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Published: Sunday, 6/6/2010

Lousy weather can't slow Barnes' charge

DUBLIN, Ohio - Back in 1993, with the Memorial Tournament not yet 20 years old but having had, it seemed, 200 years worth of rotten weather, Barbara Nicklaus was desperate enough to try anything.

So the wife of the great golfer and Memorial host grabbed a bottle of gin and a shot glass and made a short drive across the Scioto River.

Legend, not necessarily to be confused with fact, has it that Muirfield Village Golf Club was built over land that once served as Indian burial grounds. The most famous Indian in these parts was Chief Leatherlips of the Wyandot tribe, famous enough that there is a monument to his memory within a couple miles of Muirfield.

So Mrs. Nicklaus visited the shrine and poured the chief a shot, a peace offering of sorts to remove what had to be a curse on her husband's tournament.

She must have grabbed a bottle out of the well, as bartenders like to say, not private stock, because the old Indian has remained unimpressed.

Yesterday's round of the Memorial was the 137th in the tournament's history and the 37th that has been delayed, interrupted, suspended, or canceled.

The 2010 Memorial is three-for-three in weather delays and could get a clean sweep if today's ominous forecast pans out.

Yesterday was fairly typical with two stoppages totaling about five hours and 45 minutes.

None of that seemed to bother Ricky Barnes in the least. He was originally scheduled to tee off at 8:01 a.m., putted out at 6:37 p.m., and needed just 62 strokes to get it done. It left him tied for second, three shots behind Rickie Fowler, who finished about two hours later in the dusk with a 69 for a 16-under total.

Barnes' 10-under-par round, one shot off the course record, was the lowest third round in tournament history and - this is no small thing - equaled the lowest round ever carded by a Tiger Woods playing partner and the first in more than a decade. Jim Furyk [1998 Doral] and Paul Goydos ['99 Byron Nelson] previously shot 62s while paired with Woods.

Barnes has played with Tiger before in a couple major championships and admitted to being a bit in awe. Not this time.

"I sort of fed off the Tiger crowd," Barnes said. "And Tiger and Dustin [Johnson] were egging me on. They were good playing partners."

Barnes made the turn in 32, then birdied No. 10 and eagled the 11th with a chip-in from 108 yards. That got him to 10-under and about 30 minutes and two pars later the horn sounded stopping play.

"I hoped it wasn't like a basketball game when you're going good and the coach calls a time out," he said. "I was hoping that wasn't going to happen. But I came back out right away and birdied the first hole."

And the next. And the next. And it would have been four straight if not for a putt on No. 17 dying inches short, right in the jaws. He settled for par, and a good one, at No. 18 after driving deep in the right rough.

Barnes turned pro in 2003 but struggled to qualify for a tour playing card and never teed it up in more than a handful of PGA events until 2009, when he responded by tying for second at the U.S. Open.

"Everybody gets humbled in this game," he said. "I stayed patient; I adjusted my attitude."

This year, he already has four top-10s and, now, he is knocking on the door for an elusive first pro win at age 29.

"After the eagle, I thought this could definitely be a round where I could not only make a little move on the leaders, but get to play in one of the last couple groups Sunday."

Mission accomplished. Now, if only old Chief Leatherlips lets them start, and finish, today.

Contact Blade sports columnist

Dave Hackenberg at:

dhack@theblade.com

or 419-724-6398.



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