After 17 holes of his opening round, Rory McIlroy was in a share of third place on three-under. After 18 holes he was level-par and had slipped 30 places down the leaderboard at the Memorial Tournament.
The 18th at Muirfield Village is a must hit fairway off the tee, McIlroy missed right, drew a rotten slice of luck with his lie in the rough and eventually hacked his way up the hole and closed for a triple-bogey seven as he fell five shots shy of early leader Davis Riley.
Jack’s place can punish you. Shane Lowry spoke of the importance of hitting fairways even if it means hitting woods off tees while the Golden Bear himself had been lamenting McIlroy’s loss of focus at key moments in rounds in the pre-tournament press conferences.
“I don’t know whether his is a constant lack of being able to keep that concentration for the whole thing or not because sometimes he is the par, par, par, double, 8,” the Golden Bear said on Tuesday. “He does that sometimes.”
Rory caught a dreadful break off the tee after his ball missed the fairway bunker. Gripping down at the very bottom of his grip he could only advance his second shot 25 yards from a shocking lie in the rough before he caught a flier with his third.
Things didn’t get much better as he flew the green with his pitch before duffing his chip from the thick rough and seeing his putt for a six miss low.
McIlroy was far from his best at Oak Hill but he managed to turn 73s into 69s but in the opening round in Ohio he looked on song so it is a shame he turned a routine 69 into a 72.
Riley leads by a shot from Matt Wallace on five-under after a 67.
“It’s a tough golf course. Especially in the afternoon because the greens get really firm and bouncy,” said Riley. “I can think of a wedge shot, like number 7, I got 118 yards and I’m landing it 10 yards short of the pin, 30 feet short, and it’s skipping all the way there. And the wind was up.
“So I think I hit 11 greens. But, yeah, I just had a couple up and ins on some par-4s to save par that kind of kept the round going, and then when I was on the green I felt like I had a good look.”