DUBLIN, OHIO - World No. 10 Hideki Matsuyama capped a late rally with an eagle on the 17th hole to finish as one of three players who opened with a 7-under 65 for a share of the first-round lead at the Memorial on Thursday.
Matsuyama, the 2014 Memorial winner, was 1-under through the first 12 holes, but he made four straight birdies in Nos. 13-16 before holing out from 130 yards for an eagle, joining Mexico’s Abraham Ancer and Joaquin Niemann of Chile atop the leaderboard.
“When I started I was looking for anything that would work,” said Matsuyama, whose climb back from wrist injury has been slow.
“I made two birdies in Nos. 4 and 5 and that lifted off the pressure. It’s a tough course but today’s game me taught me that I can get a good score if I hit solid shots, both long and short.”
Matsuyama’s round at Muirfield Village Golf Club also featured seven birdies and two bogeys, and the trio is one stroke ahead of American Beau Hossler going in the second round of the PGA Tour event hosted by Jack Nicklaus.
The 26-year-old Matsuyama withdrew from the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February with a left wrist injury that kept him sidelined for six weeks.
He missed his first cut of the season in the Players Championship last month after posting an opening-round 79, and had been on the verge of falling back outside of the top 10.
But on Thursday, he showed glimpses of his once dominant form and said his score was a result of “trial and error” golf.
“I tried this and that and it went well in the back nine. I’m really happy. I hope to continue playing this way till Sunday,” he said.
One shot on the wrong side of the creek. One shot in the water. Another one in someone’s backyard.
Tiger Woods recovered from a rugged start Thursday by running off three straight birdies late in the opening round to salvage an even-par 72 at Muirfield Village, leaving him seven shots behind in a tie for 47th.
“I fought back and I didn’t really have much starting out,” Woods said. “Didn’t really feel my swing very well, and consequently I hit it both ways — mainly left. I wasn’t rotating very well. Made a few tweaks, a few changes, made a couple of birdies, made a couple of putts, and lo and behold, I finished at even par. I know it’s a long way back, but at least I’ve got a fighting chance.”
Woods is a five-time winner at the Memorial. The last time he was at Muirfield Village was three years ago, when he shot a career-high 85 in the third round and had to play as a single Sunday morning.
What turned it around for him was a 3-iron from 245 yards that had to carry a pond in front of the green on the par-5 fifth.
“That was huge because I just came off three-putting 4. I hit it over the back on 3 with a wedge, and I needed to get some momentum going,” Woods said. “I had two par 5s left. I figured I could get to even par somehow. But I needed to take care of 5 first. And I was able to do it.”
Trio tied atop leaderboard
The sun shone brightly at rain-soaked Shoal Creek. So did Ariya Jutanugarn, Sarah Jane Smith and Jeongeun Lee.
Jutanugarn, Smith and Lee each shot a 5-under 67 Thursday to share the first-round lead at the U.S. Women’s Open, where the course held up better than some feared after heavy rains in recent days.
Thailand’s Jutanugarn spent hours in front before Smith and Lee caught her in the evening.
Jutanugarn is coming off a Kingsmill Championship win and kept up the momentum, including an eagle on No. 6. She said she started focusing more on each shot instead of worrying about the big picture.
“At Kingsmill, I started (saying) I’m not going to think about the outcome,” the eight-time LPGA Tour winner said. “I’m not going to think about winning the tournament.”
Jutanugarn and the Australian Smith each had an eagle, five birdies and two bogeys. Lee, meanwhile, had five birdies on a course that has been drenched in recent weeks, forcing the cancellation of Tuesday’s practice round and limiting course time on the eve of the tournament.
Danielle Kang, 2014 winner Michelle Wie, Korean Kim Ji-Hyun and Swedish amateur Linn Grant were 3 under.
Nasa Hataoka and Rumi Yoshiba were tied for 56th at 2-over 74.