By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
DUBLIN, Ohio -- A lot has happened in the nine years since Chris Riley last played in the Memorial Tournament.
He won his only PGA TOUR event in Reno and played in the Ryder Cup. He got married and became a father -- times two.
But with those peaks, there have been valleys. On the business side of the ledger, Riley also lost his playing privileges several times and has struggled to regain the kind of form that made him a four-time All-America at UNLV.
So he'd like nothing better than for the Memorial Tournament to signal a new beginning. And that 66 he fired in the first round at Muirfield Village was a good start -- in more ways than one.
Until Thursday, Riley had never broken par in three Memorial starts -- missing the cut each time. And the 66 matched his low round of the season, a year which has only seen him post one top-10.
"These guys are so good out here, if you don't play the best level of golf, then you're going to get blown away," Riley said. "It's been a struggle. I think this is my 13th season out here and the first six were great and the next three after that were really not that good, and I'm trying to climb out of a hole right now."
There have been bright spots for Riley, of course. He opened with a 66 at TPC Las Colinas last week and was just five strokes off the lead entering the final round of the HP Byron Nelson Championship.
Then Riley closed with an 8-over 78 in brutal conditions to tumble back down into a tie for 45th. But the laid-back Californian refused to blame the skid on the stiff and swirling winds that buffeted the course.
"It was real windy, but I'm just thinking too much, really," Riley said. "I'm just trying to turn off my head and play golf. If you play well, then I'm just so result-oriented right now instead of just doing -- and it's easy to do.
"It's kind of funny, a lot of guys that I came out here with aren't here anymore and as you can see, it's a tough game. For me it's just I'm just thinking too much, and the less I think the better I do, and today I didn't have time to think.
"The pace of play was so good and I didn't stand around and think about shots, I just played golf."
Riley teed off No. 10 in the first group of the day. He took advantage of the par 5s -- playing them in 3 under -- and ended up making eight birdies while dropping just two shots to par.
"I really putted good," said Riley, who went back to his old putter and finished with just 25 putts. "I made a lot of nice par saves. I made one on 6, my 15th hole, for like 20 feet for par, and (the first) hole I made about a 15-footer for par.
"It was just one of those days where everything was going in the hole, and it felt pretty good to see that."