How it Happened: Schwartzel leads Memorial, Tiger lurks
VIDEO: Russell Henley plays "Jimi Thing" on guitar
It's no secret that Tiger Woods is the overwhelming favorite at this week's Memorial.
Five wins at the place that Jack Nicklaus built will do that. Oh, and the four PGA Tour victories in 2013 doesn't hurt.
But Woods wins only 27 percent of the tournaments he enters, so the odds are in the favor of the field – it just doesn't feel that way.
Charl Schwartzel certainly played those odds to his advantage Thursday, going low for a morning 65 and snaring the first-round lead. He's one ahead of Scott Piercy, with a talented group of four another stroke back.
But Woods' presence is surely felt, even at 1 under with a 71 and six back. Few would count him out after an opening score like that – and certainly not here.
Here's how the first round of the Memorial unfolded – and scroll down to check out our pre-tournament coverage:
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Update No. 22: 7:07 p.m. EDT
Guan Tianlang finds the fairway at No. 18, then the green although his putt will be about a 50-footer. He needs three to get down from there, finishing with a bogey and an even-par 72.
George Coetzee finishes with second straight par to remain 2 under.
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Update No. 21: 6:53 p.m. EDT
George Coetzee, one of the few players still on the course, scrambles for par on No. 8 to recover from a bogey and remain 2 under with one to play.
Guan Tianlang pars No. 17 to steady himself and remain 1 under as he heads to the 18th tee.
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Update No. 20: 6:41 p.m. EDT
Matt Kuchar's birdie on No. 18 capped a 68 that saw him go 4 under on the back nine, keyed by three birdies on Nos. 12-15. Kuchar is coming off a second-place finish in the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial and won at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. A product of Georgia Tech, his Yellow Jackets are in the thick of the fight for the NCAA Championship this week as well. Playing host to the field, Tech began today's third round with the team lead but has seen top-ranked Cal move to the top of the leaderboard. Follow our NCAA Tracker here as the action unfolds north of Atlanta.
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Update No. 19: 6:28 p.m. EDT
Guan Tianlang's run of pars ends at nine, a bogey cropping up at No. 16 when he misses the green and needs two more to get on. He's 1 under with two to play.
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Hole No. 18: Par 4, 444 yards
Just one hole stands between Tiger Woods and his morning tee time tomorrow. You can never count Tiger out at Muirfield Village, but a birdie would help – and a bogey could make the challenge steep.
Off the tee: Tiger finds the right side of the fairway, but with a tree blocking the line for his second shot.
Approach: Trying to work around an obstacle only Mother Nature could love, Tiger comes up well short of the green and will need to pitch more than 20 yards for his up and down.
Around the green: Tiger's pitch stops about 12 feet from the hole, leaving him some work to do for a par. He leaves it low and taps in to end his day with a bogey.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: 35-36—71; he heads to the clubhouse 1 under and T-28, six shots back of leader Charl Schwartzel.
"It was probably the highest score I could have shot today," Woods told the Golf Channel after his round. "I hit it a lot better than my score indicates, and I didn't make much.
". . . The greens were a little bit tough this afternoon; I don't think there were too many low scores this afternoon. They were a little crusty, and a little bumpy."
• ELSEWHERE ON THE COURSE: While Rory McIlroy's 78 this morning disappointed the World No. 2, Nick Watney has gone one worse – four in fact. A pair of double bogeys on the front and five bogeys on the back puts him at the back of the pack at 10 over with an 82. Nicolas Colsaerts shot an 8-over 80 earlier today, with Johnson Wagner and Kevin Stadler 7 over, so Muirfield showed some teeth today at the expense of some of golf's top talent.
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Hole No. 17: Par 4, 478 yards
A pair of par 4s remain for Tiger Woods to gain some ground before teeing off tomorrow – and the scoring average for both is over par.
Off the tee: Tiger finds the left side of the fairway, short of the bunker, as do playing partners Keegan Bradley and Fred Couples. It lends a better angle into the pin, with the green guarded by a front-right bunker.
Approach: Tiger fires one high and right at the pin, giving himself a solid chance to get back to 2 under again.
On the green: From about 10 feet, Tiger takes a good look at it. He reads it perfectly and sinks the putt for birdie.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: 2 under with one to play, five back of the lead.
• ELSEWHERE ON THE COURSE: Matt Kuchar closes with a birdie to get to 4 under, sinking a birdie putt of more than 20 feet to tie Bill Haas in seventh. Guan Tianlang's run of pars reaches eight straight; he's 2 under through 14.
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Hole No. 16: Par 3, 201 yards
With three holes to play, Tiger is running out of time to close the gap between himself and the top of the leaderboard – and steps to the tee with two bogeys in his last four holes.
Off the tee: Tiger lands it within five feet of the cup, but the ball rolls out and leaves him facing a lengthy birdie attempt.
On the green: Tiger's birdie attempt is just off the mark and he settles for par.
• TIGER ON THE DAY: 1 under with two to play, six back of the lead.
• ELSEWHERE ON THE COURSE: Rickie Fowler pars his last two holes to finish even par. Bill Haas finishes with a par to finish with a 4-under 68.
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Hole No. 15: Par 5, 529 yards
Tiger Woods surely will look to pick up another stroke on his final par 5 of the round – one on which a creek is in play the entire length of the hole.
Off the tee: Tiger finds the trees right but the ball comes back to the short grass. However favorable it might be, the result will force him to lay up.
Approach: Wanting no part of the creek, Tiger plays to the fairway well short of it to set up a full shot into the green. He hits his wedge through the green and faces a long chip shot from which to try to get up and down.
Around the green: Tiger tries a flop shot and it comes up well short. He expresses some serious displeasure before taking aim at a par putt of about 12 feet, which he misreads well right and a few feet long. He makes the comebacker for bogey.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: 1 under through 15, six back of leader Charl Schwartzel.
• ELSEWHERE ON THE COURSE: Rickie Fowler gets back to even par with a birdie at No. 16, his second in a row. He has had five bogeys today in a back-and-forth round. Guan Tianlang extends his string of pars to six and remains 2 under.
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Hole No. 14: Par 4, 363 yards
We'll see what Tiger Woods can do coming off another disappointing missed opportunity here at the short risk-reward par 4, its creek running through the fairway and along the right of a green that's also protected by bunkers on the left.
Off the tee: Tiger stays short of the creek, hitting it less than 250 yards down the left side.
Approach: Tiger wedges to the back left of the green and the ball rolls down a slope, back toward the hole to give him a birdie try of about 10 feet or less.
On the green: Tiger reads his right-to-left putt quite well, gets the speed right and makes birdie to get back on track.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: 2 under through 14, five back of the lead.
• ELSEWHERE ON THE COURSE: Trevor Immelmann and Bill Haas join Chris Stroud as the low men of the afternoon at 4 under. Immelmann, bogey-free through 12, has the most time left to catch up to leader Charl Schwartzel at 7 under.
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Hole No. 13: Par 4, 455 yards
Tiger Woods' failed sand-save attempt certainly changes the perspective of how much ground he can gain on leader Charl Schwartzel and his morning 65. Woods has six holes to play, beginning with this dogleg left.
Off the tee: Tiger backs off the ball, then readdresses and sends it right down the middle.
Approach: From about 175 yards, Tiger hits it squarely and gets inside 10 feet for a birdie attempt that could wipe out that bogey from the bunker on 12.
On the green: Call it an uphill 7-footer, and call it a pull as the ball slides by; Tiger taps in for par.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: 1 under through 13, six back of the lead.
• ELSEWHERE ON THE COURSE: Guan Tianlang, the 14-year-old from China who was low amateur at the Masters, has four straight pars to remain 2 under today, good for T-13 through 10 holes.
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Hole No. 12: Par 3, 184 yards
Tiger Woods is 1 under on the par 3s today, and here comes a tight challenge with water and bunkers.
Off the tee: Tiger finds the back bunker – better to be dry than wet, and he's got a good amount of green to work with.
Around the green: From a good lie, Tiger lands the ball on the green but it runs past the pin and onto the fringe. He faces a makeable par attempt, but it's long enough that bogey's a distinct possibility. He indeed misses, just right, and taps in for his 4.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: 1 under through 12, T-26 and six back of the lead.
• ELSEWHERE ON THE COURSE: Checking in on a few notables on the course: Dustin Johnson, 1 under through 11; Rickie Fowler, 2 over through 13; Vijay Singh, 3 over through 11.
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Hole No. 11: Par 5, 567 yards
Tiger Woods is more lurking than roaring today, but you can see the elements of his game coming together after enduring a bit of a rocky start.
Off the tee: Tiger hasn't missed badly today to start any hole, and this time he's in the fairway once again.
Approach: The winding creek that runs the length of this hole will be tougher to take out of play from here on in than it was off the tee. From more than 250 yards out, though, Tiger parks it safely on the green and has about 25 feet or more to the pin for his eagle look.
On the green: With putts by playing partners Keegan Bradley and Fred Couples coming to rest hanging on the lip, Tiger takes aim at eagle. He misses low but can tap in for a birdie that he earned in textbook fashion.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: 2 under through 11, five back of leader Charl Schwartzel and T-12.
• ELSEWHERE ON THE COURSE: Guan Tianlang is 2 under, having followed back-to-back birdies at Nos. 5-6 with a pair of pars at Nos. 7-8. Chris Stroud has become the low man among the afternoon groups, birdies at Nos. 5-6 pushing him to 4 under through 15.
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Hole No. 10: Par 4, 471 yards
It's unlikely that Tiger Woods will erase the entire six-shot gap between him and the lead during this back nine, but we'll see if he can plug some of the gap. His first challenge is a long par 4.
Off the tee: Tiger strikes it true and down the middle, finding a somewhat narrow landing area and taking a fairway bunker out of play.
Approach: In the unusual position of hitting first after monster drives from playing partners Keegan Bradley and Fred Couples, Tiger puts his shot straight at the pin, which is in the back, but long to the back edge for a moderate-length birdie try.
On the green: From about 20 feet, Tiger gets close again – if these start falling, look out – but settles for making his 2-footer for par.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: 1 under, six back of the lead.
• ELSEWHERE ON THE COURSE: A bogey at No. 1 dropped Bill Haas to 3 under, and two pars following kept him there along with Kevin Chappell and Robert Karlsson as the low men of the afternoon tee times.
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Hole No. 9: Par 4, 412 yards
With two birdies in his last three holes, Tiger Woods will now look to gain another shot as he makes the turn.
Off the tee: Tiger finds the right side of the fairway, a decent angle that helps take the front-left bunker out of play on his next shot.
Approach: Water runs across the front of a shallow green on what by today's standards is a short par 4. Tiger finds the middle of the green and has a putt of about 20 feet, maybe less.
On the green: Another good roll here for Tiger, but it just slides past and he'll settle for par.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: 1 under, six back of leader Charl Schwartzel.
• ELSEWHERE ON THE COURSE: Keegan Bradley, playing in the same group, has had a roller-coaster day – three bogeys, a birdie and an eagle dot his scorecard on the front. He misses the fairway right, then the green long; he fails to get up and down, carding bogey to slip to 1 over. Fred Couples, the third man in the group, finds the water with his second shot and makes bogey.
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Hole No. 8: Par 3, 185 yards
Given Tiger Woods' typical mentality on the course, he can't be pleased with pars on both par 5s so far. He'll have a shot to make up for it on this par 3 instead – but this is the hole that snarled leader Charl Schwartzel earlier.
Off the tee: A textbook tee shot, Tiger puts it about 12 feet from the pin once again. He's had several looks from that 12- to 18-foot range.
On the green: Another solid effort from Tiger, and this one falls – getting Tiger under par for the first time today.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: 1 under through eight, six back of the lead.
• ELSEWHERE ON THE COURSE: Guan Tianlang birdies again, his second of the day, this time at No. 5 to get back to 1 under.
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Hole No. 7: Par 5, 563 yards
A somewhat narrow hole, the par 5 will nonetheless give Tiger Woods a chance to build some momentum after his birdie at No. 6 as he tries to get closer to leader Charl Schwartzel.
Off the tee: Tiger is just a bit wide right, finding the first cut just off the fairway. With the dogleg left, he should have an angle to consider going for it even though it's the long route in.
Approach:Tiger gets close to the green here, but is in the rough with the front-left greenside bunker between him and the pin. It'll be an interesting up-and-down attempt.
Around the green: Tiger pitches himself to about 12 feet and gives himself a makeable birdie putt. But he leaves it just on the high side and taps in a short comebacker to settle for par.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: Even par, seven back of the lead.
• ELSEWHERE ON THE COURSE: Fred Couples, playing in the same group, birdies No. 7 to move to 3 under. Bill Haas moves to 4 under with a birdie at No. 17, his third in a row. He follows with a par as he makes the turn; he's the low man among the afternoon groups. Guan Tianlang bogeys No. 4 to fall back to even par.
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Hole No. 6: Par 4, 447 yards
Certainly not the Memorial-winning form from Tiger Woods so far today, as he's been erratic off the tee, from the fairway and on the green.
Off the tee: No problem here for Tiger, as he hits it 300-plus and down the middle.
Approach: Water guards the front and left of the angled sixth green; Tiger takes aim and fires the ball to about 5 feet for the best birdie chance he's seen so far today.
On the green: No surprises here as Tiger converts on the opportunity and sinks his first birdie putt of the day.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: Even through six, seven back of leader Charl Schwartzel.
• ELSEWHERE ON THE COURSE: Justin Leonard is among those at 2 under after a 70 this morning. The Texas product won the 1992 U.S. Amateur here at Muirfield Village; he might be able to keep an eye on his Longhorns during the third round of the NCAA Championship, where they stand third and will play among the afternoon groups (follow our NCAA Tracker here).
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Hole No. 5: Par 5, 527 yards
A creek runs down the left of this hole, providing some risk – but Tiger Woods is known for reaping rewards on par 5s, and this one is short enough to provide a scoring opportunity.
Off the tee: Tiger just misses the fairway left, finding the first cut of rough. With the creek guarding the front left of the green, going for it in two would be a gamble.
Approach: Playing it safe, Tiger lays up to just inside 100 yards to set up a wedge in. He then finds the green, hitting to about 15 feet.
On the green: Tiger takes a little off this putt, having run previous efforts past, and it comes up just short; he taps in for par.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: 1 over through five, eight shots off the lead.
• ELSEWHERE ON THE COURSE: Guan Tianlang birdies No. 2 to get to 1 under. Just golfers are better than 2 under so far, with Wake Forest product Bill Haas the only afternoon golfer among them after he birdied No. 16 to get to 3 under through seven holes.
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Hole No. 4: Par 3, 200 yards
Tiger Woods surely didn't do himself any favors by failing to get up and down at the third hole. We'll see how quickly he can erase the mistake.
Off the tee: Tiger finds the middle of the green and leaves himself a moderate birdie chance of less than 20 feet.
On the green: Tiger again runs his birdie attempt past, but only leaves a short comebacker that he makes for par.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: 1 over through four, eight off the lead.
• ELSEWHERE ON THE COURSE: Russell Henley, Kyle Stanley and Charlie Wi closed out their rounds by catching up to Josh Teater at 5 under, good for T-3 as each headed in for the day.
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Hole No. 3: Par 4, 401 yards
Tiger Woods has a lot of ground to make up if he is to take the first-round lead, or get close to it. He'll need to play more like he did at No. 2 than his opening hole.
Off the tee: With water left, Tiger favors the right side of the fairway and is in the short grass, likely hitting wedge next.
Approach: Tiger misses short and left, finding the rough but staying dry.
Around the green: Tiger's chip runs to about 7 feet from the hole, leaving him a bit of a challenging par attempt. He runs that one past and taps in for bogey.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: 1 over through three holes, eight back of leader Charl Schwartzel.
• ELSEWHERE ON THE COURSE: Guan Tianlang pars No. 1 to start his day. Six golfers from the afternoon groups stand at 2 under so far, none having made the turn.
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Hole No. 2: Par 4, 455 yards
Tiger Woods will probably seek to steady himself a bit here after that shaky opening hole that didn't cost him.
Off the tee: Tiger finds the fairway, no problem, and will have a simple second shot.
Approach: From inside 130 yards, Tiger puts the ball about 25 feet from the pin – safely on the green, but no sure birdie opportunity.
Around the green: Tiger's first putt runs by almost 5 feet, yet he makes his comebacker for another par.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: Even par through two holes, seven back of leader Charl Schwartzel.
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Hole No. 1: Par 4, 470 yards
Tiger Woods' familiarity with Muirfield Village golf club is no secret. He'll chase another Memorial Tournament trophy today.
Off the tee: It's a bumpy start as he finds a fairway bunker down the right side of the dogleg.
Approach: Tiger comes up short and left of the green, with about 30 yards to the pin.
Around the green: A solid wedge shot puts him inside 3 feet, and he converts the putt to start the day with a par save.
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Update No. 18: 1:31 p.m. EDT
Charley Hoffman and Tommy Gainey are off to hot starts with their afternoon rounds, getting to 2 under as each birdie their first two holes.
Rory McIlroy closes out a poor first round by missing a short birdie attempt after hitting his approach to about 5 feet. He posts a 6-over 78 that will have him scrambling if he is to make the cut.
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Update No. 17: 1:12 p.m. EDT
Charl Schwartzel birdies the last to take a 1-shot lead with a 65. Scott Piercy and Josh Teater are in the clubhouse at 6 under and 5 under, respectively. Russell Henley and Kyle Stanley are 4 under through 17 and 16 holes, respectively.
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Update No. 16: 1:01 p.m. EDT
A double bogey at No. 8, after finding trouble in the front bunker on the 185-yard par 3, erases Charl Schwartzel's two-shot swing and drops him back into a tie for the lead with Scott Piercy. The two are 6 under and a stroke ahead of Josh Teater as Schwartzel heads to No. 9.
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Update No. 15: 12:53 p.m. EDT
Charl Schwartzel claims the lead outright with a birdie at the par-5 No. 7 hole. At 8 under, the 2011 Masters champ is two ahead of Scott Piercy – who ends his round with the second bogey of his day to card a 66.
Rory McIlroy bogeys No. 7 to fall back to 6 over with two to play.
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Update No. 14: 12:41 p.m. EDT
As co-leader Scott Piercy pars No. 17 to remain 7 under, the low scores today belong to a select few. Only 30 of the 72 morning golfers are below par, and just six at 4 under or better: Piercy and Charl Schwartzel in the lead, Josh Teater two back in the clubhouse with a 67, and a trio at 4 under in Derek Ernst, Russell Henley and Michael Thompson.
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Update No. 13: 12:23 p.m. EDT
Charl Schwartzel birdies three straight to jump to 7 under and into a tie for the lead with Scott Piercy. Schwartzel has Nos. 6-8 left to play, Piercy Nos. 17-18.
Rory McIlroy steadies himself with a par, then birdies No. 5 to climb to 5 over with four to play.
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Update No. 12: 12:12 p.m. EDT
Scott Piercy birdies No. 15 to move to 7 under, hitting his third shot on the 529-yard par 5 to about five feet and making his putt. Piercy's low round this year is a 61, in the final round of the Phoenix Open.
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Update No. 11: 11:56 a.m. EDT
Josh Teater finishes with three straight pars for a 67, good for T-2 a stroke back of leader Scott Piercy. Charl Schwartzel joins Teater at 5 under with a birdie at No. 4. Michael Thompson and Derek Ernst are another stroke back.
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Update No. 10: 11:47 a.m. EDT
Rory McIlroy's day goes from bad to nearly disastrous, as bogeys at Nos. 2-3 push him to 6 over for the day and 12 back of the lead. McIlroy hit his second shot in the water at the par-4 No. 3, leading to his fifth bogey of the day to go with a double bogey and a birdie.
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Update No. 9: 11:37 a.m. EDT
Scott Piercy returns to 6 under with a birdie at the 455-yard par-4 No. 13, hitting his approach to about 10 feet and sinking his putt. He's alone in the lead again and one ahead of Josh Teater, who pars the par-5 No. 7 hole.
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Update No. 8: 11:29 a.m. EDT
Billy Horschel moves within a stroke of the lead, as a birdie at No. 12 – his fifth in six holes – to get to 4 under. Horschel, a UF product, is T-2 with Charl Schwartzel and Cameron Tringale.
Scott Stallings, who had been 5 under at one point, bogeyed three straight to fall to 2 under as he made the turn.
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Update No. 7: 11:20 a.m. EDT
Leader Scott Piercy cards his first bogey of the day at No. 12 – while Josh Teater birdies No. 6 to move into a tie for the lead at 5 under. Teater, out of Morehead State, finished T-2 at the Farmers Insurance Open in January.
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Update No. 6: 11:11 a.m. EDT
Derek Ernst birdies No. 18 to move to 3 under and T-5 as he makes the turn. The winner of this month's Wells Fargo Championship, the UNLV product recently spoke about taking the long road to qualifying for the U.S. and British Opens despite his recent win.
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Update No. 5: 11:03 a.m. EDT
Scott Piercy birdies No. 11 to get to 6 under and stretch his lead to two shots over Charl Schwartzel, Josh Teater and Cameron Tringale. Piercy won the RBC Canadian Open last year and the Reno-Tahoe Open in 2011.
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Update No. 4: 10:56 a.m. EDT
Rory McIlroy drops another stroke with a bogey at No. 18, missing the green and failing to get up and down. He stands 4 over as he makes the turn.
Let's take a look at a few other big names already on the course:
- Adam Scott: Even par through nine.
- Ernie Els: 1 under through nine.
- Bubba Watson: 1 under through nine.
- Davis Love III: 1 under through 10.
- Lee Westwood: Even through nine.
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Update No. 3: 10:49 a.m. EDT
Rory McIlroy is off to a rough start, 3 over through eight holes. McIlroy birdied No. 10 to start his day, but double-bogeyed No. 12 and bogeyed Nos. 13 and 16.
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Update No. 2: 10:37 a.m. EDT
Charl Schwartzel and Cameron Tringale birdie Nos. 17 and 6, respectively, to move to 4 under and within a stroke of the lead. Scott Stallings bogeys No. 16 to fall to 4 under as well, as Scott Piercy reclaims the lead alone again.
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Update No. 1: 10:28 a.m. EDT
Scott Stallings joins Scott Piercy at 5 under with an eagle at No. 15 – the Tennessee Tech product is bogey-free through six holes. Piercy pars No. 9 to end his birdie run in a tie for the early lead.
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Scott Piercy has birdied Nos. 4-8 to jump to 5 under in a hurry – the San Diego State product finished third at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February. Charl Schwartzel headlines a group at 3 under that also includes Matt Jones, Scott Stallings, Josh Teater and Cameron Tringale.
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Nicolas Colsaerts is 6 over through 12, having suffered a double bogey at No. 8 and a triple at No. 11. Meanwhile, Erik Compton, Justin Hicks and Nicholas Thompson are 3 over.
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Temperatures already are around 80 and shouldn't get above the mid 80s, according to Weather.com, with partly cloudy skies. There's not much chance of rain today.
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Among the annual rituals at the Memorial: A “World According to Jack” address that's among the most interesting staples in golf – because of what is being said and who is weighing in.
When was the last time a PGA Tour tournament winner was forced to tee it up at a local qualifier for the U.S. Open in the same calendar year or another player ranked 123rd in the world was ineligible for an Open Championship qualifier? Derek Ernst fits the bill on both counts.
Four wins in 2013. Five wins at Memorial. So it is no shock that Tiger Woods would register as the favorite this week at the house that Jack Nicklaus built. A look at our predictions.