Schwartzel Takes Early Lead at Memorial
DUBLIN, Ohio – Charl Schwartzel didn’t want to see a good round go to waste. A birdie on his final hole Thursday in the Memorial allowed him to feel good about his game, and it gave him the early lead.
Schwartzel bounced back from a double bogey on the par-3 eighth hole with one last birdie for a 7-under 65. That gave him a one-shot lead over Scott Piercy among the early starters on a muggy day.
“The birdie on the last definitely will make my evening a lot better,” Schwartzel said.
Tiger Woods, the defending champion and a five-time winner, was among those playing in the afternoon.
Piercy is one of the longer hitters on tour, so it would seem his game would be a good fit for the Memorial. He hasn’t had much luck, so he decided to scale back off the tee and 3-wood where he typically would hit driver to take it over the bunkers. Piercy had a 66, his best score in 10 rounds at Muirfield Village.
Rory McIlroy, meanwhile, might be headed for another short week at the tournament Jack Nicklaus built.
McIlroy opened with a birdie and that was as good as it got for the world’s No. 2 player. He four-putted the par-3 12th for a double bogey, had a three-putt on No. 7 and ended his round by missing a 4-foot birdie. McIlroy had a 78.
Only eight players broke 70 in the morning on a well-conditioned course with fast greens, and it figured to get even tougher in the afternoon with hot weather, and greens not quite as smooth after all that morning traffic.
Schwartzel took advantage with two stretches of four straight birdies. He was at 8-under with two holes to play when he missed the green on No. 8 with an 8-iron and wound up on the downward slope of the sand. He tried to get extra spin on a difficult shot and sent it over the green, and then failed to get up and down.
The double bogey didn’t stay with him for long. The former Masters champion holed a 12-foot birdie putt and was back in the lead when Piercy, who finished up his round on the 18th hole, made bogey.
The birdie was important, not just for the early lead, but to get as much out of such a great round of golf. That’s not to suggest that if he had made par on the last hole he would have been ready to retire from the game.
“It would still be OK,” Schwartzel said. “It’s really when you’ve played that well and you’re thinking you get these few rounds a year where you really strike it well and you’re making lots of birdies and you walk off with your 8-, 9-under. And today was one of those where I really did flush it. And you’re think maybe another birdie, and then get knocked back with a little 8-iron making double.”
Josh Teater, Russell Henley and Kyle Stanley were at 67, while Charlie Wi, Matt Jones and Michael Thompson had 69.