REUTERS: Tiger Woods hit some loose shots but still carded a respectable two-under-par 70 in the first round at the Memorial tournament as fellow American Ryan Moore plundered the soft Muirfield Village course in Dublin, Ohio on Thursday.
Moore birdied five of the first seven holes to set a cracking pace, posting a seven-under 65 to head Jordan Spieth by one stroke as Woods ended the round equal 23rd.
After his first competitive round since missing the cut at the PGA Championship two weeks ago at Bethpage, where he felt under the weather, Woods reported a clean bill of health but acknowledged he was not quite as sharp as he would have liked.
"I'm definitely feeling a lot better, and I'm hitting the ball a little bit better," he said. "I just need to not make a couple loose mistakes like I did today."
The 43-year-old needs one more victory to match Sam Snead's record 82 wins on the PGA Tour, though perhaps more importantly the Memorial offers him a chance to assess his form heading to the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in two weeks.
After winning the Masters in April, Woods requires three more major titles to match the record of 18 held by Jack Nicklaus, this week's tournament host.
Heavy rain has left the Muirfield Village rough thick and lush, thereby putting a premium in accuracy, which probably will be good preparation for expected conditions at Pebble Beach.
"The rough is brutal," said Woods, who was asked if he had spent much time in it. "Unfortunately I did."
Leader Moore said a par at the first hole had set a positive tone that primed him to run off five birdies in rapid-fire fashion.
"On the first hole didn't hit a good tee shot and hacked something out short of the green, chipped to five to six feet and rolled that one in," said the five-times PGA Tour winner.
"It was nice to start out that way. Those are the putts that haven't been going in as much for me recently. Momentum went from there.
"I hit some great mid-irons today."
Spieth was tied for the lead until bogeying his penultimate hole, but nonetheless it was another promising performance on the back of his recent revival after a slow start to the year.
The three-times major winner tied for third at the PGA Championship at Bethpage two weeks ago and last week finished equal eighth at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth.
"Two chip-ins certainly helped," Spieth said.
"I felt like I stole a couple early in the round to be under par, and then just kind of played the shots that needed to be played."
Former world number ones Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Jason day were not among the 65 players to shoot par or better, as the trio all battled to scores of three-over 75.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Charleston, South Carolina; Editing by Ken Ferris/Greg Stutchbury)