2021 Memorial Tournament leaderboard: Collin Morikawa strong group of ball-strikers as play suspended early

Round 1 of the Memorial Tournament was an atypical day that produced a typically great leaderboard with world No. 6 Collin Morikawa leading the way with a 6-under 66. Though Round 1 is incomplete after two separate weather-related suspensions bumped the resumption of the first 18 holes to Friday morning, Morikawa will sleep on the lead on Thursday night a little under a year after his win on this golf course (albeit at a different tournament) in 2020.

Morikawa won the Workday Charity Open last July at Muirfield Village. He has been the best ball-striker in the world in 2021, and this course almost always produces unbelievable ball-strikers as its champions (Patrick Cantlay, Hideki Matsuyama, Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm and Tiger Woods [five times]), so it’s not a huge surprise that a Day 1 board at this redesigned track would spit him out as the frontrunner. There’s plenty of good competition surrounding Morikawa at the top, though, so let’s take a look at what went down on Day 1 in Dublin, Ohio and what Morikawa has in front of him.

1. Collin Morikawa (-6): Morikawa was nearly flawless on a day when the scoring average — despite somewhat soft conditions from the rain – rose to around 73 for most of the day. His only blemish was a bogey on No. 18 (Morikawa started on the 10th hole), which played as the toughest hole of the day. Predictably, Morikawa flushed it throughout. He’s the poster boy for the “if he putts, he wins” slogan, and he putted it great on Thursday (top 15 in strokes gained putting) so it’s incredibly unsurprising that he’s leading. Morikawa also said the course was playing easier than he imagined because of all the rain over the last few days in Ohio.

“The greens were soft enough and they’re receptive,” said Morikawa who hit 11 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation. “Wedges are spinning back, and I actually didn’t see any of that the past couple of days warming up or practicing. But you have to hit the fairway. Out here, wet rough, it’s not going to help when the rough is pretty long. So you got to hit fairways and that’s where it’s going to start and I was able to do that today.”

2. Adam Long (-5): He’s missed 10 of his last 14 cuts but finished 7th from tee to green on Thursday. Though his putting number was probably a little unsustainable for the entire week, sitting in this position at this big of a tournament is a huge deal for someone who doesn’t have a top-15 finish on the season.

“It’s been kind of a combination of things,” said Long. “I definitely had a slump or whatever you want to call it for a while where I was struggling to score under par and make cuts and stuff. But my coach and my caddie stuck with me and we just kind of kept digging it out of the dirt and kept grinding away, knowing that things are going to change at some point, we just didn’t know when. Made a little adjustment with my irons the last week. … So things started clicking early last week and I feel kind of back to myself now.”

T3. Xander Schauffele, Bo Hoag, Nick Taylor, Rafa Cabrera Bello (-4): The biggest name here is Schauffele, who has been quietly really good (without winning) for most of 2021 (six top-15 finishes thus far). The big news out of his first round was an armlock putting style we have not really seen from Schauffele.

“I am for banning the armlock putters, but if everyone else is going to use it and I feel like they have a bigger advantage, I may as well do the same,” said Schauffele. “It’s just, it’s better, it’s easier. It’s more consistent,” he added, saying he’s not yet comfortable with it.

If Schauffele continues to contend this week, this putting style (and whether it should be allowed) will undoubtedly become one of the primary storylines of this event over the last three days.

T7. Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Brendan Steele, Max Homa, Shane Lowry (-3): This is a fun group as Rahm is the defending champion, Thomas was the best ball-striker in the field on Thursday and Fowler is trying to top his top-10 finish at the PGA Championship two weeks ago. All three are interesting stories heading into Friday, and contention (or a win) from any of the three would be fascinating (and impactful) for a completely different reason.

Rounds incomplete: Bryson DeChambeau is 2 under thru three holes, and Jordan Spieth is also 1 under early in his round. The completion of Round 1 is slated to begin at 7:30 a.m. ET on Friday.

Rick Gehman and Greg DuCharme react to Thursday’s rain suspended action at the Memorial. Follow & listen to The First Cut on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Latest article