DUBLIN — Davis Riley opened with a 67 at the Memorial to finish atop the leaderboard after the opening round for the second straight year. And that’s where the similarities end.
Riley birdied three of his last four holes Thursday afternoon when the turf was firm and the wind was swirling and the bad breaks led to big numbers, as Rory McIlroy found out.
Riley was in a six-way share of the lead last year. On Thursday, he led by one over Matt Wallace. Jordan Spieth was in the group at 69, ending his hopes for a bogey-free day by hitting into two bunkers on the 18th hole and saving bogey from the second one.
It was hot. It was hard. And at times it was tough to watch.
Chad Ramey hit four shots that went into the water on the ninth hole, which featured a front pin and a stream in front of the green. He made a 13, the highest score ever recorded on any of the holes at Muirfield Village.
He posted an 88, still shy of the record high score of 92 that Roger Maltbie shot in 1979 in a second round that featured 30 mph wind and a wind chill index of 13 degrees.
Dry and hot is the weather tournament founder Jack Nicklaus always wanted but rarely gets, and there were plenty of comparisons to a U.S. Open except for the generous fairways.
Defending champion Billy Horschel has been in a slump, and Muirfield Village was no place to try to snap out of that. Horschel had four 6s on his card of 84.
“My confidence is the lowest it’s been in my entire career. I think ever in my entire golf career,” Horschel said. “So it’s funny, as low as it feels, it feels like I’m not that far off at the same time. Which is insane to see when you see me shoot 84 today.”
Wallace, who needs a victory this week to avoid U.S. Open qualifying, posted his 68 in the morning before the wind and the temperatures picked up. Shane Lowry had five straight birdies in the morning in relatively calm conditions, but even he wasn’t immune to a fast golf course that could be punishing without notice.
McIlroy was 3 under for his round playing the 18th when his drive went right — not unusual for the shape of that hole — and was tumbling toward the sand until it stopped. That was very unusual. The ball was nearly belt-high and he could barely take a stance. He did his best to chop it out, and it just cleared the bunker into thick grass.
From there, his 9-iron caught a flyer and sailed over the green to the shaggy hill. His flop shot came out clunky and over the green and its front pin. His chip was weak. He missed the putt. And his triple bogey wiped out an otherwise good day.
Spieth almost was in that predicament. At least he was in the sand, but he hit a poor 7-iron that barely got out of the sand, just ahead of McIlroy’s ball. That turned out to be a break, because when Spieth saw that happened to McIlroy’s shot, he went down to a pitching wedge.
It was a flyer, but it at least took a short hop into the sand in front of the green. He came inches away from holing — as he did for birdie from the bunker on No. 10 — and got away with a bogey.
“It’s nice to beat a tough golf course,” Spieth said.
Mark Hubbard also was at 69 and tried to remind himself it was a very good score after his bogey-bogey-bogey finish.
“I guess on paper it wasn’t what I wanted, but I had 5-iron into 16, 7-wood into 17 and 4-iron into 18. Like that’s a little tough coming in there today,” Hubbard said. “So I told my caddie that’s the least mad I’m ever going to be bogeying the last three.”
Jon Rahm and Adam Scott were at 70 playing in the morning. Scottie Scheffler didn’t make a putt longer than 6 feet and shot 74. That was his highest opening round since Las Vegas in October 2021.
The course average was 74, the highest for a first round at Muirfield Village since 2000. Eight players failed to break 80 — that doesn’t include Dylan Frittelli, who was 15 over through 14 holes when he withdrew with an illness.
Riley’s only bogey was nearly a superb par, from the back bunker on the 18th to 4 feet, but then he missed the putt. A very good round turned into a great one when he made a 12-foot birdie on the sixth, hit wedge to 4 feet on the par-5 seventh and finished with a 12-foot birdie on the ninth hole.
His description of the wedge at No. 7 illustrated the difficulty.
“I got 118 yards and I’m landing it 10 yards short of the pin, 30 feet short, and it’s skipping all the way there. And the wind was up,” Riley said. “This is probably one of the more difficult ones all year.”