Thomas Aiken made six birdies on Thursday in the opening round of the Memorial Tournament on the PGA Tour, but four bogeys meant he ended up seven shots off the pace set by Rory McIlroy.
He shared 21st place with countryman Ernie Els and five other players, while Charl Schwartzel opened with a level-par 72. Tim Clark was one-over after the first round, Trevor Immelman and Rory Sabbatini two-over, and Branden Grace struggled to five-over-par 77.
Aiken started his round with a bogey, but birdies on five, eight and nine saw him turn in two-under 34. A bogey on 10 was followed by birdies on 11 and 12 to get him to three-under, and he moved to four-under with another birdie on 15.
But he dropped shots on the next two holes to slip back to two-under.
McIlroy was simply superb despite the fact that he tweaked his left knee while hitting his second shot on the seventh. A week ago it was McIlroy’s back that got out of whack after the second round of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, but he managed to play through the pain to go on and win.
McIlroy was particularly impressive with his putter, using just 22 putts to lead the field. McIlroy, who has top-10 finishes in his last four starts on the PGA Tour, also hit 10 of 14 fairways and 13 of 18 greens in regulation.
“This has been coming,” McIlroy said. “It's been coming. My performances have been really good, been shooting really good scores. There’s just been runs of holes in tournaments where I haven’t played so well and I’ve shot it four or five over in the space of nine holes, and that’s really just derailed my tournament.
“Last week I just didn’t do that. And that’s down to nothing more than hitting good golf shots and hitting good putts and limiting my mistakes whenever I get in trouble on the golf course.”
With reporting from PGATOUR.com