Spieth's strong finish puts him in the mix at Memorial
June 01, 2017
By Cameron Morfit and Ben Everill , PGATOUR.COM
- June 01, 2017
- Jordan Spieth birdied four of his final five holes to shoot 66 on Thursday. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, Ohio – Notes and observations from the first round of the Memorial Tournament Presented by Nationwide, where 2015 champion David Lingmerth of Sweden fired a wild 7-under 65 in the morning, and Jason Dufner hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation and matched that score in the afternoon. Jordan Spieth birdied four of his last five holes and was tied with Daniel Summerhays after signing for a 66, a shot back.
For more from Muirfield Village, click here for The Daily Wrap.
SPIETH SURGE CONTINUES
There was no way to stop the ball. That was Jordan Spieth’s assessment of his bunker shot at the par-3 12th hole, his third of the day. From nearly 23 feet, and trying to land the ball on a steep slope, he figured he’d do well just to keep the ball on the green.
Instead he holed the shot for a birdie.
“The last thing I said before I hit it was, ‘The idea is to have the pin stop it,’” Spieth said. “And I hit it and it just landed right in the hole. I've never done that before.
“So that was awesome. And I knew that I would immediately take crap from Kis and Justin.” (Spieth played with Kevin Kisner, winner of the DEAN & DELUCA Invitational, and Justin Thomas.) “Justin said he was so flustered he wanted Kis to putt first.”
Spieth spoke also of the importance of staying patient, and his willingness to wait for the birdies paid off handsomely over the last five holes as he went from the third man in his threesome to the first. (Thomas shot 67, Kisner struggled coming in and shot 70.)
Then again, Spieth has had to be patient a lot this year. After a pair of top-three finishes in Hawaii and a victory at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, he swooned with three missed cuts in five starts. Most painfully, he failed to make it to the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his hometown of Dallas. He also faded badly on Sunday at the Masters (T11).
Spieth changed putters, and changed back. He was in danger of missing the cut at last week’s DEAN & DELUCA Invitational, but righted his second round to get to the weekend—a turnaround that may wind up being the pivot point of his whole season. His eventual T2 finish moved him up to fifth on this season’s FedExCup points table, and in prime position to go for his second title in three years. (Only Tiger Woods has won the FedExCup more than once.)
Spieth’s eight birdies Thursday at Muirfield Village, where his best result in four starts is a T3 in 2015, was a mere continuation of his recent form.
“As different as it looks, it plays pretty similar to Augusta,” said Spieth, who hit 10 of 14 fairways and 14 greens in regulation, and took 25 putts. “It’s a second-shot golf course where it's not the toughest off the tee, but playing to certain sides of the fairways have big advantages on angles to the pins. It's tough to get the ball below the hole.
“Same as Augusta—unless you're in the right spot where you're attacking, [you have to] take your medicine if you’re not. And recognize on mid-range [putts], where other courses you can knock in a 15-footer, out here, you have to play defensive. Because these greens are as fast as we see all year. I love that. I love that it’s strategic, and I love that it requires some touch, a lot of touch around the greens and especially on the greens.”
DUFF TAKES DEAD AIM
Jason Dufner has been trying to breathe like a military sniper to help his putting.
On Thursday it worked.
Dufner calmly plotted his way to a co-leading 7-under 65, hitting 17 of 18 greens but the former PGA Championship winner also maneuvered his way around the putting surfaces with style.
The Ohio native ranked third in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting picking up exactly three strokes on the average for the round.
“I've been working on my breathing a lot. Trying to get control of my breathing. Trying to get the pace of my stroke the way I want it with my breathing,” Dufner said.
“If you read anything about sniper shooters and when they shoot, they're really focused on their heartbeat and breathing.
“As soon as when it (my breath) comes out at the end is when I go. And then I have a count, one, two, kind of pace I've been working on. A little something different.”
Dufner is no stranger to good starts at the Memorial Tournament, having opened with a 66 in 2015 and a 68 last year.
Unfortunately he faded over the weekend in previous editions at Muirfield Village but was hopeful it could change this time around.
“I haven't been able to put it together for four days. But maybe the experience of being here five or six years now helped me out,” he said.
“It's just a matter of can I put four together, how is my patience level and how I'm putting and scoring.”
Dufner is seeking his fifth PGA TOUR victory. His most recent win came at the 2016 CareerBuilder Challenge where he defeated David Lingmerth (currently tied for the lead) at the second hole of a sudden-death playoff.
THOMAS AMONG FRIENDS
Justin Thomas, who shot 59 while paired with Spieth at the Sony Open in Hawaii, joined Spieth and their mutual friend Kevin Kisner for the first round of the Memorial. The stakes were the same as always, but at times their day felt more like a social round with the boys.
“Playing with both those guys, you have to back off a little bit and get refocused, because you're joking around and trying to enjoy it—you almost forget that you're in the middle of a golf tournament,” Thomas said. “There's times like that where it's difficult. But it's easy walking down the fairways and having conversation, it keeps the mood light.”
When Spieth accidentally made too much noise just off the third tee, and Thomas backed off his shot and restarted his pre-shot routine (he split the fairway), they quickly cleared the air.
“My bad, dude,” Spieth said.
“You’re all right,” Thomas replied.
Both hit their second shots close to the pin before missing short birdie putts.
Spieth famously won five times (including two majors) in 2015, but Thomas has enjoyed wild bursts of success, too. He won the CIMB Classic, the SBS Tournament of Champions and the Sony in a span of four starts this season. Thrilling, yes, but winning in bunches can come with a downside, too: the false notion that you’re going to win or contend every time you play. Although he came into this week third in the FedExCup, he hasn’t won since January.
“It’s not realistic to think you’re going to keep that up,” said Thomas, whose parents, grandparents and friends drove up from neighboring Kentucky to watch him play Muirfield. “You’re not going to win 15 or 20 times a year. I think I can win five or six or seven times.
“I felt like to start off with the wind that calm was important to kind of take advantage a little bit, and I was able to do so. Those greens are so good, it’s so hard to—it’s honestly upsetting and disappointing when you miss a putt, because they’re so pure. I played really well.”
LINGMERTH REPRISES 2015
When he came to the Memorial last year, David Lingmerth tried to do everything the same as he had when he copped his first PGA TOUR victory the year before.
Same hotel? Check.
Same restaurants? Check.
Same result? Um, not so much. He tied for 27th.
This year, he forgot about all that, and even shrugged off three bogeys and a rare off-day with his driving. (He hit just seven of 14 fairways.) Lingmerth’s secret weapon Thursday was the average proximity of his approach shots (21 feet, 2 inches) and his tidy 24 putts.
“I was rolling it good all day and got off to a good start with birdie on No. 1 and gave myself a few more opportunities on the first nine,” said Lingmerth, who is coming off a T12 at the DEAN & DELUCA Invitational. “But really got going there, 5, 6, 7, got one on 8, as well.”
At 133rd in the FedExCup standings, Lingmerth needs to get going, and he is now in prime position to make a huge leap up the points table at one of his favorite courses on TOUR. Listed at 5 feet, 7 inches tall, the stolid, sturdy Lingmerth, a former hockey player, is basically the anti-Dustin Johnson when it comes to body types. He averages 288 yards off the tee and is T121 in driving distance. But that’s not a problem at the Memorial, a point-to-point course with several doglegs that tend to negate the advantage of length off the tee.
“I've always felt good about this place,” Lingmerth said. “I like the way the course sets up for me. And I feel confident out here. I roll the ball really well on the greens, I have every year I've been here. Just overall pretty good feelings about this place.”
CALL OF THE DAY
ODDS & ENDS
FedExCup leader Dustin Johnson took 35 putts, was last in Strokes Gained: putting, and shot 78. He hit his tee shot in the water at the par-3 16th and made triple-bogey; unleashed a 413-yard drive only to walk away with par at the 17th; and three-putted from four feet to double-bogey the sixth hole. “He wasn’t that far off, although you’d think so to look at his score,” said playing partner William McGirt (70). Coming into the week Johnson had the most birdies at The Memorial since 2009 with 134 – a stat he did not add to Thursday…
Phil Mickelson nearly holed his approach shot and birdied the ninth hole, his last of the day, to shoot 70 playing alongside Johnson and McGirt. “It wasn't a bad day,” said Mickelson, who hit 11 of 14 greens and 14 greens in regulation, but took 31 putts. “I feel like where I left shots out there was on the greens.” He has three top-10s but no wins in 16 starts here…
Sam Saunders opened with a 4-under 68 opening the door for a fairytale first PGA TOUR victory to come at Jack Nicklaus’ Muirfield Village. Arnold Palmer’s grandson was at his scrambling best, getting up and down 7 of 8 times he missed the putting surface….
Byeong Hun An came off the course after his 4-under 68 and immediately knew he had gained strokes on the field in putting. The South Korean has been on the positive side of the Strokes Gained: Putting stat just four times this season with the last three resulting in top-10 finishes. “If I get the putting in the plus area, I know I can make good scores,” he said. “I’ve been working hard and it’s paying off.”…
Rickie Fowler rode the rollercoaster on Thursday with 8 birdies, 3 bogeys and a triple bogey leaving him with a 2-under 70. After opening with a birdie Fowler made a seven on the par-4 2nd hole after a wild drive and a missed short putt. A bogey on the 4th had him three over early before his fightback began. He made five birdies in his next six holes and then capped off the round with a hole-out from a bunker on the 18th for a closing birdie….
Three-time major winner Padraig Harrington made a successful return from a shoulder injury with a 1-under 71 that included a streak of 12 straight pars. Harrington hadn’t played on TOUR since missing the cut at The Honda Classic in February….
Muirfield Village member and local resident Jason Day needed two closing birdies just to shoot a struggling 3-over 75. Day has never finished higher than a tie for 27th in eight previous attempts at The Memorial tournament…
Steven Bowditch is looking to break a streak of 15 straight missed cuts after an opening round of 72 left him tied 35th. Bowditch was 4-under through eight holes before giving shots back. A bogey on the 17th cost the two-time TOUR winner his first under par round since the Genesis Open in mid-February….
Daniel Summerhays is looking to continue a trend of first times winners at Muirfield Village. The 33-year-old from Farmington, Utah is seeking his first PGA TOUR victory in his 185th start this week and opened with a 6-under 66 to be one shot back. Should he go on to victory, he would become the eighth player to make the Memorial Tournament his first PGA TOUR title and the fourth consecutive player to do so…
With Thursday’s even-par 72 Stewart Cink now has 53 rounds of par-or-better and is attempting to catch Kenny Perry, who has 55 rounds of par-or-better at the Memorial Tournament. The record remains with Jay Haas, who owns 68 rounds of par or better at this event…
Lucas Glover (67) and 2014 Memorial Tournament champion Matt Kuchar (69) carded the only bogey-free rounds…
SHOT OF THE DAY
Shot of the Day
Rickie Fowler's thrilling bunker hole-out is the Shot of the Day
BEST OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Spieth/JT shot a best-ball 60 today. 😳😳— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 1, 2017
4️⃣1️⃣3️⃣ yards.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 1, 2017
There are tee shots.
And then there are Dustin Johnson tee shots. pic.twitter.com/Td12FbXpnl