Davis Riley birdied three of his final four holes on Thursday to grab a one-stroke lead with a 5-under-par 67 in the first round of the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio.
Starting on the back nine during very challenging conditions in the afternoon wave at Muirfield Village Golf Club, Riley was2 under through 14 holes. He then reeled off birdies on Nos. 6 and 7 before draining a 13-foot birdie putt on No. 9 to move a shot ahead of England's Matt Wallace, who carded a 4-under 68 during the morning wave.
"It's a tough golf course," Riley said. "Especially in the afternoon because the greens get really firm and bouncy. And the wind was up. I just had a couple up and ins on some par-4s to save par that kind of kept the round going."
Jordan Spieth is among a group of seven players another shot off the pace at 3 under that also includes Mark Hubbard. Spieth was tied for the lead at 4 under when his tee shot on No. 18 found a fairway bunker. After advancing the ball only 25 yards and then finding another bunker green side, Spieth got up and down to salvage bogey.
"It felt like a great round," he said. "It was nice to beat a tough golf course."
Hubbard, who got into the field as an alternate and also started on the back nine, reached 6 under during the morning wave. He then drilled a sprinkler head with his approach shot on No. 16 that ricocheted his ball past the green, beginning a string of three consecutive bogeys to end his round.
"I've been playing really well, I've been working really hard," he said. "I've never really played that well here. So the combination of feeling pretty confident with my game and absolutely zero expectations always usually leads to good stuff."
A total of 32 players finished under par Thursday. That included 2020 champion Jon Rahm, who birdied three of his final eight holes to get to 2 under and in a tie for 10th place.
That was four shots better than World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, whose opening 74 included four bogeys against a pair of birdies.
Jack Nicklaus' signature course underwent a significant re-design. Spieth said the fairways "are like half the width that they normally are," which Rahm said he enjoys the options presented to players off the tee.
"At the end of the day it's mainly a second-shot golf course," Rahm said. "You have to have those irons dialed in, whether you have an 8-iron or a pitching wedge. So to an extent I think it might compare to a U.S. Open, but we've gotten to a point nowadays where hitting a 5-wood off a tee in a U.S. Open doesn't usually happen. So it's usually mostly 5-wood, 7-iron. So there's some holes where you relate, but for the most part I wouldn't say it's exactly the same."
Third-ranked Rory McIlroy struggled like many on the 18th hole. Like his playing partner Spieth, McIlroy was one shot off the lead when he lost his drive to the right. After going long with his third shot, the Northern Irishman sent his fourth back past the flag and wound up with a triple-bogey 7 to drop to even par.
However, he's still in the hunt, five shots back of Riley, who entered the week ranked 79th and coming off five consecutive missed cuts in stroke play events. He did win the Zurich Classic of New Orleans with Nick Hardy in April.
Riley also held a share of the lead after the first round of the Memorial last year before eventually tying for 13th. He hopes to draw upon that experience for the next three days and earn a winning handshake from Nicklaus on Sunday afternoon.
"It would be really special, just a guy that I've looked up to and one of the best to ever play the game, and to win his tournament would be really special," he said. "It's day one. I got a lot of work to do and hopefully I can find myself with an opportunity Sunday and that would be pretty amazing."
--Field Level Media