Sat. Jun 15th, 2024

With Scottie Scheffler, Xander Schauffele and other top players, the 2024 Memorial Tournament leaderboard is already stacked

By admin Jun7,2024

DUBLIN, Ohio — When the PGA Tour designated this year’s Memorial Tournament as a signature event with a smaller field, Thursday’s leaderboard was probably what it sought.

Only 73 players competed at Muirfield Village Golf Club, about 50 fewer than in the past. The cream of the crop rose to the top right away.

Sure, first-round leader Adam Hadwin at 6-under 66 isn’t a huge name, but most of the ones just below him have to make Jack Nicklaus and Memorial spectators quite happy.

Scottie Scheffler, the world’s No. 1 player, is one shot back.

The group at 4-under is loaded. Collin Morikawa is a two-time major champion who won the Workday Charity Open at Muirfield Village during the pandemic in 2020. Xander Schauffele, the No. 2-ranked golfer, won the PGA Championship last month. Ludvig Aberg, only 24 years old, already ranks sixth in the world rankings.

Defending Memorial champion Viktor Hovland, the No. 5 player, is among the players at 3-under.

Thursday leaderboards frequently feature players who don’t have the staying power to remain in contention for four days. Last year’s first-round leader, Davis Riley, finished tied for 54th. (Riley did win the Charles Schwab Challenge last month.) Among others at the top were journeymen such as Matt Wallace, Mark Hubbard, Austin Eckroat and David Lipsky.

“I think that’s exactly what we were trying to do as a tour,” Schauffele said of Thursday’s stacked leaderboard. “It’s the product we want to put out. When you look up at that board, you want to see everyone’s name as high up there as possible hashing it out on Sunday. That’s what people want to see, and that’s what we want to give ’em.”

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It has been a trying time for professional golf. The fracture caused by the emergence of the LIV tour means that past Memorial winners like Jon Rahm and Bryson DeChambeau aren’t in Dublin this week. TV ratings for the PGA Tour have declined significantly this year.

A leaderboard like Thursday’s, if it persists through the weekend, should get more eyes on the Memorial and excite spectators at Muirfield Village.

“It’s nice seeing some good names up on the leaderboard,” Scheffler said. “I love being out here competing. I’m sure it’s shaping up to be another great tournament here in Ohio.”

The top players took different paths to their superb rounds. Scheffler had only one bogey, which came on the par-5 fifth after a clump of mud stuck to his ball when his tee shot landed on a fairway softened by Wednesday night’s rain.

MORE: Takeaways from Memorial’s first round

“Because of the mud on the ball, you have absolutely no control over where it’s going to go,” he said.

He said there was no clear way to lay up because of the water on the hole. He left his second shot 30 yards from the pin and needed four more shots to finish. But Scheffler rebounded with four birdies on the back nine.

Schauffele had the only bogey-free round of the day. It required much scrambling. His putter saved him multiple times after errant drives or approach shots.

Xander Schauffele plays his shot from the second tee during the first round of the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-USA TODAY Sports

“I’m going to go to the range after we finish talking and hit the center of the club face a little more (so that I) find some more fairways and some more greens,” he said.

Morikawa jump-started his round on No. 2 by sinking a sand wedge from about 127 yards away.

He would have tied Hadwin for the lead if he could have birdied No. 18, but he bogeyed it after his approach shot rolled down the slope in front of the green.

Still, he was far from displeased with a 4 under 68 on such an unforgiving course.

“You’re within yards of hitting a really good shot, and you’re yards within hitting a very poor shot,” Morikawa said of Muirfield Village. “It just requires focus from tee all the way to the green.”

Now he’s part of a first-day leaderboard that would be the envy of a major on a Sunday.

“I think the guys that are playing really well are at the tops of their games right now and they’re putting together really good scores,” Morikawa said. “Hopefully, we can put together three more.”

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