First of all, theres the leader, Bob Tway. Tway was the man who holed out from the bunker at No. 18 in the 1986 PGA Championship to beat Greg Norman. Tway hasnt done a lot in the intervening years, but he shot a 64 Thursday.
Next, theres the runner-up, Stewart Cink. Cink was one of those guys who missed a short putt at No. 18 in the U.S. Open to miss a playoff. Cink hasnt done much this year, but Thursday he shot a 65.
Then theres Stuart Appleby. Appleby won in three straight years ' the 1997 Honda, the 98 Kemper and the 99 Shell Houston Open. The last two years, he has sagged badly. At the Memorial, he fired a 67 in the first round. Thats the same score shot by Tom Lehman, the 1996 British Open champ who underwent surgery on his collarbone area in 1998. Lehman has never been the same since.
Even old warhorse Jack Nicklaus, the tournament host, enjoyed a day that was as outstanding as the beautiful weather. Nicklaus birdied four of the last five holes and got into the clubhouse with a 71.
Then the worlds No. 1 player, the guy who is trying to win the Memorial for the fourth straight time, struggled fitfully on opening day. Tiger Woods shot 74.
I hope there isnt a statute of limitations on confidence, said Tway. A lot has happened since (he won here in) 89. Theres no doubt about it in my career.
But the course itself makes coming to the Memorial a thrill, he said. There are not too many weeks in the year that the opportunity arises to think your way around the golf course. Its a great venue, Tway said, and even better when it dries out like it did Thursday.
I just wish that more often we got a chance to play a golf course like this, said Tway.
Experience is invaluable at Muirfield Village, said Cink, but only if youre smart enough to learn from your experiences.
This is one of the courses that teaches you a lot and it punishes you for being greedy and making bad decisions, he said. You just have to learn where your spots are where you can be aggressive.
Its like playing a major. You have to play to the center of the greens. Even if you feel like you can aim at it, sometimes you cant. And par is always good here.
Cink has gone back to the ABCs of golf, practicing a lot of late on the games fundamentals. He finished 10th on the money list in 2000, but dropped to 26th last year. This year hes down at 94.
Im just simplifying everything, Cink said. This year Ive been driving it pretty bad and I havent had a good year putting. And thats really the two things that you have to do, and I have not done either of them any good at all.
Appleby has missed five cuts this year after the promising early start to his career. But his last two tournaments have shown that he might have turned the corner. He finished in a tie for 14th at Greensboro and followed that with a tie for eighth at Colonial last week.
I drove the ball fantastically and I hit the irons fantastically and I putted pretty well, said Appleby. I really have to say it was a very clean round of golf and more what I feel I can play.
Appleby detailed what he believes it will take to get back to the norm. It takes a lot of practice. And it takes the proper mindset.
Usually its just confidence, and you just dont play to get confidence, you go and get it, he said. Youve got to practice for it ' basically, practice and play with confidence.
I have really been swinging the club well. If youre swinging the club well and not getting results, its something else thats wrong. Im swinging it well now and mentally Im much more relaxed, more positive, and much more into my shots. And then Im getting results.
For sheer surprises, though, there was none more dramatic than Nicklaus. He was uncertain whether he was even going to play until Wednesday evening.
Good gracious, I told Vijay (Singh), I shot three or four shots below my handicap, laughed Nicklaus. Ive been carrying a 2- or 3-handicap at home all year. I shot a 69 about a month ago and ruined my handicap. I went down to a 1. So I shortened my handicap by several shots today.
Nicklaus is still hurting. But hes not hurting enough to keep from swinging a club. And ' hes obviously having a good time.
I really enjoyed that, Nicklaus said. It was fun. I am obviously glad I played. I dont know what will happen tomorrow. Doesnt make much difference what happens tomorrow. The way Im playing, if I play this way again, Ill play a good round. If I dont, I wont. But thats the way it goes.
Full-field scores from the Memorial Tournament