Hideki Matsuyama and Tiger Woods hit their stride at the end of their rounds at the Memorial, and it paid off in different ways.
Matsuyama was in the middle of the pack at Muirfield Village when he ran off four straight birdies and then holed out with a wedge from 130 yards on the 17th hole for an eagle that sent him to a seven-under-par 65 and a share of the lead with 19-year-old Joaquin Niemann of Chile and Abraham Ancer of Mexico.
“As the round went along, I played better and better,” said Matsuyama, who got his first PGA Tour win at the Memorial four years ago.
So did Woods, which helped him avoid another big number on a course where he has won five times. Woods three-putted from 25 feet to fall to three over with five holes to play. He answered with three straight birdies — two of them on par-five holes on the front nine — and got up-and-down from 62 yards on the ninth hole for a 72.
“It was nice to somehow grind out the round, turn it around and finish even par,” said Woods, playing the Memorial for the first time since 2013.
Niemann, who won the Latin America Amateur Championship in January, appears to be on the fast track to the PGA Tour. He turned pro after the Masters and already has a pair of top 10s in his four events. Another one this week might be enough to earn special temporary membership on the PGA Tour, meaning he would have unlimited exemptions to try to earn his card.
Ancer had only one bogey on his card early in his round, and he followed with eight birdies. It was the first time he has had a share of the lead after any round in his 40th start on the PGA Tour.
It wasn’t his first time at Muirfield Village, just Ancer’s first time playing the tournament.
He got that firm handshake from the tournament host in 2010 when Ancer received the Jack Nicklaus Award as the top junior college player when he was at Odessa College. He later played at Oklahoma.
“I got to come here as a freshman, get that award from Jack. That was incredible,” Ancer said. “It was like deja vu walking the fairways — watching from the outside, and now playing. It’s a dream come true. And today I felt great.”
Beau Hossler, who keeps showing up on leaderboards in his rookie season, had a 66. The group at 67 included Lucas Glover, while Jason Day was among those at 68.
Three-way tie at U.S. Women’s Open
Ariya Jutanugarn, Sarah Jane Smith and Jeongeun6 Lee each shot a five-under 67 to share the first-round lead at the U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek in Birmingham, Ala.
Jutanugarn spent hours in front before Smith and Lee caught her in the evening. The course held up better than some feared after heavy rains in recent days, aided by a day of sunshine.
Thailand’s Jutanugarn and the Australian Smith each had an eagle, five birdies and two bogeys. The Korean Lee, meanwhile, had five birdies on a course that has been drenched in recent days and weeks, forcing the cancellation of Tuesday’s practice round and limiting course time on the eve of the tournament.
Danielle Kang, 2014 winner Michelle Wie, Korean Ji-Hyun Kim and Swedish amateur Linn Grant were at three under.
It takes a 63 to lead at Italian Open
English duo Robert Rock and Laurie Canter and South Africa’s Richard Sterne all shot rounds of eight-under 63 to share the lead after the first round of the Italian Open.
The trio was two shots ahead of a group of nine players, which includes 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett and Ryder Cup duo Ross Fisher and Thomas Pieters.
Daniel Im is also part of that group after a bogey on the 11th halted a bright start by the American.