McIlroy and Woods solid as Finau leads

McIlroy and Woods solid as Finau leads

Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods playing at the Memorial Tournament in Ohio
Woods and McIlroy were among the later starters on Thursday and played in the windiest conditions
-6T Finau (US);-5R Palmer (US);-4B Steele (US), G Woodland (US);-3C Howell III (US), L Glover (US), J Rahm (Spa),
Selected: -2R McIlroy (NI), J Spieth (US);-1P Reed (US), P Casey (Eng), T Woods (US);LevelM Wallace (Eng), P Mickelson (US), B Koepka (US), S Garcia (Spa);+1B DeChambeau (US), J Rose (Eng), S Lowry (Ire)

World number one Rory McIlroy is four shots behind American leader Tony Finau after a solid two-under opening round at the Memorial Tournament in Ohio.

Finau holed nine birdies and three bogeys in a stunning 66 on a blustery day with gusts of wind reaching 30mph.

Ryan Palmer hit a bogey-free 65 to sit one back, while Spain’s Jon Rahm is in a group on three under par.

Tiger Woods, playing his first event since the coronavirus break, birdied the first and 18th in a one-under 71.

The Muirfield Village course also hosted last week’s PGA Tour event, won after a play-off by Collin Morikawa on 19 under par.

This week’s Jack Nicklaus-hosted tournament is not expected to be won by such a low score with the fairways and greens all running much faster than they were last week.

Only 24 players carded under par scores on a tough opening day, which was again played behind closed doors.

“It’s not even remotely close to the same,” said Justin Thomas, who was beaten by Morikawa in the play-off. He had four bogeys in a two-over 74 to match his entire total in last week’s event.

“It was a totally, totally different golf course,” Thomas added.

It had been hoped this event would be the first to allow spectators in to watch but the PGA Tour has decided to play the rest of the season without fans present as cases of coronavirus continue to soar in the United States.

McIlroy and Woods make solid starts

Northern Ireland’s McIlroy was partnered with Woods and his fellow American Brooks Koepka in a stellar group that boasted 23 majors between them.

And it was McIlroy who had the slightest of advantages after round one. He had four birdies and two bogeys as he recorded his 13th round under par out of the 15 he has played since the PGA Tour’s resumption.

Woods, who also had four birdies in his round, admitted he was “a little bit rusty” after five months away from tournament action but added “it was a good start”.

It was the 15-time major winner’s first PGA Tour event since a stiff back hindered him at the Genesis Open at Riviera in February.

“I didn’t have any issue with energy and not having the fans’ reactions out there,” Woods said. “I still felt the same eagerness, edginess, nerviness starting out, and it was good. I haven’t felt this in a while.”

Woods, who has won this tournament a record five times, will break Sam Snead’s 55-year-old record of 82 PGA Tour wins if he is successful again this week.

Koepka, who like McIlroy has won four majors, matched five bogeys with five birdies and is one of 17 players, including England’s Matt Wallace, on level par.

World number two Rahm, who could take McIlroy’s top spot in the rankings this week, put himself firmly in contention with five birdies in his round of 69.

He is one behind US Open champion Gary Woodland, who is four under, alongside fellow American Brendan Steele.

DeChambeau driving it miles, again

Former champion Bryson DeChambeau, one of the favourites coming into the event, ended one over after a round which included a staggering 423-yard drive that led to a 46-yard second shot and a birdie at the par-four first hole.

It was one of two drives over 400 yards, with three others travelling more than 350 yards.

Some of the shots were helped by the wind, but he was scuppered when the wind dropped on the par-five fifth. He was attempting to hit a seven iron over a pond to the green that was 230 yards away.

“When I was standing over the ball, it was 20 miles an hour downwind. And when I hit it, it dead stopped. Can’t do anything about it,” DeChambeau said. “That’s golf, man. You’re not going to shoot the lowest number every single day.”

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