Shane Lowry starts strong at Memorial with an opening 69
Collin Morikawa the first round leader in Ohio on a day plagued by weather delays
Shane Lowry plays a shot on the 15th hole during the first round of The Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Ireland’s Shane Lowry maintained his largely excellent form of late with an opening, three under par, 69 at a weather affected Memorial tournament in Dublin, Ohio. Heavy pulses of rain and lightning in the area enforced a two-hour delay for the afternoon starters but for those who teed it up in the morning, the majority of the round was played in benign conditions.
The 34-year-old Clara native, coming off a tied fourth place finish in the US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, holed birdie putts of four and nine feet at the fifth and sixth to turn in two under. Two glorious iron shots to the 12th, his tee shot at the par three and his approach to the 13th, led to another brace of birdies; putts of under five feet underlined the quality of his ball-striking.
At four under he was just a couple behind the first round leader Collin Morikawa. When the weather delay arrived, Lowry was on the 16th and would drop his only shot of the round at the 17th when he failed to get up and down from a bunker.
‘Jack’s place,’ as the Muirfield Village course is affectionately known after its creator and erstwhile tournament host Jack Nicklaus underwent a substantial refurbishment since last year, every green rebuilt, fairways reshaped, bunkers added and taken away, and about 100 yards added in length.
Nicklaus wouldn’t have envisaged how vulnerable the revamped, rain softened course proved to be to golf’s elite; they simply fired at the pins with impunity.
The swingeing changes didn’t discommode Morikawa, winner of the Workday Open at Muirfield Village last July, played a week before the Memorial. It was a once off tournament to replace the John Deere Classic that was cancelled because of Covid-19 considerations.
The 24-year-old beat Justin Thomas in a playoff and the 2020 US PGA champion demonstrated his affinity for the revamped venue with a masterclass in iron play. There was only one aberration to that statement and the scorecard when he flat-out topped his second shot to the ninth much to the bemusement of player, spectators and commentators alike.
He certainly didn’t let it spook him. Morikawa said that there were no really jolting changes to the new course: “The tee shots feel very similar. For the most part off the tee you are not hitting too many different shots (from the old layout). You have to hit fairways and when you are on them you can score.”
Defending champion Jon Rahm fired a 69 to match Thomas while, despite some putting woes on the front nine, Xander Schauffele signed for a 68 that looked like being better, but there was no joy for European Ryder Cup captain Pádraig Harrington, who twice found water en route to a 78.
Play was suspended for a second time due to weather, for over two hours, before starting back up for just 11 minutes, before play was suspended for the day. None of the 60 players in the afternoon wave were able to finish their rounds.
Bryson DeChambeau (2-under through three holes), Jordan Speith (1-under through three) and Ireland’s Rory McIlroy (1-over through two) will resume their first rounds on Friday morning.
Leading first round scores (USA unless stated, Par 72)
66 Collin Morikawa
67 Adam Long
68 Rafael Cabrera (Spa), Bo Hoag, Xander Schauffele, Nick Taylor (Can)
69 Christiaan Bezuidenhout (Rsa), Rickie Fowler, Max Homa, Shane Lowry (Irl), Jon Rahm (Spa), Brendan Steele, Justin Thomas
70 Jason Dufner, Charl Schwartzel (Rsa), Michael Thompson
71 Emiliano Grillo (Arg), Patrick Reed, Matt Wallace (Eng)
72 Tony Finau, Jim Herman, Hudson Swafford, Brendon Todd, Harold Varner III, Lucas Glover, Russell Knox (Sco)
73 Brian Gay, Mark Hubbard, Si Woo Kim (Kor), Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn), Alexander Noren (Swe), Camilo Villegas (Col)
74 KJ Choi (Kor), Wyndham Clark, Corey Conners (Can), Dylan Frittelli (Rsa), Adam Hadwin (Can), Troy Merritt, Matthew NeSmith, Jimmy Walker
75 Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eng), Doug Ghim, Charles Howell III, Denny McCarthy, Doc Redman, Danny Willett (Eng), Gary Woodland
76 Lanto Griffin, Billy Horschel, Tyler McCumber
77 Mackenzie Hughes (Can), Sepp Straka (Aut), Robert Streb, Bubba Watson
78 Keegan Bradley, Padraig Harrington (Irl)
79 Byeong-Hun An (Kor)
81 Jamie Lovemark
82 Cameron Champ
78 Hee-Young Park (Kor), Sarah Jane Smith (Aus), Jennifer Song
79 Caroline Masson (Ger), Cheyenne Woods
80 Kim Metraux (Swi)
81 Abbey Daniel