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Charl Schwartzel takes first-day lead at Memorial, has six-stroke edge over Tiger Woods
DUBLIN, Ohio — Charl Schwartzel made sure one hole didn’t ruin an entire round Thursday in the Memorial.
Schwartzel hit the ball so consistently well at Muirfield Village that the former Masters champion twice had stretches of four straight birdies. And when he made a double bogey with an 8-iron in hand and his ball on a tee toward the end of the round, he got rid of that bad taste with one last birdie for a 7-under 65.
Woods hit the ball well enough to be much closer, though he missed too many birdie chances and didn’t make up any ground on the par 5s.
“The birdie on the last definitely will make my evening a lot better,” Schwartzel said.
Piercy is one of the longer hitters on tour, so it would seem his game would be a good fit for the Memorial. He hasn’t had much luck, so he decided to scale back off the tee and 3-wood where he typically would hit driver to take it over the bunkers. Piercy had a 66, his best score in 10 rounds at Muirfield Village.
McIlroy opened with a birdie and that was as good as it got for the world’s No. 2 player. He four-putted the par-3 12th for a double bogey, had a three-putt on No. 7 and ended his round by missing a 4-foot birdie. McIlroy had a 78.
“I don’t really have many explanations for this,” McIlroy said.
Only eight players broke 70 in the morning on a well-conditioned course with fast greens, and it figured to get even tougher in the afternoon with hot weather, and greens not quite as smooth after all that morning traffic.
Schwartzel took advantage with two stretches of four straight birdies. He was at 8-under with two holes to play when he missed the green on No. 8 with an 8-iron and wound up on the downward slope of the sand. He tried to get extra spin on a difficult shot and sent it over the green, and then failed to get up and down.
The double bogey didn’t stay with him for long. The former Masters champion holed a 12-foot birdie putt and was back in the lead when Piercy, who finished up his round on the 18th hole, made bogey.
Piercy hit one of the longest drives on the 18th hole last year, leaving him a flip wedge to the green. Muirfield Village is a big golf course, with some of the widest fairways on tour and thick rough — it should be thick for fairways that generous. But hitting driver never really worked for Piercy, so he decided to go with 3-wood, and he stuck with his plan. He still had relatively short irons into the green, and he knew he was onto something when he ran off five straight birdies on the front nine.
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