Davis Riley opened with a 67 at the Memorial to finish atop the leaderboard after the opening round for the second straight year. That’s where the similarities end in Dublin, Ohio.
Riley birdied three of his last four holes Thursday afternoon when the turf was firm and the wind was swirling and the bad breaks led to big numbers, as Rory McIlroy found out.
Riley was in a six-way share of the lead last year. On Thursday, he led by one over Matt Wallace. Jordan Spieth was in the group at 69, ending his hopes for a bogey-free day by hitting into two bunkers on the 18th hole and saving bogey from the second one.
It was hot. It was hard. And at times it was tough to watch.
Chad Ramey hit four shots that went into the water on the ninth hole, which featured a front pin and a stream in front of the green. He made a 13, the highest score ever recorded on any of the holes at Muirfield Village.
He posted an 88, still shy of the record high score of 92 that Roger Maltbie shot in 1979 in a second round that featured 30-mile-per-hour wind and a wind chill index of 13 degrees.
Dry and hot is the weather tournament founder Jack Nicklaus always wanted but rarely gets, and there were plenty of comparisons to a US Open except for the generous fairways.
Defending champion Billy Horschel has been in a slump, and Muirfield Village was no place to try to snap out of that. Horschel had four 6s on his card of 84.
“My confidence is the lowest it’s been in my entire career. I think ever in my entire golf career,” Horschel said. “So it’s funny, as low as it feels, it feels like I’m not that far off at the same time. Which is insane to see when you see me shoot 84 today.”
Wallace, who needs a victory this week to avoid US Open qualifying, posted his 68 in the morning before the wind and the temperatures picked up. Shane Lowry had five straight birdies in the morning in relatively calm conditions, but even he wasn’t immune to a fast golf course that could be punishing without notice.
McIlroy was 3 under for his round playing the 18th when his drive went right — not unusual for the shape of that hole — and was tumbling toward the sand until it stopped. That was very unusual. The ball was nearly belt-high and he could barely take a stance. He did his best to chop it out, and it just cleared the bunker into thick grass.
From there, his 9-iron caught a flyer and sailed over the green to the shaggy hill. His flop shot came out clunky and over the green and its front pin. His chip was weak. He missed the putt. And his triple bogey wiped out an otherwise good day.
Spieth almost was in that predicament. At least he was in the sand, but he hit a poor 7-iron that barely got out, just ahead of McIlroy’s ball. That turned out to be a break, because when Spieth saw what happened to McIlroy’s shot, he went down to a pitching wedge.
It was a flyer, but it at least took a short hop into the sand in front of the green. He came inches away from holing — as he did for birdie from the bunker on No. 10 — and got away with a bogey.
“It’s nice to beat a tough golf course,” Spieth said.
Mark Hubbard also was at 69 and tried to remind himself it was a very good score after his bogey-bogey-bogey finish.
“I guess on paper it wasn’t what I wanted, but I had 5-iron into 16, 7-wood into 17, and 4-iron into 18. Like, that’s a little tough coming in there today,” Hubbard said. “So I told my caddie that’s the least mad I’m ever going to be bogeying the last three.”
Jon Rahm and Adam Scott were at 70 playing in the morning. Scottie Scheffler didn’t make a putt longer than 6 feet and shot 74. That was his highest opening round since Las Vegas in October 2021.
The course average was 74, the highest for a first round at Muirfield Village since 2000. Eight players failed to break 80 — that doesn’t include Dylan Frittelli, who was 15 over through 14 holes when he withdrew with an illness.
LPGA — Two-time NCAA individual champion Rose Zhang made her professional debut and gave the LPGA what was expected and needed in Jersey City, N.J., a solid opening round in the Mizuho Americas Open that put her in position to wow women’s golf on one of its biggest stages.
The 20-year-old from Stanford who has dominated the women’s amateur rankings for more than two years shot a 2-under-par 70 on the Liberty National Golf Course in the shadow of New York. The California resident was five shots off the early lead held by Lauren Hartlage.
Aditi Ashok, the first woman from India on the tour, was at 5 under in the event where the focus shifted to Zhang last weekend with her announcement she was turning pro. She has been considered by many as possibly the next great women’s player on tour.
Zhang didn’t dominate on her first day as a pro, but she showed enough, making five birdies and three bogeys on a day her putter didn’t help her. She hit fairways and greens in a round on a 6,671-yard course that features a par-3 played with the Statue of Liberty staring golfers in the face.
“This was definitely a round that could have been better, and that kind of gets me excited to work on more and to develop my game even further,” Zhang said. “I felt like I left a couple shots out there, and I think there is a lot of room for improvement.”
There also were some shots that were great. On the par-5 13th, she chipped in from 29 yards, coming from below the hole and having the ball cross the length of the green before falling in the hole.
The people following her group loved it. It was what they expected from the Arcadia, Calif., resident who has won back-to-back ANNIKA Awards and the 2023 Augusta National Women’s Amateur. Her eight wins this season tied Tiger Woods for the most by a Stanford player, and her 12 wins in 20 college starts are a school record.
It’s why people put her in a category with Woods.
“I don’t really have to think about other people’s expectations,” Zhang said. “Like I said before, I think of it as a compliment that they think I’m capable of more. But on the overall level, I think I have people that just want me to do the best I can and they push me to be better.”
Zhang will need to be better if Hartlage continues playing as well as she did Thursday.
Starting on the par-5 10th, Hartlage ignited her career-best round by hitting her second shot to within a foot and making eagle. She added five more birdies, adding it was nice to play well after struggling in her last four events.
“I feel like no one really expects me to be at the top, and it’s kind of fun just being able to just play with some of the best in the world and see how I rank,” said the 25-year-old who has two top 10 finishes since joining the tour last year.
Ashok, who has two top five finishes in her last three events, is two shots behind Hartlage after a bogey-free round.
“I just know that if I play good four days, then I’ll have a pretty good chance,” Ashok said.
DP World — Maximilian Kieffer delighted home fans at the European Open in Hamburg, Germany, with a 4-under 69 for a share of the lead after the first round.
The 32-year-old Kieffer, bidding to be the first German winner on home soil for 15 years, carded five birdies and an eagle — offset by three bogeys — to share a one-stroke lead with Simon Forsström, who had five birdies and a bogey at Green Eagle Golf Courses.
Three Germans were among seven golfers on 2 under. Jannik De Bruyn, Freddy Schott, and Marcel Siem are also bidding to become the first home player to win in Germany since Martin Kaymer in 2008. De Bruyn had a hole-in-one on the second hole.