BY TRAVIS DAVID
DUBLIN, OHIO — Tiger Woods stole the headlines all week leading up to the opening round of The Memorial Tournament on Thursday. Seeking his historic 83rd career win on the PGA Tour, Woods is making his first start in 151 days.
But round one belonged to Tony Finau. The 30-year old, who has 81 fewer tour wins than Wood, recorded nine birdies on the day en route to an opening round of 66 (-6). Finau takes a one-stroke lead over Ryan Palmer heading into Friday’s second round.
“I felt good, I played nicely,” Finau said following his round. “I think I scored it about as good as I could.
Palmer recorded the only bogey-free round of the day.
In an up and down front nine, Finau recorded bookend birdies as he made the turn at 1-under.
He proceeded to card birdies on the first two holes of the back nine as well as four of the last five holes.
He admitted luck played a small part in his success on the back nine.
“I got some breaks early on my back nine, mainly No. 11 where I hit it left of the hazard but was able to get a clear lay-up there.”
But the luck did not stop after his tee shot. His second shot hit a sprinkler head but it caromed onto the green.
“I was able to make a 4 (birdie) there, so a couple of good breaks to make birdie there and I was on my way to a good round.”
A bogey on the 209-yard Par 3 No. 16 prevented Finau of heading into Friday with five consecutive birdies.
The 16th played as the most arduous hole of the day with a scoring average of 3.53.
Woods showed little to no rust at all in the beginning of his round. The five-time winner of the tournament opened with birdies on two of the first three holes. Bogeys on No. 6 and No. 8 left him even heading to the back nine. Woods capped his first round with a birdie on the 471-yard Par 4 No. 18 finishing T18 at 1-under.
“It’s been a while since I have played gold,” Woods said during his press conference following the round. “I got off to an ideal start and got a feel for the round early…I just didn’t make anything today. I had looks at birdies, but I really didn’t make much.”
Despite hitting just eight of 14 fairways for the round, Woods mentioned he was happy with the way he got off the tee.
“I was very pleased with the way I drove it,” he said. “And I was happy with the feel I had for my irons. But most of my putts were dying, didn’t quite have enough oomph to them.”
Woods is paired with Rory McLlroy (-2) and Brooks Koepka (+1). McLlroy, who sits atop the world rankings, is one of 10 players tied for eighth, while Koepka is T25 — as is Phil Mickelson.
Defending champion Patrick Cantlay is 2-under as is Jordan Spieth.
Dustin Johnson recorded his highest round since the 2016 Farmers Insurance Open with an 80.
Vijay Singh, who is making his 26th Memorial start and playing on a sponsor exemption, opened with a 71/T19. He is the oldest player in the field at 57.
Collin Morikawa, who won last weekend’s Workday Charity Open — also played on the same course at Muirfield Village — struggled throughout the day with a 4-over. The 76 is his highest round as a professional on the PGA Tour.
FedEx Cup points leader Justin Thomas fired a 74/T59. Thomas lost to Morikawa in a playoff last weekend.