McIlroy leads by 3 after opening 63 at Memorial


Bachelor life continues to suit Rory McIlroy. The Ulsterman fought off an apparent knee injury to card an opening 63 and jump out to a three-shot lead at the Memorial Tournament. Here's how things look after the first round at Muirfield Village:

Leaderboard: Rory McIlroy (-9), Bubba Watson (-6), Chris Kirk (-6), Paul Casey (-6), Keegan Bradley (-5), Michael Thompson (-5), J.B. Holmes (-5), Hunter Mahan (-4), Ryan Moore (-4)

What it means: Four days after rallying to win the BMW PGA Championship in England, McIlroy kept things going with a stellar opener in Columbus. He eagled both of the par 5s on the back nine, carding a 5-under 31 on the inward half despite a double bogey on No. 14. Having ended his engagement with Caroline Wozniacki last week, McIlroy appears to have once again found his form heading into a key stretch of summer golf.

Round of the day: McIlroy had four birdies on the front nine but raised concerns when he appeared hobbled by a knee injury midway through his round. He managed to shake it off quickly, though, with a birdie on No. 10 and a textbook eagle on the par-5 11th. He made an almost identical eagle at 15, bouncing back from his lone hiccup of the day on the prior hole. McIlroy needed just 22 putts Thursday and matched his low round of the year, having also started the Honda Classic with a 63 at PGA National.

Best of the rest: Watson started on the back nine and got off to a hot start, playing his first six holes in 4 under before back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17. After five straight pars, the southpaw ended his round with a flurry, carding birdies on holes 5, 7, 8 and 9. It added up to a 66 as Watson is now in contention for his third win of the season after victories at Riviera and Augusta National.

Biggest disappointment: Matt Kuchar entered the week as the defending champ and brought a streak of five straight top-10 finishes at Muirfield, but Kuchar is in danger of missing the cut for the second week in a row after opening with a 2-over 74. Kuchar was 4 over at one point in his round after double bogeys on Nos. 11 and 18, and despite five birdies he'll likely need a sub-par round Friday to make the weekend. Honorable mention goes to Phil Mickelson, who squandered a great start by playing his final three holes in 5 over to shoot an even-par 72.

Main storyline heading into Friday: There are a number of notable players near the top of the leaderboard, but right now all eyes are on McIlroy. Clearly rejuvenated after his win last week at Wentworth, the Ulsterman once again appears in control of his game and could supplant Adam Scott as the U.S. Open favorite with a win this week. He has struggled during the second round in recent weeks, though, so a solid follow-up on Friday will be key.

Quote of the day: "I put it out of my mind when I was over the golf shots. I guess I just pretended it wasn't there." - McIlroy on playing through knee pain, which he said began on the seventh hole Thursday.