Fri. Jul 12th, 2024

Hadwin leads Memorial after 66; Scheffler 1 back

By admin Jun13,2024

DUBLIN, Ohio — Adam Hadwin had too many birdies to complain about ending his round at the Memorial on a sour note Thursday. His 6-under 66 was enough to lead Masters champion Scottie Scheffler by 1 shot and give the Canadian hope he is turning the corner at the right time.

Hadwin was among the few who conquered a Muirfield Village course that was soft from rain but no less punishing. He birdied four of five holes toward the end of the first round — after four birdies on the front nine — until missing a 5-foot par putt on the tough 18th.

For Scheffler and PGA champion Xander Schauffele, it was more of the same.

Scheffler opened with two birdies in four holes — he missed birdie chances from 6 feet and 8 feet on the other two — and was humming along until a big clump of mud slowed him on the par-5 fifth hole and led to bogey.

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Schauffele returned for the first time since winning his first major at the PGA Championship. His game felt scrappy from tee-to-green. His round was saved by his putter. Schauffele somehow managed a bogey-free 68 to get right in the mix.

“I’m going to go to the range and hit the center of the clubface a little more, find some more fairways and greens,” he said. “I’m happy. I’m happy with how I stuck in there and really happy my short game bailed me out on a day that could have been a lot worse.”

Corey Conners, Collin Morikawa and Ludvig Ã…berg also were at 68, with defending champion Viktor Hovland among those at 69.

Hadwin and Conners are coming off the Canadian Open, and it’s an important time of the year with only two weeks before the 60-man field for the Olympics is finalized. Each country gets two players (a maximum of four if they’re in the top 15).

Hadwin hasn’t finished in the top 40 since late March, and his world ranking has dropped from No. 44 to No. 59.

Conners is at No. 45, while Taylor Pendrith and Mackenzie Hughes are right behind him at Nos. 64 and 65 (Phoenix Open winner Nick Taylor has the first spot sewn up).

“Over the last month I’ve probably played my way … not out of the conversation, but certainly out of a good position to be in,” Hadwin said. “So coming into this week, I know the questions are always going to be there, but I think for me in particular, it was very important this week to get into the process.”

Scheffler has been in the process for what seems like forever. He already is a four-time winner this year, including another Masters title. He never seems to miss a shot.

But after splitting the middle of the fairway on the 535-yard fifth hole, Scheffler looked down to see a large clump of mud on the top and to the right of his golf ball. It was enough to consider laying up, except a creek runs down the middle toward the green, and he had no idea which direction the ball was going with so much mud on it.

“Hindsight, maybe I could have aimed it down the middle of the creek and just see where it would have went and maybe it goes in one of the fairways,” he said. “But at the time, that didn’t really seem like a good idea.”

So he went for the green and watched it fly 60 yards left of where he wanted — left of the green, left of the water, left of a red hazard line that rarely comes into a play on a hill.

He hacked out of high grass back over the water and over the green, leaving a chip to a tight pin and a green running away from him. He delicately got that to the fringe and made bogey on the easiest hole of the day.

The rest of the round was solid, as usual, ending with an approach to a foot at the 18th, which played as the hardest hole of the opening round.

Schauffele was bogey-free and he’s not sure how. His biggest scare also came at the fifth with a mud ball of his own. This sailed right on him into a bunker, requiring a shot over another bunker to a tight pin. The sand was wet, Schauffele caught too much ball and watched it disappeared over the green. That’s where more water awaits.

“When the ball was in the air, I closed my eyes,” he said. “I wouldn’t call myself religious, but I was hoping that thing was going to be OK.”

He came up short of the water and managed to get up-and-down for par by making an 8-foot putt. He took care of the other par 5s with birdies, added another with a 30-foot putt on the par-3 fourth and only minorly perturbed by missing an 8-foot birdie chance at the end.

“If I didn’t make some of the putts I needed to today, it would have been like a 2 over probably, or worse,” Schauffele said.

Only 25 players from the 73-man field managed to break par, a group that included Rory McIlroy at 70, and that was with four birdies on his last six holes.


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