The Memorial is the annual pre U.S. Open test that draws one of the best fields all season, and after 18 holes, the favorite for Pinehurst is sitting on top of the leaderboard. Rory McIlroy rocketed to the lead late on Thursday, firing an opening round 63 to finish three shots clear of the field. It was the second-lowest round of Rory's PGA Tour career, and he did it while hobbled by a left knee tweak and with a double bogey on the card.
A large portion of the recent publicity surrounding McIlroy has focused on his relationship with Caroline Wozniacki, and there was much psychoanalysis after he won on Sunday at the BMW PGA Championship, the Euro Tour's biggest event. But Rory's been locked in for most of the year, posting top 10 results week after week, even if a few were backdoor finishes. He probably should have had a win, or even two, before last week's come-from-behind drama at Wentworth. Now it appears he has it all firing with the U.S. Open just two weeks out -- between Sunday in England and Thursday in Columbus, he's 15-under in his last 36 holes.
Rory McIlroy goes low, leads at 9-under
Not even some left knee pain could slow down Rory McIlroy on Thursday and the 25-year-old is now leading the way at the Memorial Tournament.
The first round leader has only won five of 27 PGA Tour events this year, but Rory's three-shot margin is the biggest at this event in five years. He can't count on two eagles on the back nine, but it's hard to see him throttling down and giving up much ground by the midpoint. He'll also have the benefit of going out in the morning wave, which generally features better scoring conditions, including Thursday at Muirfield Village. McIlroy will be out early in that power grouping with Jason Day and world No. 1 Adam Scott, teeing off at 8:26 a.m. ET
They'll play most, if not all, of their second round before the TV coverage goes live on Golf Channel at 2:30 p.m. The best shot at catching some of McIlroy's round will be through PGATour.com's featured holes stream, which is focusing on the par-5 11th and par-3 16th at Jack Nickalus' design masterpiece. Rory will be off No. 10, so his group will pop up on that stream before 9 a.m. on Friday.
With scoring conditions slightly better in the morning on Thursday, the primary chasers at 6-under will all be out on the other side of the draw on Friday. By the time Bubba Watson, Paul Casey, and Chris Kirk get to the first tee, McIlroy might have doubled up that three-shot margin. With both Rory and Phil Mickelson in the AM wave, Bubba is probably the top guy playing in front of the TV cameras on Friday, and thankfully he's in the hunt. He tees off with Keegan Bradley and Jim Furyk at 1:05 p.m. ET.
While Rory is finally converting, no one's played better than Bubba this season but his track record here isn't great. It's a course that rewards bombers and is a bit forgiving off the tee, but Thursday's 66 was Bubba's lowest round in his last 28 loops through Muirfield Village. This is his ninth straight Memorial appearance, but he's never finished inside the top 20 here. Past trends, however, can be cast aside with the way he's playing this year.
Photo credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
With this event holding some enhanced status on the rota, Golf Channel will add an extra hour to their typical Thursday-Friday coverage. They'll also have their usual simulcast service up and running online. Here are all your media options for the second round:
Friday's second round coverage
2:30 to 6:30 p.m. -- Golf Channel
8 a.m. to 6 p.m. -- PGATour.com featured holes stream (par-5 11th and par-3 16th)
2:30 to 6:30 p.m. -- Golf Channel simulcast stream
1 to 7 p.m. -- PGA Tour Radio on Sirius-XM (Ch. 93/208)