today was pretty pathetic on all accounts so I’ll have to play better tomorrow,” he said. “Just got off to a bad start, couldn’t get anything going and then you’re fighting it.
“I’m in good position, not as good as I’d like to be but you don’t get to shoot 77 very often and still have a chance to win.”
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, editing by Gene Cherry/Peter Rutherford