It was only the first round, but already Muirfield Village was firm, fast and fiery as the 2023 Memorial Tournament got underway Thurday. Mirroring major championship conditions, Jack's Place has often identified the best players and the first round of this year's tournament was no different. Three-time major champion Jordan Spieth utilized a late birdie to climb up the leaderboard before a bogey on the last dropped him a couple behind first-round leader Davis Riley at 5 under.
"The course is just really firm and fast and the rough's up," said Spieth after the round. "The fairways are bouncing more than normal. We normally get rain here. So, you can talk about the greens surfaces, but they were appropriately firm, I thought, and extremely pure. Probably the best surfaces I've ever putted on in an afternoon on a Thursday. You really just didn't have to fix hardly anything. I was shocked at how fantastic they were."
It has been an inauspicious month for the three-time major champion, and his first-round 69 may be a sign of him turning a corner. After making a run at the Masters and losing in a playoff at the RBC Heritage, Spieth has since gone onto miss the cut at the Wells Fargo Championship, injure his wrist and miss the cut at Colonial (a known hotbed for Spieth). The possible return to form could not have come at a better time as the third major championship of the season looms in a couple weeks time.
Fellow Open champion Shane Lowry stands at 3 under as did Rory McIlroy before a triple bogey on the last sent him tumbling to even par. Jon Rahm is positioned nicely at 2 under to grab his second Memorial title in his last four tries. Adam Scott and Sungjae Im are alongside the reigning Masters champion while Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland, Patrick Cantlay, Tyrrell Hatton and Sam Burns are one worse at 1 under.
1. Davis Riley (-5): Playing among the last men on the golf course, Riley raced to the finish line with four birdies in his last seven holes. Carding six on the day against just one bogey on the difficult 18th, the Zurich Classic winner beat the afternoon wave's average by eight full shots. He will have the opportunity to widen his gap as he is off early in the morning when the golf course will have moisture and the winds will be calmer. What does Friday morning could have a lasting impact on the result of this tournament.
2. Matt Wallace (-4)
T3. Jordan Spieth, Davis Riley, Mark Hubbard, Adam Hadwin, Shane Lowry, Austin Eckroat, David Lipsky (-3)
T10. Jon Rahm, Patrick Rodgers, Justin Suh, Wyndham Clark, Seamus Power, Adam Scott, Sungjae Im (-2)
T17. Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland, Sam Burns, Patrick Cantlay, Tyrrell Hatton and nine others (-1)
Outside a couple hiccups around his turn, Rahm's first round was a masterclass on how to play Muirfield Village. The world No. 2 gained more than two strokes off the tee and an additional two strokes on approach. Ranking fourth in strokes gained tee to green, the Spaniard was able to card four birdies, three of which were on par 4s. If the putter heats up and the par-5 scoring normalizes, Rahm could be in line for his fifth victory of the season.
"I'm pleased with it," said Rahm. "It's too bad I couldn't take advantage of the, let's say, easier conditions on the front nine. There was no wind, great temperature, perfect greens. Gave myself chances and couldn't convert a couple of them. If I had to say something to do better today, I think with a couple of the tee shots I hit, give myself better birdie looks on a couple of the par-5s. Besides that, I think it's a really good round of golf that if a couple putts dropped could have been a really good one."
Rory was rolling in the right direction
Entering the tournament having played just 10 competitive rounds in the last two months, the Northern Irishman leaned on the two-pronged approach of booming drives and timely putting. It had all the signs of a 69, but a closing triple bogey dropped McIlroy out of red figures and five strokes off the pace.
Despite his early signs of quality, McIlroy still has plenty of which to be proud and plenty of time to improve. There were loose wedge swings, untimely approach shots and bonehead mistakes. The world No. 3 proved at the PGA Championship he can contend with his C game, but McIlroy will need something closer to his A game if he wants to take down the Memorial and leapfrog a litany of big names in the process.
Scottie Scheffler's streak in jeopardy
Scheffler came into the Memorial with all the momentum in the world having finished inside the top 12 across 14 straight PGA Tour events dating back to October 2022. That mojo may have been put to a screeching halt as the world No. 1 continued to look lost on the greens and posted his highest opening round (74) since October 2021.
Even without his putter, the Texan has been able to consistently find a place on the first page of the leaderboard, but that simply was not the case Thursday. Scheffler lost more than three strokes with the putter in hand after needing to replace his flat stick Wednesday. The new wand was no help, and he will need to become a friend if he is to surpass a record held by Tiger Woods.
2023 Memorial Tournament updated odds, picks
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook
- Jon Rahm: 41/10
- Patrick Cantlay: 27/4
- Jordan Spieth: 11-1
- Viktor Hovland: 14-1
- Rory McIlroy: 16-1
- Shane Lowry: 16-1
- Sungjae Im: 18-1
- Tyrrell Hatton: 18-1
- Scottie Scheffler: 18-1
- Collin Morikawa: 18-1
- Davis Riley: 22-1
Let's take a stab on a player who has won on this golf course before: Morikawa at 18-1. The two-time major champion gained more than four strokes on approach in Round 1, which helped him rank inside the top 10 in strokes gained tee to green. He trails betting favorite Rahm by just one and his laser-like iron play will continue to set up birdie opportunities.
While his putting metrics are poor on paper, Morikawa was as comfortable as ever with the putter in hand -- the stroke looked very solid. With his caddie J.J. Jakovac reading greens in partnership, Morikawa should start to catch edges instead of just burning them like he did Thursday.
Rick Gehman is joined by Patrick McDonald to break down the opening round of the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday. Scorecards, storylines and betting favorites from Muirfield Village. Follow & listen to The First Cut on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.