Tiger lurks just one shot off early Memorial pace

Four-times champion Tiger Woods, without playing at his best, moved ominously into contention at the Memorial tournament after shooting a two-under-par 70 in Thursday's opening round.

The former world number one birdied three of the four par-fives in surprisingly firm and fast-running conditions at a sun-drenched Muirfield Village Golf Club to finish one stroke off the early pace.

Australian Aaron Baddeley, South African Rory Sabbatini, Argentina's Andres Romero and American Blake Adams each carded 69s to take joint control but Woods captured most of the attention in the upper reaches of the leader board.

"It was just a solid round today," Woods told reporters after mixing four birdies with a double-bogey at the treacherous par-four 18th, his ninth hole of the day.

"It certainly could have been a lot lower, but I'm pleased with the way I hit the golf ball today. I didn't do anything great and I didn't do anything poorly today.

"The golf course was playing quick today and the fairways were starting to chase a little bit. The greens were somewhat receptive. It's a hell of a test out there, really."

Woods, who played in the company of fellow Americans Bill Haas and Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples, did not hesitate in reply when asked what had been the key to his round.

"I was just very consistent," he said. "You have to drive the ball well, you have to position it on these greens, and you're going to have to make some tough putts.

"There's no two ways around it. These greens are at a pace where it's hard to get the ball close, and you're going to have to have some tough ones out there. Over the next three days, hopefully I can play as well as I did today."


British world number one Luke Donald and second-ranked Northern Ireland Rory McIlroy were also relatively pleased with their scores, though both had to negotiate adversity before carding matching 71s.

"Hopefully that's my loose round out of the way," said Donald, who recovered from a double-bogey at the 18th, his ninth hole of the day.

"I didn't hit the ball well and I was scrambling a lot. But fortunately I putted pretty well, and I'm pretty happy with the score in the end. This course is tricky.

"There are some tougher pins out there today and overall I'll take one under and try and play better the next three days," added the Englishman who won the European Tour's flagship PGA Championship at Wentworth on Sunday.

McIlroy faced a much bigger hill to climb after he ran up an ugly quadruple-bogey seven at the par-three 12th, his third hole of the round.

"It wasn't the start that I wanted to get off to, being four over through three holes, especially after the last few weeks," said the 23-year-old, who has missed the cut in his last two tournaments.

"I was just like, 'Here we go again'. But I hung in there well, and proud of myself for the way I just fought back. To finish the round under par I thought was a really good effort."

Masters champion Bubba Watson and fellow Americans Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker, who won last year's Memorial tournament, were among the day's late starters.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Dublin, Ohio; Editing by Frank Pingue)