The Memorial Tournament: Morikawa makes merry at Muirfield Village again

The American’s liking for the Jack Nicklaus par 72 shone through once more as he posted the clubhouse lead of 6-under 66 on Thursday.

Rain caused disruptions during round one of The Memorial Tournament but that didn't dampen Collin Morikawa's ongoing love affair with Muirfield Village.

The American got his first look at the famed Jack Nicklaus track last year when it staged the Workday Charity Open.

Morikawa opened with a 65 that week, added a second-round 66 and threw down another 6-under lap in Sunday's finale before seeing off Justin Thomas in a dramatic play-off.

While he struggled to make an impact when it staged the following week's Memorial, the 2020 PGA champion had seen enough of the course to know it was one he would always relish returning to.

Ahead of this week's Memorial, he recalled his first visit. "I just fell in love with the place," said Morikawa. "I knew this was a place I was going to love for the rest of my life."

Seeing the major renovations to the layout earlier this week didn't change that opinion a jot.

It was pretty obvious Morikawa would be in his element this week and the Californian delighted his backers in round one. A morning starter, he traded seven birdies with a single bogey and posted the clubhouse lead of 6-under.

That still led at the end of a rain-hit day as none of the afternoon wave managed to get done.

A pre-tournament 16/1 shot, Morikawa is now the clear 4/1 favourite with Paddy Power to lift the trophy. That seems fair enough given that three of his four PGA TOUR wins have come on Nicklaus designs.

The 23-year-old did everything well in round one and that included putting, so often his Achilles Heel.

Here's a look at his stats and quotes following Thursday's play.

Morikawa's first-round stats

Driving Accuracy: 11 (of 14) fairways

Greens In Regulation: 15 (of 18)

Strokes Gained Off The Tee: 1.345 (6th)

Strokes Gained Approach: 3.140 (2nd)

Strokes Gained Around The Green: 0.292 (40th)

Strokes Gained Putting: 1.799 (12th)

Strokes Gained Tee To Green: 5.350 (2nd)

On whether rain or the course renovations made the layout more scorable

"It was definitely the rain. The greens were soft enough and they're receptive. Wedges are spinning back and I actually didn't see any of that the past couple of days warming up or practising.

"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."

On what makes the course such a good fit for him

"It fits my eye off the tee a lot. There's only a couple tee shots where I might not be able to hit my cut as well as I want to.

"But other than that if I keep it in the fairway, I feel like I'm hitting kind of a lot of 9-irons, 8-irons and 7-irons and that's kind of what I've based my game on the past couple years and when I'm able to put those irons in my hands I feel like I can attack pins, I can be smart and give myself maybe some closer birdies than other guys can and obviously we rolled in a few today and just got to keep that up."

On why he switched putters this week

"So I've been using the FCG TaylorMade putter, the mallet and once in a while I just have a hard time setting it up and setting it down. And the best putters, they're never fidgeting with their putter, they just put it down and they know where they're aiming, they know what it's doing.

"So it's the same blade, it's a new putter, but it's the same blade I used actually last year at this tournament, I used it a lot coming out of college. It's just got a SuperStroke grip on, a little different loft.

"It's a putter that I've used before, I feel comfortable with, I just wanted to go back to a blade because I've putted with a blade my entire life and why not just go back and figure out the things that I've been working on and forget about the stroke, forget about the putter, just try and make the putt."

On fans being back this year

"It's so good to see people. I've said it, since fans have been coming back, like they're the life, they kind of bring all the energy, it's great to see when you're rewarded -- not rewarded, but when you hit a good shot and they kind of clap and you can see their excitement, because it makes you just want to go make that putt even more and it's awesome to see people back for sure."

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