Rory McIlroy is looking to make history at this year’s Memorial Tournament, though unfortunately for him, he made the wrong kind of history on Thursday at Jack’s Place.
Rory McIlroy is in search of his first win at one of the most prestigious tournaments in the game, The Memorial Tournament at Jack’s Place; Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.
It’s almost hard to fathom that the four-time major winner has yet to be a recipient of that famous handshake on the 18th green from the Golden Bear himself. McIlroy has come close and been in contention a few times over the years at one of the game’s most revered events, but to date, his best finish at Jack Nicklaus’ event was a 4th place here in 2016.
Rory spoke about his past performances at Muirfield Village in the lead-up to this year’s Memorial Tournament and talked about how historically, one of the best weapons in his arsenal, the driver, had been somewhat neutralized at this locale in years prior.
McIlroy’s performance off-the-tee during his opening round of this year’s event was strong overall, and during one of the very few times over the course of his round when it wasn’t, it cost him dearly.
The famous venue has a knack for providing a stern championship test to all those who embark upon the journey around Muirfield Village. Thursday’s opening round of the tournament’s 2023 edition was certainly no different.
On average, Muirfield Village GC played 2.11 strokes over par for the field on Thursday per Data Golf. In fact, come days end, just 32 some-odd players in the 120-man field recorded rounds below par during the first round.
With all of that being said, for Rory McIlroy to come out of the gate and record two birdies and no bogeys across his first nine holes on Thursday was awfully impressive. After signing for a front-nine tally of 34, the Northern Irishman dropped his first shot of the round on the Par 4, 10th, at Muirfield Village.
He would quickly recover the dropped shot on the very next hole by birdieing one of the four Par 5s at Jack’s Place. Rory McIlroy then added another birdie on his next Par 5 and made his way to the 18th tee in good shape.
Rory started his trek down the closing hole at 3-under par for his round and was closing in on an opening tally of 69, but then disaster struck along with a bit of misfortune and Rory McIlroy would go on to make the wrong kind of history.
Rory McIlroy makes the wrong kind of history.
Having hit 10 of his first 13 fairways throughout the course of his opening round, McIlroy picked the wrong time to send his tee shot wayward on 18. Things went from bad to worse as his wayward drive to the right missed one of several fairway bunkers and instead left him facing an awkward second from a severe slope in the thick rough.
McIlroy’s second took a bounce in the missed fairway bunker and would barely advance much at all, leaving him with a third shot from the rough. He was able to muscle it out of the rough but completely sailed the green having had little control of his ball from the challenging lie.
A fourth that cleared the green followed by a fifth that came up well short of the hole proceeded a missed putt that would leave McIlroy with a depressing triple-bogey to end an otherwise fantastic round of golf.
The back-nine 38 saw Rory McIlroy sign off with an even-par 72 on Thursday and his disaster on the closing hole made for some unfortunate personal history for McIlroy. Per Justin Ray, his triple on the 18th was just the third time that Rory had finished a round with that type of blemish on his scorecard.
He went on to finish T20th at the 2009 Masters and famously missed the cut in his home Open Championship at Royal Portrush in 2019.
It was a disastrous finish to a great round for McIlroy during what has been a relatively disappointing year to date for someone with such lofty standards as Rory. The Northern Irishman is still searching for his first PGA win in 2023 having previously won on the DP World Tour at the start of the year.
Rory McIlroy has recorded four top-10 finishes worldwide in 2023; one fewer than this same time last year. His first win on the PGA Tour last year didn’t come until the RBC Canadian Open, Rory would follow up his success in Canada with an additional two wins, one at the season-ending Tour Championship, and one at the CJ Cup last October.
No doubt, McIlroy will be looking for a similar or better finish to close out the rest of 2023. There is still lots of golf to be played this year but his historic triple on the last will certainly sting for a while.
The key for Rory, however, will be turning the page quickly and continuing to envision that potential famous handshake with Jack come Sunday.