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Rory McIlroy off to solid start at Memorial but all the talk is about one breathtaking Bryson DeChambeau drive


Rory McIlroy plays from a bunker at the fourth hole of his first round at the Memorial Tournament

Rory McIlroy plays from a bunker at the fourth hole of his first round at the Memorial Tournament

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Rory McIlroy plays from a bunker at the fourth hole of his first round at the Memorial Tournament

With his position as world No 1 under threat, Rory McIlroy made a solid start in the first round of the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village last night.

On a difficult day when anything around level par seemed like a good score, McIlroy turned level after two birdies and two bogeys before picking up two shots on the back nine.

His score of two-under 70 left him four behind leader Tony Finau, while Tiger Woods, playing with McIlroy, had a mixed day before a birdie on the last saw him finish on one-under. Shane Lowry lies two shots further back.

But it says so much about the ever-growing fascination with Bryson DeChambeau and his outrageous transformation that despite the American shooting a mediocre 73 most of the morning talk focused on one drive struck by the world number seven.

But then, it is not every day that the PGA Tour witnesses a 423-yard drive which the golfer later claims did not come out of the middle.

"Yeah, I hit it a little high on the clubface," DeChambeau said, about the tee shot on the 473-yard first (his 10th) that at least found the centre of the fairway and left him 45 yards to the pin.

Chalk up this mis-hit as yet another colourful line in the intriguing story of the 26-year-old from Modesto, California. DeChambeau - or DeRambo as they now call him since he put on 40lbs (18kg) in less than a year and turned himself into the biggest hitter in the game - divides opinion as surely as he splits fairways, but even his detractors cannot deny that he is enthralling.

Woods certainly thinks so. On Wednesday, Woods played a practice round with his Ryder Cup team-mate and quizzed him about his new strategy and how he can marry such extraordinary ball speed at the same time as maintaining accuracy. And in truth, even DeChambeau is struggling to come to terms with his new surreal reality.

"I sometimes can't believe it," DeChambeau said. "There were years where I hit five-iron into the first. It's wild. I'm just blessed I've been able to figure some stuff out with the driver. Got a lot more to work on with wedging and iron play."

On that, everyone can surely agree. If DeChambeau can master his game from 100 yards in, the rest must genuinely watch out. As it is, he has racked up seven top-10s in succession, as well as a win at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, there was no joy for Gavin Moynihan after he missed the cut in the Euram Bank Open with yesterday's 71, following an opening 75, leaving him on six-over overall. Robin Dawson also misses out with a 76 leaving him nine-over. Joost Luiten led the way at Golf Club Adamstal in Austria after a seven-under 63 leaving him 12-under overall.

Memorial Tournament

Live, Sky Sports, 12.15

Irish Independent