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McIlroy slips into four-way tie for lead at Memorial

DUBLIN, Ohio – Rory McIlroy hit enough great shots Friday in the Memorial to make six birdies and keep his name atop the leaderboard. He also made enough mistakes to allow for plenty of company.

McIlroy twice had short irons in his hand from the fairway and made bogey, pulled an iron into the water that led to a double bogey and went bunker-to-bunker right of the 18th fairway for yet another bogey.

He wound up with an even-par 72, putting him a four-way tie for the lead among the early starters.

“I felt as if I played good enough to shoot something in the 60s, but I just made too many mistakes out there,” McIlroy said. “But you know, I was happy with how I handled everything because I did make mistakes, but it seemed like every time I made a mistake I came back with a birdie, or came back to just sort of rectify it.

“I feel like I’m playing OK, just need to limit the mistakes going into the weekend.”

The resurgent Rod Pampling of Australia, who lost his card last year and needed a sponsor exemption to get into the Memorial, had a bogey-free 66 to tie for the lead. Pampling is coming off consecutive top 10s in Texas.

Ricky Barnes had a 70, and Jonathan Byrd had a 67 to join the others at 6-under 136.

Chris Riley, who shared the 18-hole lead with McIlroy, was playing in the afternoon along with Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Luke Donald, playing his first tournament as the No. 1 player in the world - and assured of staying there after this week.

Byrd already has won this year, at the season-opening Tournament of Championship at Kapalua, while Barnes tied for third a year ago at Muirfield Village. The surprise was Pampling, though perhaps not based on recent form.

The Australian, 180th on the money list last year for his worst season ever on the PGA Tour, tied for 10th at Colonial and tied for eighth a week later at the Byron Nelson Championship.

Barnes got off to a rugged start with a pair of bogeys, steadied himself, and finished with a pair of birdies and a good par save from the bunker on the 18th hole. Byrd, like Pampling, also got around without a bogey. His only concern was getting put on the clock late in his round - a bad time would mean a fine for Byrd - although he made par the last three holes.

Byrd has a familiar face working for him this week - his brother. Byrd’s regular caddie is home with his wife with their newborn, so he had his brother work for the weak.

“He knows my game probably better than anyone else,” Byrd said.

Kevin Stadler, a last-minute alternate when Nick Watney withdrew with a stomach illness, had a 68 and was one shot out of the lead, along with Aaron Baddeley, who also had a 68.

The wildest round belonged to Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III. He had six birdies and an eagle, an outstanding effort that might have meant something except for a triple bogey on the 11th, a double bogey on the 17th and four bogeys. It turned out to be a 73.

McIlroy pulled his opening tee shot and made bogey, but the others could have been bogey. He was in the fairway on the third and sixth holes with a sand wedge and 9-iron and both times came up short.

But he also looked like he’ll be a factor on the weekend with consecutive birdies, including a shot that he thought was headed to the back of the 13th green, only for it to settle 6 feet below the hole. Still, the 14th was the most bothersome.

After finding the tiny stream down the left of the fairway, he took his drop and watched anxiously as his third shot drifted right of the green and tumbled down the bank toward more water. Instead, the ball stopped on the red hazard line. McIlroy chipped up to 6 feet, but still walked off with a double bogey when he missed the putt.

“I’m happy enough,” McIlroy said. “I’m thereabouts going into the weekend. There’s still a lot of golf left to play. I know that and everyone else knows that. I just need to limit those mistakes. If I can keep the silly bogeys off the card, I think I’ll be all right.”