A sunny day at Muirfield Village should have been the first clue that the opening round at the Memorial might contain a few surprises.
Charles Howell III got the best one Thursday at Dublin, Ohio, when he watched his 45-foot putt feed down the slope and curl into the cup on No. 18 for his eighth birdie in 12 holes, giving him an eight-under-par 64 and a one-stroke lead over Kenny Perry.
“What can I say? When things start going your way, they go your way,” said Howell, who matched the best first-round score in the 28-year history of the Memorial.
Tiger Woods, playing on the PGA Tour for the first time since the Masters, made a birdie from 25 feet on the final hole for a 67. It was his lowest opening round since a 66 in the Disney Classic last October, but that’s not what left him amazed.
“The scores are so low today,” Woods said. “It’s hard to believe that four under is probably not going to be in the top 10. You don’t see that on this golf course.”
Another surprise was seeing Nicklaus make a brief appearance on the leaderboard -- only it wasn’t Jack, the tournament host and winner of 18 majors.
Gary Nicklaus, the 34-year-old son of the Golden Bear who is playing on a sponsor’s exemption, birdied five of his first nine holes before faltering to a 69.
Jack Nicklaus struggled to a four-over 76.
Annika Sorenstam’s tee time was still 15 minutes away and the crowd had already reached Tiger-esque proportions.
About 500 people, standing eight to 10 deep, were on hand to watch Sorenstam play in the pro-am at the Kellogg-Keebler Classic at Aurora, Ill.
A week after her historic PGA Tour debut, Sorenstam is hoping life will gradually return to normal now that she’s back on the LPGA Tour.
“I went to Starbucks this morning and everybody recognized me there,” she said. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet, and we’ll see what comes out of this. But if I touched any little girl, any woman who felt like it opened doors for someone, that’s great.”