The first round of the Memorial Tournament on Thursday at Muirfield Village picked up where last year left off as far as drama goes. After Jon Rahm had to withdraw at the end of the 2021 tournament with a positive COVID-19 test, another star left early on Thursday whenfor a nonconforming 3-wood.
Matsuyama was not leading or among the leaders like Rahm was last year when he left the event, but Matsuyama’s WD did provide a jolt in the afternoon of Round 1 that is always welcome at any tournament (even if the end result is not desirable). He leaves behind a really fun leaderboard with youngsters at the top and the horses in the back that should be fascinating to watch develop over the next few days.
Let’s take a look at the logjam at the top of this board after Round 1 and try to figure out who’s going to emerge when they turn the corner and head for the weekend on Friday evening in Round 2.
T1. Mackenzie Hughes, Luke List, Cameron Smith, KH Lee, Davis Riley, Cameron Young (-5): Smith probably has the most staying power here, but let’s focus on the rookies Young and Riley instead. Combined, they have top 15s in seven of their last eight starts and are probably the two most prominent candidates for PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. Though their games are built quite differently, they were both in the top six in this field in strokes gained from tee to green and both will probably be in the mix in some capacity from here until the end of the event.
This is a monstrous tournament to break through in to check off your first PGA Tour win as both are trying to do. It’s the sixth-best event of 2022 in terms of field strength, and either Riley (25) or Young (also 25) would fit nicely withthat have been rolling so far this season.
T7. Sahith Theegala, Wyndham Clark, Will Zalatoris, Denny McCarthy (-4)
T11. Corey Conners, Abraham Ancer, Jhonattan Vegas, Max Homa, Keegan Bradley, Joel Dahmen, Shane Lowry (-3)
T21. Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Daniel Berger, Adam Scott (-2)
The strength here is actually mostly at T11 and T21, players that are two and three strokes back respectively and very much in the mix with 54 holes to go. Zalatoris obviously stands out, and his game seems to be absolutely built for the very hardest courses (which you could argue Muirfield Village is among). McIlroy didn’t putt at all, which is what you want to see when trying to project who will arise in the next few rounds. Schauffele has top 15s in each of his last four starts here. And Fowler – who has struggled mightily with no top 20s in 11 starts this year – put together a really well-rounded day in which he gained strokes in every category. The leaders are mostly stout, but this chase pack is definitely to be feared.
What exactly happened with Matsuyama?
I wrote, but some of the quotes are just incredible. The official rules in charge of administering the disqualification gave an all-timer in his press conference afterward. One that could only happen in golf and that somehow simultaneously makes this sport both the most ridiculous and the most fun in the world.
“When I first got [his club], I took pictures, and I was looking at it myself closely, “rules official Steve Rintoul said.” I actually closed my arm and rubbed my fingernail across. One way I could feel it, but the next way I couldn’t. Even though it was done with a Wite-Out-like substance, it was thick enough you could pick up on where it was on the face. ”
“Applying a small, discrete dot with a Sharpie to help you with alignment is fine,” he added. “We have players who do it all the time. But the amount of substance that was up on the face of the club, when we sent it to the USGA, their equipment standards guys, it was just excessive. And that’s what could affect the performance of the ball. ”
Here’s a look at the markings.
Jordan Spieth … can putt?
After losing strokes putting in 15 of his last 23 measured rounds, Spieth finished fifth in the field on Thursday with the flat stick. Don’t let him get hot, people, it’s going to be a problem!
“Had some misreads, just been looking for the hole to catch a few, and let it get going,” Spieth said. “This morning might have been the best putting surface I’ve ever been on in my life, they were that good. So you knew there was no excuse, and then they were so quick that wherever you’re going to start, it’s just going to roll perfectly. So once the hole started, it got fun to be on greens. I was trying to hit greens in regulation at that point. ”
He actually didn’t hit the ball as well as he has, but that’s been so consistent this year that I don’t think it’s going anywhere. This was Spieth’s best strokes-gained putting round since … Round 1 of the Charles Schwab Challenge over a year ago. If the putter is actually heating up and this is not just a one-off, it’s the perfect time for it with the US Open and Open Championship both taking place over the next 50 days.
Jon Rahm’s return
Forget the theatrical fireworks from last year for a moment and fix your eyes on this outrageous stat. In the last two years, Rahm has nearly doubled the output from the second-best player at Muirfield Village. That’s outrageous. And while he didn’t have his best stuff on Thursday (he made a 7 on a par 5 on the back nine), Rahm still gained strokes on the field and is in a position to gallop on Friday to pull close to the lead at a of course he’s been crushing.
Updated odds and picks
Here’s a look at the new odds after 18 holes, via Caesars Sportsbook.
- Cameron Smith: 7-1
- Rory McIlroy: 10-1
- Cameron Young: 11-1
- Davis Riley: 12-1
- Will Zalatoris: 12-1
- Shane Lowry: 14-1
- Xander Schauffele: 18-1
- Jon Rahm: 22-1
- Jordan Spieth: 22-1
What a board! Young and Riley are getting a ton of respect from oddsmakers given how well they’ve both been playing for the last month. I like both of them here, but I like Riley slightly better because of how well he’s hitting his irons. Lowry intrigues me at 14-1. His strokes gained numbers are off the charts (nobody in this field has been better statistically over their last 20 rounds). If you want to go a little further down the board, Homa at 28-1 is the play. He’s eighth in this field in ball-striking over his last 20 rounds, has elevated his game to a new level this season and is just two back of the lead. That’s much better value than, say, Schauffele at 18-1.
Rick Gehman and Kyle Porter discuss Hideki Matsuyama’s disqualification at the Memorial. Follow & listen to The First Cut on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.