Ranking: Tony Finau (-6), Ryan Palmer (-5), Brendan Steele (-4), Gary Woodland (-4), Jon Rahm (-3)
What this means: While players feasted on mild conditions last week at the Workday Charity Open, Muirfield Village grew its teeth in a matter of days. The list of players at 3 above or worse includes some of the biggest headliners in the field, and only two players surpassed 68 in a day that included swirling winds and lots of heavy rough. But Finau is still looking for that elusive second victory and is now in a position to fight for the first time since the Tour’s return after a three-month break.
Tour of the day: Last week, Finau shot a 59 (with a bogey) in a casual home game, and he was close to the mark Thursday in Ohio. Finau surrounded nine birdies that day, including four of his last five holes, to record the only 66 of the day. This has given him a slim advantage as he seeks to win for the first time since 2016, having racked up a multitude of tight calls that include a playoff loss earlier this year at TPC Scottsdale.
Commemorative tournament: scores in the open field | Total coverage
The best of the rest: Ryan Palmer shot 77-81 to miss the cup at Muirfield Village last week, so of course he comes back and shoots a 5-under 67 in more difficult conditions. The veteran went buggy-free on a day when most players racked up bogeys en masse, circling three consecutive birdies on the numbers 5-7 to move up the rankings. Palmer won the Zurich Classic last year when he teamed up with Jon Rahm, but he’s still looking for his first individual Tour title in more than a decade.
Biggest disappointment: Make your choice. The bottom of the leaderboard is littered with familiar names, from last week’s winner Collin Morikawa (76) and playoff finalist Justin Thomas (74) to Xander Schauffele (78) and Rickie Fowler (81). But the most surprising of the pack could be Dustin Johnson, who made his first start since the Travelers’ victory. DJ opened with a double bogey with four putts on his first hole of the day and carded two more doubles on the way to an 8-over 80.
Main story before Friday: Finau’s pursuit of victory # 2 can wait until the weekend. All eyes will remain on Tiger Woods, who managed a birdie in his last hole to complete a 1-under 71 during his first competitive tour in five months. Woods looked solid from the doors, flickered in the middle, and will now try to move up the rankings with an early start Friday morning.
Photo of the day: This honor certainly belonged to the last revolutionary initiative of Bryson DeChambeau. This one came over the opening hole, his 10th of the day, where DeChambeau took an aggressive line and launched a 423-yard route into the left side of the fairway. He set up an easy pitch-and-putt birdie, one of the few highlights for him in a 1-over 73.
Quote of the day: “It’s not even close to the same distance. – Thomas, who shot 19 balls last week at Muirfield Village but only made two birdies in a Premier 74.