DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — There were dark times over the past few years when Paul Casey wondered if maybe he was done with golf.
A painful divorce and a series of painful injuries made Casey, once the No. 3-ranked player in the world, doubt himself and his abilities.
Not now, though. Casey sits atop the lead at the Memorial Tournament, a wiser man with a different perspective.
Casey shot his second 6-under 66 in a row Friday to forge a three-stroke lead over Bubba Watson through 36 holes at Muirfield Village in the tournament founded and hosted by Jack Nicklaus.
Rory McIlroy, who was up by three shots after a glittering 63 in the opening round, had three double-bogeys in a row in a 78 that dropped him all the way into a tie for 24th.
On this day, however, the major headlines revolved around Casey, once a budding star in the game, a three-time European Ryder Cupper, who had all but fallen off the golf map not so long ago.
At his low point, a lost Casey didn't know if he would ever be competitive again.
"Standing in the middle of the fairway and you can't hit the green, or you're standing on the tee and you can't hit the fairway," he said. "Lots of times. And I did it out here, that was the thing. It's not like I kind of just disappeared and just went off the grid for a while. I was battling through. And that was quite tough, trying to play tournament-level golf and I wasn't able to."
A healthier, happier Casey won the Irish Open a year ago, his first victory on the European Tour in two years. Now he's in a relationship with a British TV personality, Polyanna Woodward, and will become a father for the first time when their son is born in September.
Smiling broadly while answering questions about his resurgence, Casey said he had learned a lot from the how far he had come.
"I have a very good perspective on things — I can't think of a better word," he said. "I know where everything fits now in my life. I don't necessarily have it figured out, but I know how things stack up in importance."
The 36-year-old Brit, who attended Arizona State, opened with a bogey in the opening round but rebounded with seven birdies for his 66. On Friday, he eagled the par-5 15th and added six more birdies against a couple of bogeys to stand at 12-under 132. Had he parred rather than bogeyed his final hole, he would have tied the tournament record for best 36-hole score.