Tiger, McIlroy stumble while Stallings leads Memorial


One bad hole for Tiger Woods and Luke Donald and two by Rory McIlroy left the stars well off the pace of leader Scott Stallings after Thursday’s opening round of the $6.2 million US PGA Memorial.
Stallings birdied three of the last four holes to stand on six-under par 66 after 18 holes, one stroke ahead of fellow Americans Spencer Levin and Erik Compton and three clear of the rest of the star-studded field. At the Muirfield Village layout designed by Jack Nicklaus, Woods shared 11th on 70 with a group that included Australian Adam Scott and three-time major winner Ernie Els. “It certainly could have been a lot lower, but I’m pleased with the way I hit the golf ball,” Woods said. “I didn’t do anything great and I didn’t do anything poorly. It was just a solid round.” World No. 1 Donald of England and McIlroy, the Northern Ireland prodigy who will defend his US Open title in two weeks at The Olympic Course in San Francisco, were another stroke adrift in a group on 71.
“It wasn’t the start that I wanted to get off to, being 4-over through three holes,” McIlroy said. “But I hung in there well and proud of myself for the way I just fought back. To finish the round under par was a really good effort.” Stallings answered a bogey at the second with birdies at the par-3 fourth and par-5 fifth plus an eagle at the par-5 seventh. After a birdie at the par-5 11th and a bogey at the par-3 12th, Stallings birdied the par-5 15th, par-3 16th and par-4 18th to surge to the top of the leaderboard.
“I was happy to get a good round under par,” Stallings said. “I haven’t had a round under par since Saturday at Augusta. It has been a long time. Been really struggling with my game. It has been interesting to say the least. “I’ll go out tomorrow and try to do the same. We’ve got a long way to go.”
That fact eases the worries for Woods, the 14-time major champion whose victory in March at Bay Hill snapped a 17-month win drought. “I didn’t do anything poorly. I was just very consistent,” Woods said. “Over the next three days, hopefully I can play as well as I did today.” Woods, who began on the 10th tee, birdied the 15th and 17th before taking a double bogey at the 18th. He bounced back with birdies on the front nine’s two par-5 holes but the damage was done. “I haven’t played the par-5s particularly well the last few tournaments,” Woods said. “I feel very pleased with the way I hit the golf ball all day and it was nice to actually play the par-5s under par for a change.” McIlroy, who also began on the back nine, went from bunker to water with an awkward stance at the par-3 12th on his way to a quadruple bogey 7 and even after pulling back strokes with birdies at 14 and 15 gave one back with a bogey at the 17th.