DeChambeau steals spotlight as Woods makes solid return
It says so much about the evergrowing fascination with Bryson DeChambeau and his outrageous transformation that despite Tiger Woods shooting under par in his first competitive round in five months, the most incredulous talk after the first day of the Memorial focused on one drive by the younger American.
But then, it is not every day that the PGA Tour charts a 423-yard tee shot which the golfer later claimed he did not catch properly.
“Yeah, I hit it a little high on the clubface,” DeChambeau said, about his opening shot on the 473-yard first (his 10th) that found the centre of the fairway and left him 45 yards to the pin.
Woods, himself, would no doubt roll his eyes at that, having played a practice round with his Ryder Cup team-mate on Wednesday and witnessing at first hand the big-hitting rebirth of the 26-year-old they now call “DeRambo”. As it was, Woods outscored him by two shots with a one-under-par 71 that was highly commendable considering his inaction since before the lockdown.
In tough conditions, Woods birdied the first – of course, he did – and looked comfortable for the rest of the round.
If his putter had obliged, the 44-year-old would have signed for a couple of shots fewer, but his teeto-green form on the whole was impressive. He birdied the 18th as well, with a lovely approach to 12 feet. Woods is five off the lead set by Tony Finau, with Ryan Palmer on five under, but having basically given the rest of the circuit a fiveweek head start as he waited to make his own personal restart he could not be too disappointed.
With no fans, this was alien territory for one of the most scrutinised sportsmen who has ever lived, and his admirers will be relieved that he showed no sign of the back stiffness that blighted his early season.
Playing alongside Woods, Rory McIlroy, the world No1, fired a twounder 70, featuring four birdies and two bogeys.
The Northern Irishman arrived in Ohio following a two-week break after a mediocre three tournaments following the resumption. There were back-to-back 25-footers on the 12th and 13th, for a par and birdie, and there was another fine par save on the 17th.
McIlroy’s short game appeared extremely sharp and if he can straighten up his driving – he hit seven of the 14 fairways – he will undoubtedly be a factor at the weekend.
Jack Nicklaus’s course hosted last week’s event, the Workday Charity Open, and it sums up the variation in challenge that Sunday’s winner Collin Morikawa went from shooting 19 under to a four-over 76.
Recovery: Tiger Woods plays out of a bunker in his first competitive round in five months