Golf: Matsuyama grabs share of Memorial lead, Tiger toils

(Reuters) - Hideki Matsuyama stormed home to grab a three-way share of the first round lead at the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio on Thursday while five-times winner Tiger Woods toiled with back tightness before rebounding to finish seven shots back.

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May 31, 2018; Dublin, OH, USA; Hideki Matsuyama looks on while standing on the eighth green during the first round of The Memorial golf tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Matsuyama was riding a streak of four straight birdies when he holed out for eagle from 137 yards at the par-four 17th en route to a seven-under 65 that left him tied with Chile’s Joaquin Niemann and Mexico’s Abraham Ancer at Muirfield Village Golf Club, one shot clear of Beau Hossler.

World number 10 Matsuyama, the 2014 champion, reached the turn at three-under after a trio of birdies but then briefly stumbled with two consecutive bogeys from the 10th before coming home in stellar fashion.

Ancer, who joined the PGA Tour in 2016 and enjoyed a career-best share of eighth at the Houston Open this season, and 19-year-old Niemann, the former top ranked amateur in the world, each mixed eight birdies with one bogey.

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May 31, 2018; Dublin, OH, USA; Tiger Woods tees off on the fourteenth hole during the first round of The Memorial golf tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Former world number one Woods arrived at Muirfield with big expectations after his solid Players Championship but he was slow out of the gate as he battled tightness in his lower back.

Woods, who began on the back nine, bogeyed the par-five 11th after his third shot found water, made double-bogey at 15 after his drive went out of bounds and followed up with a bogey at 16 after missing a seven-foot putt.

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But Woods, playing alongside Justin Rose (71) and defending champion Jason Dufner (75), responded with a birdie at 17 and went three-under over his final nine holes to salvage his round.

“I wasn’t rotating very well today, back was tight, and just it is what it is some days,” said Woods, who only returned to the Tour in January after undergoing spinal fusion surgery.

“And I made a few tweaks in my swing, my setup, and lo and behold, I was able to make some good swings on my back nine and turned the whole thing around.”

Still, the 14-times major champion was a shadow of the player who less than three weeks ago had a vintage 65-69 weekend at TPC Sawgrass to appear close to winning again.

Rose, fresh off his convincing triumph at Colonial, mixed three bogeys with four birdies while Dufner, winless since his fifth PGA Tour victory last year at Muirfield, was undone by a four-hole stretch on his back nine that included three bogeys.

A number of big-name players failed to break par, including newly-minted world number one Justin Thomas (72), Dustin Johnson (72), Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy (74), Phil Mickelson (74) and Jordan Spieth (75).

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Ed Osmond / Ian Ransom

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