5 Things: Piercy thinks, Bradley booms at Memorial
Charl Schwartzel turned in his 65 fairly early Thursday at Muirfield Village, then waited as nobody in the field could catch him during the first day of the Memorial Tournament. But his wasn't the only story of the day in a field replete with star power. His next challenge is to hold off all comers when he tees off in the afternoon for the second round – and the pursuers are plentiful.
Here are 5 Things to Know from Thursday's first round at the Memorial in Dublin, Ohio:
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1. PIERCY THINKS HIS WAY AROUND: Brains prevailed over brawn for Scott Piercy as he posted a 6-under 66 during Thursday's first round.
One of the longest hitters on Tour, ranking 18th in driving distance at 298.3 yards, Piercy decided that finding the fairways was a better decision than the rough at Muirfield Village. He carried that theory out by hitting 10 of 14 fairways.
“I've hit a lot of drivers and kind of pounded down golf courses, and I haven't had much success here doing it,” Piercy said of a Memorial record with a WD, a T-42 and a 68th in three appearances. “I thought I'd hit a lot of 3 woods today and open up the fairways, and allow me to get some pins and knock them on the greens and make some putts. Maybe I'm getting older.”
At 34, Piercy seems to struggle in the winter and early spring months and flourish in the late spring, summer and early fall with both wins at Reno Tahoe and the RBC Canadian Open coming in August.
But with five consecutive birdies on the fourth through eighth holes, Piercy seemed to be in midseason form, just one back of leader Charl Schwartzel at 7 under.
“It really wasn't because I made up my mind I'm going to hit 3 wood,” Piercy said. “ I've got a 3 wood that I like, maybe a little hotter than normal. Funny, I cut it down and am hitting it so much farther; it's just over 42 and a half. I can hit kind of a stinger ball out there that just goes.”
Playing a discipline game is not necessarily Piercy's way, but when he commits to self-restraint his record has success.
“When I won in Canada, I called it boring just because I couldn't hit my driver a lot there,” Piercy said. “I hit a lot of hybrids and 4 irons off tees. And then the par 5s, I went after some par 5s there.“
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2. BRADLEY IMPRESSES BOOMER: “Impressive.” That’s what Fred Couples said of Keegan Bradley’s long game. Specifically the drives on the 10th and 11th holes as the PGA Champion hit his drive 364 on the par-4 10th and 346 on the par-5, 11th, creating consecutive birdies.
“Beautiful. I’ve never seen a ball go on the line he hit it,” Couples said of Bradley’s drive on the uphill 10th hole. “That drive there (11th hole) and a 6 iron, most people lay up with a 6 iron. I wouldn’t say he was totally on all cylinders with his short irons, but wow can he hit it.”
Couples never had played with Bradley before and said it was a benefit playing with him for when Couples will return to Muirfield Village in September as captain of the U.S. Presidents Cup team.
Bradley is fifth on the Presidents Cup list, with the top 10 automatically making the team.
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3. LEVEL DAY FOR GUAN: Chinese amateur Guan Tianlang shot an opening-round even-par 72 at his first competitive round at Muirfield Village.
In what has to be a dream year, the 14-year-old Asian Amateur winner has made the cut at both the Masters and the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, but missed the cut at the HP Byron Nelson Championship after a 7-over 77 in the second round in Irving, Texas.
Tied for 41st, Guan bogeyed two of the last three holes to ruin his opening 2-under 34 on the front nine.
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4. RORY'S DAY STRAYS AWAY: The on-course world of Rory McIlroy continues to spin out of control after a 6-over 78, one shot away from his worst round on the PGA Tour in 2013, a 7-over 79 in the third round of the Masters.
The young Ulsterman started out with a birdie three when a 23-footer found the bottom of the hole. It would be one of only two birdies during a long day that included six bogeys and a double bogey five on the par 3, 12th hole.
“The game just isn't all there at the minute,” McIlroy said of his first event on the PGA Tour since finishing eighth at The Players Championship. “But I'm working hard and I'm trying to figure things out, and hopefully they'll come around soon.”
After lunch, McIlroy retired to the driving range with caddie J.P. and father Gerry overseeing the former World No. 1's practice session.
But the question is: Were McIlroy's struggles from tee to green, or on the greens?
McIlroy hit only seven, or half, the fairways during Thursday’s first round, and 11 of 18 greens. His 33 putts included six one-putts, but a three-putt on the par-5 seventh and a 58-foot four-putt on the par-3 12th for 33 putts.
Surprisingly, McIlroy brought his old putter out of mothballs this week after working with the Stocktons, Dave Sr. and Jr, on Tuesday and Wednesday. It was the putter he used to win both of his majors, but it clearly didn’t make a difference Thursday.
“I need to shoot something like 66 or 65 to probably make the weekend,” McIlroy said in hopes of playing on the weekend in his third time in four appearances. “That will be the target tomorrow: Try to shoot the lowest score possible and see what happens.”
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Forty players shot par of better and 57 were even or better in the Thursday’s first round. . . . Three players, Nicolas Colesaerts (80), Peter Williamson (81) and Nick Watney (82) failed to break 80. . . . U.S. Amateur champion Steven Fox shot a six-over, 78. . . . Easiest hole was the par 5, fifth hole with a scoring average of 4.625 that included five of the total eagles in round one. . . . Hardest hole was the par three 12th hole with a stroke average of 3.350 and recorded only 10 birdies with 41 bogeys, 4 double bogeys and 1 triple bogey. . . . First round scoring average was 73.00 with the morning wave at 72.37 and the afternoon at 73.63.