May 31, 2018 / 6:36 PM / 3 months ago

Golf-Tiger finishes strong but trails by seven at Memorial

May 31 (Reuters) - Five-times winner Tiger Woods overcome a rough start to his opening round at the Memorial Tournament but was still sitting a distant seven shots behind early clubhouse leaders Abraham Ancer and Joaquin Niemann in Dublin, Ohio, on Thursday.

Woods, who arrived this week at Muirfield Village Golf Club with increased expectations given his solid weekend at The Players Championship, shot an even-par 72 following a round that included a double-bogey, three bogeys and five birdies.

The former world number one, who began on the back nine, bogeyed the par-five 11th following a poor tee shot, 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.

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

Still, the 14-times major champion was a shadow of the player who less than three weeks ago in his last start showed he might be close to winning again with a vintage 65-69 weekend performance at TPC Sawgrass.

The round marked the first time Woods, whose most recent victory at Muirfield came in 2012, competed in the Columbus suburb since 2015 when he carded a career-worst 85 during the third round en route to finishing in 71st place.

Mexican Ancer and Chilean Niemann, each seeking their maiden PGA Tour victories, were in a share of the early lead after mixing eight birdies with one bogey for matching seven-under-par 65s.

Ancer joined the PGA Tour in 2016 and has two top-10 finishes this season, including a career-best share of eighth place at the Houston Open while Niemann, 19, is the former number one ranked amateur in the world.

Rose, fresh off his convincing triumph at Colonial, mixed three bogeys with four birdies while Dufner, who has not won anywhere since earning his fifth PGA Tour win last year at Muirfield, was undone by four-hole stretch on his back nine that included three bogeys. (Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)

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