Rory McIlroy has much work to do if he’s to be greeted late on Sunday by tournament host, Jack Nicklaus after posting a surprising 75 on the opening day of the Memorial in Dublin, Ohio.
McIlroy managed just two birdies but sadly soured his round with a pair of double-bogeys and a bogey on a day that promised so much for the Holywood star.
The effort saw the World No. 6 head to the Muirfield Village clubhouse then sharing a lowly 68th place before eventually finishing a massive 10 shots behind American Ryan Moore and in a tie for 88th position.
Moore, 36 is a five-time Tour winner and looking to end a near three-year winless drought and capped his round with four birdies in succession from his fourth hole.
McIlroy was grouped in the star three-ball alongside fellow Major winners, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, with Spieth shooting a ‘return to form’ 66 that included moving to tie Moore with an eagle on his 14th but only to bogey his 17th.
It is a third event running the Dallas-born Spieth has began to show the form that’s earned him three Majors.
“To shoot six-under around Jack’s place I think I have bested that once in my life, so I am very pleased,” said Spieth.
“I managed to hit 12 of 14 fairways and while the fairways are a little wider here, you just can’t miss them.
“The key was I lined-up on some straighter lines and played tighter curves rather than what I have been doing and that has been lining-up on the edges of the fairways and try to curve them all the way back.
“So, that was good strategy today.”
Five-time Memorial winner, Tiger Woods finished birdie, bogey, birdie and birdie in a round of 70 that sees him in a share of 23rd heading into round two.
“My round was really, really close and I was just a couple of yards away from maybe being five or six under,” he said.
“So, it could have easily flipped and I could have got a few more birdies out of my round.”
McIlroy is making an eighth appearance in the event hosted by legendary Jack Nicklaus but his opening day effort in the €8.2m event continues a Memorial trend where McIlroy has thrown-in a big score at least once over the four rounds.
McIlroy shot a 79 on day two to miss the cut in 2012, a 78 on day one in 2013, and also a 78 on day four in 2014 while there was his first round 74 a year ago en route to a share of eighth.
In fairness, McIlroy has thrown in a couple of low ones too, including a first round 63 in 2015 and a third day 64 a year ago.
Though any thoughts of replicating those two rounds was spoilt again by the shortest club in McIlroy’s bag that handed the 30-year old the headache of 36 putts.
And the longest club wasn’t all that hot either with McIlroy hitting just nine of 14 fairways.
McIlroy got his round off to a positive start in holing a 10-footer for birdie at the par-4 10th before it began turning pear-shaped at the tight and uphill par-5 15th where he hit a poor drive left into trees. With no spectators allowed down the left side, McIlroy could not locate his ball within the now 3-minute ‘search’ period and had to take a penalty drop.
When McIlroy finally found his way to the green, he three-putted from less than 10-feet for his double-bogey ‘7’.
A bogey at his eighth dropped McIlroy to two-over and he then slumped to four-over at his 11th when McIlroy found trees right and again had to chip-out sideways.
Unfortunately, McIlroy’s ‘recovery’ shot crossed the fairway into rough ahead of finding the green in three, before three-putting from 17-feet.
There was just a second birdie at his 13th in getting up-and-down from a greenside bunker for a ‘4’ before ending his day with four pars.
And as if to sum-up McIlroy’s day, he looked at Spieth somewhat sarcastically when his 19-foot birdie putt at his 18th just missed the hole.