Tony Finau has won only once on the PGA Tour despite being in contention many times, and finds himself right there again.
The 30-year-old Finau shot 6-under-par 66 to take a one-stroke lead over Ryan Palmer after the first round of the Memorial Tournament in windy conditions at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.
“I didn’t hit it that well off the tee and missed a lot of fairways, but I made a lot of putts, just filled it up,” said Finau, whose only PGA Tour victory came in the 2016 Puerto Rico Open and has lost twice in playoffs, including to Webb Simpson earlier this season in the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
“This is a tough course, it gets your attention all the way around, and it was pretty windy today. But I felt great out there and played really well. It’s a good start and I’ll just try to keep it going.”
Finau, who played the best of four players involved in a nine-hole charity event the day before and teamed with Jon Rahm of Spain to beat Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland and Ian Poulter of England, finished off his first round with four birdies on the last six holes.
Palmer, who missed the cut last week in the Workday Charity Open, also at Muirfield Village, bounced back by carding a bogey-free 67 that included three straight birdies through No. 7 as he finished on the front nine.
“You have to learn to forget about those (bad) things, so last week just didn’t happen,” said Palmer, who has won four times on the PGA Tour. “I decided to go home instead of sticking around here, found an old putter I had success with, and also found something with my driver swing.
“I came back and had a good session on the range on Monday. Then I saw Steve Stricker and asked if we could play nine holes one day so I could pick his brain about the short game. We did that on Wednesday and I used some of the things he told me, so those nine holes really paid off.”
Brendan Steele of Idyllwild and UC Riverside led the morning wave with a 68 that included a hole-out eagle from 111 yards on the 11th hole, and is tied for third with reigning U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland, who played flawlessly before making a bogey on the last hole.
The second-ranked Rahm posted a 69 and is tied for fifth with Lucas Glover and Charles Howell III, who made three straight birdies on the front nine before also carding his lone bogey on the last hole.
Defending champion and 10th-ranked Patrick Cantlay made a 25-foot birdie putt at No. 8 while finishing a 70 on the front nine and is in a big tie for eighth with top-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, Jordan Spieth, Max Homa of Valencia and Cal, Patrick Rodgers of Stanford, Ryan Moore, Mark Hubbard, Luke List, Jimmy Walker and Harris English.
Five-time Memorial champion Tiger Woods, playing for the first time on the PGA Tour since February, made two early birdies and sank a 14-foot birdie putt on the last hole for a 71 and is in a tie for 18th that includes eighth-ranked Patrick Reed, while sixth-ranked Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson are in a tie for 25th at 72.
“I got off to a good start and played pretty well, but left a lot of putts short,” said Woods, who will break Sam Snead’s PGA Tour record of 82 titles with his next victory. “I felt good, but was a little bit rusty, although overall it was pretty good.”
Seventh-ranked Bryson DeChambeau, who won the Rocket Mortgage Classic in his last start, is tied for 42nd at 73, third-ranked Justin Thomas shot 74 and is tied for 59th, fifth-ranked Webb Simpson is tied for 95th at 76, and four-ranked Dustin Johnson struggled to an 80 and is tied for 125th.
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