Finau cards 66 to lead at the Memorial; Woods starts well, but lies 18th

It was Muirfield once again. For the first time in 63 years, the PGA TOUR has played consecutive weeks on the same course. But it may as well have been two different courses in different conditions.

The greens, which are going to be replaced after the ongoing Memorial, so Jack Nicklaus, whose course it is, feels fine to have them dying out. They are two feet faster on the Stimpmeter and the wind was strong and often changed direction all of a sudden. All that was seen in plenty on the scoreboard, as only seven players broke 70 � in comparison 35 players shot in the 60s last week.

Tiger Woods returned to the PGA TOUR after five months and returned one-under 71, which was really not too bad as he lay T-18 after the first round. Woods opened with a 10-foot birdie and finished with a 15-foot birdie.

But the man of the day was Tony Finau, who seemed to make all his putts. Finau had seven birdies over his last 10 holes and was one-shot ahead of Ryan Palmer.

Woods said, “Got off to almost an ideal start and got a feel for the round early. I just didn’t make anything today. I had looks at birdies, but I really didn’t make much.”

Woods without crowds is an �unthinkable’ but these are different times. Playing with Rory McIlroy (70) and Brooks Koepka (72), the group still had the largest group of followers that comprised Television and radio men, photographers and some volunteers.

Woods opened with a birdie and had a second one on the third. Finau birdied half of his 18 holes. Opening with a birdie on first and adding two more on fifth and ninth, he dropped shots on third and eighth to turn in one-under. Beginning with the birdies on ninth, he birdied seven of his last 10 holes while dropping one shot on 16th. Four of his last five holes produced birdies.

After two birdies and two bogeys on front nine, Woods birdied 15th and gave the shot back on 16th. He closed with a birdie to finish at one-under 71.

Bryson DeChambeau was his new long-hitting self. One of his drives went 423 yards. Of course he had the wind at his back, but even then was very, very long. It left 46 yards to the pin on the first hole. Yet he managed only a 73.

Collin Morikawa winner at Muirfield Village last week with a score of 19-under 269, opened with a 76. Thomas, who did not have bogeys for the first three days last week, had two bogeys after two holes. He carded 74.

Dustin Johnson brought home shot 80 and Rickie Fowler had an 81.

After Finau at 66, there was Palmer at 67 while Gary Woodland and Brendan Steele were at 68 each. Jon Rahm was among those at 69 and defending champion Patrick Cantlay and Jordan Spieth scored 70 each. Maybe, it was just as well that Finau did not play last week, so he could not compare.