As the countdown builds towards the second major of the golfing calendar, the focus this week will be on the Memorial Tournament. The tournament was the vision of Jack Nicklaus, who wanted to host a tournament which reflected with the traditions and history of the game but that also gave back to charity and community. It has been held annually since 1976 and as well as establishing itself as a one of the marquee events on the PGA Tour, it has raised millions of charitable organisations in the Ohio area.
Muirfield Village Golf Club plays host the event, a Par-72 Jack Nicklaus designed course which has hosted a US Amateur, Ryder Cup, Solheim Cup and in
October it will host The Presidents Cup. Nicklaus is consistent in tweaking the course at the end of each year, in recent years he has lengthened several holes including the first, tenth, twelfth and seventeenth. However at 7352 yards, MuirfieldVillage is not long by modern standards.
Unsurprisingly as an elite tournament on the calendar, the roll of honour is littered with
star names, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Ernie Els, Greg Norman, Vijay Singh and Fred Couples have all won this event. Tiger Woods has won this event 5 times,including last year to match Nicklaus total of 73 PGA Tour wins. He will be the main focus of attention this week despite the field boasting 22 major winners, 7 of the worlds top 10 and 76 PGA Tour winners.
When you look at Wood’s statistics for this event its easy to see why he will be a
hot favourite this week, he has a 41.67% win ratio, 66.67% top 5 ratio and has never missed the cut as Muirfield Village. He will take all the beating this week and looks a likely winner based on his course form and form this season that has seen him win 4 times. So with that in mind, my five for the win this week with be with have the stipulation of ‘other than tiger’.
5 For the Win (Other than Tiger)
Matt Kuchar – Kuchar is trending highly coming into this week, his 2
nd place finish at Colonial was a genuine indicator that he is reaching the form that saw him win at Dove Mountain back in February. In truth, his form hasn’t slumped since that early season when, he has just struggled to put in four good rounds together. Kuchar has already finished second at MuirfieldVillage as well an additional top five finish and a couple of other top tens. He demands maximum respect this week.
Ernie Els – Els has already tasted success at Muirfield Village, winning here in
2004. It is to his credit that he hasn’t taken his eye off the ball since his Open Championship win last July. Since then he has finished second at Mission Hills, tied thirteenth at Augusta and last weekend tied 6th at Wentworth. He has described Memorial as his favourite event and I will feel he will benefit from not being under spotlight as he is at Wentworth each year.
Adam Scott – Masters Champ, Adam Scott has made just one start since winning his first Major at Augusta in April. He showed no real signs of suffering a
hangover from that success in the sole start he has made though it would be fair to say that he will benefit from getting it out of the way. Memorial rates as a sensible place to make his 2nd start since Augusta given the likely focus being on Tiger. Scott has a pair of top 5 finishes from 2006 & 2007 and the confidence in his game could see him produce another this year.
Keegan Bradley – In some ways this is a speculative pick given that Bradley has missed the cuts in both his starts here. However he has been one of the form
players of the season without actually winning an event, four top five finishes including a second place finish last time out. On the face of it, two missed cuts out of two doesn’t look good but his rounds have been 76 (twice) 74 & 72, scores which can be easily turned around. In 2011 he struggled with his putter here and last year he only hit 44% of greens in regulation despite hitting 75% of fairways, so it is pretty much a case of one part of the jigsaw being missing in both years.
Hunter Mahan – I am very much of the opinion that Mahan is building towards a win in the next few months. After a series of poor performances including a distant missed cut at
Augusta, he has bounced with a top twenty finish at Sawgrass and tied 26th finish last week at Colonial. Both were in spite of an unusually poor performance off the tee where his accuracy was around 10% lower than his average in 2012 and 6% lower than his 2013 average. Muirfield Village is an ideal course for Mahan on that basis given that it is not a strict test off the tee. He has three top 25 finishes in his six visits here and the progression of his form in the last two events suggests he can achieve much better this week.
2 Surprise Packages
Kenny Perry – A three time winner here at Memorial, most recently in 2008,
Kenny Perry came close to bagging the Senior PGA championship last weekend but a poor back nine cost him dear and he missed out by one shot. Surely if Perry could pick one course to come to following such a near miss than it would be Muirfield Village. In 23 starts here he has missed just 4 cuts, has a win ratio of 13.04%, top five ratio of 17.39% and top ten ratio of 26.09%, all very impressive numbers, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him start the tournament strongly, perhaps fading over the weekend but he will have the confidence of his form from last week with him.
Scott Stallings – I am sure Stallings was pleased to see Boo Weekley win at Colonial with a -14 total as it been lower Stallings would have been left
wondering what if following his double bogey on 15 in the final round. The facts are that he posted all four rounds under par last week and his game from tee to green was very strong. Crucially he wasn’t losing ground on the field in his putting which has often been the case for Stallings this year. He has finished inside the top 25 on both his starts at Memorial, interestingly both these appearances were on the back of missed cuts the past week, and he could well be a surprise name this week.
- Jack Nicklaus thrilled Chinese teen Tianlang will play Memorial (cbc.ca)
- Rickie Fowler learned from 2012 Memorial implosion and tournament notes (ohio.com)
- New, expanded clubhouse to greet Memorial fans (timesleader.com)
- Els keeping low-profile at Memorial (iol.co.za)