DeCham­beau steals spot­light as Woods makes solid re­turn

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By James Corrigan

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

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