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Date:May 31–Jun 3, 2018
Course: Muirfield Village Golf Club
Justin Thomas earns headliner status at the Memorial Tournament this week by virtue of his newly-minted status at the No. 1 player in the world.You could be forgiven if his name happens to overshadowed by a couple of a guys named Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.In all, eight of the top 10 players in the world and 12 of the top 15 players in the FedExCup standings will be teeing off at Muirfield Village under the ever-watchful and critical-at-times eye of host Jack Nicklaus.
Woods is a five-time winner at Memorial, but hasn’t played here since 2015. It was a year ago on Memorial Day when Woods was arrested on DUI charges in Jupiter, Fla., hitting what was another brutal low-point in a career that has had a couple of deep valleys.The Memorial will be Woods’ ninth tournament since his return to semi-regular status on the PGA Tour in January. He has had four finishes in the top 12, spotlighted by a T-2 at Valspar, a T-5 at Bay Hill and T-11 at the Players Championship.
Muirfield Village Golf Club runs 7,392 yards at par 72 this week.This grouping should be the most interesting to watch. For one, it offers a mix of young, average and extensive experience. Two, it may be the only time this year when the lefties outnumber the righties. The left-handed hitting Watson, who almost quit playing a couple of years ago, has already won twice this year. Spieth’s winless skein runs back to The Open Championship last July. The other Lefty in his bunch ended a near-five-year-old winless run with a victory in the WGC-Mexico Championship. Mickelson has 43 PGA Tour wins but none at Murifield Village.The Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide always has been one of the premiere events on the PGA TOUR since its inception in 1976. And its status only seems to grow with legendary host Jack Nicklaus watching over the proceedings.
“It’s truly amazing to think that a tournament hosted by golf’s greatest champion in the game and played on one of the greatest golf courses in the game keeps getting better, but the Memorial Tournament continually rises in stature,” said Jim Nantz, longtime CBS Sports golf anchor. “For someone who treasures the sport and the history of the game as much as I do, it’s truly one of the great weekends of my year.”
Newly minted world No. 1 Justin Thomas heads a field that includes eight of the top in the world rankings, while five-time Memorial Tournament winner Tiger Woods returns for the first time since 2015. Along with Thomas, all of the other two-time winners on the PGA TOUR this season are entered: Justin Rose (No. 3 in the world and the 2010 Memorial winner), Columbus resident Jason Day, Bubba Watson and Patton Kizzire.It’s a reflection of what’s going on in the game of golf right now. For those of us who live the sport year-round, we’re seeing wonderful things, [particularly] where the game is going and how it’s trending. And the Memorial is one of those events that brings it all together. You can really sense that the players have a tremendously high regard for Jack Nicklaus and the tournament that he puts on.
Muirfield Village Golf Club can be an extremely tough test. We saw five-time winner Tiger Woods shoot 85 in the third round in 2015. But it also can yield some good scores. We’ve seen both extremes.There are certainly a lot of places where your game can be exposed in a hurry if you’re off by a fraction. It doesn’t take much, as evidenced by last year’s winner, Jason Dufner, shooting 77 on Saturday and rebounding and still winning. He was just a fraction off in the third round, and it cost him a pair of hockey sticks. I love risk-reward in golf; it brings the sport to a whole new level of drama. You take the best tournaments and the most memorable events we watch, and the term risk-reward is usually a part of it. Just look at major championship golf — and this really is major championship level. Look at what makes the Masters so great. It’s the risk-reward nature of Augusta National Golf Club.
You need highs mixed with the lows. You need the guy who pulls off the impossible shot and the guy who pays the penalty for coming up short. A young Jack Nicklaus knew what he was doing when he built Muirfield Village Golf Club all those years ago. It’s the perfect arena for golf at its best, golf at its most interesting.When Adam Scott became No. 1 for the first time, he won at Colonial (in 2014), so who’s to say we won’t see that kind of response from Justin Thomas? This is a style of golf course that Justin Thomas grew up on. He was raised in these parts. His family has Ohio ties. This should be right in his wheelhouse. The fact that he is No. 1 doesn’t come as any great shock. It comes at a time in golf when there could be a revolving door at the top of the game.
There have been guys over the years who have won this golf tournament whom you [would] least expect to win. There have been guys who won for the first time there, like a Kenny Perry and a Tom Lehman. Then you have Jack, Tom Watson, Fred Couples [who] always played well there, and Tiger with his remarkable record. Muirfield Village is a great showcase for many Hall of Famers, so you think about Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, or Jason Day, who has shown tremendous determination to get back to the top of the rankings. And there are many players who appear ready to add their name to the list of winners.
Journalist and author David Shedloski of Columbus, Ohio, has been covering golf since 1986, first as a daily newspaper reporter and later as a freelance writer for various magazines and Internet outlets. A winner of 23 national writing awards, including 20 for golf coverage, Shedloski is currently a contributing writer for Golf World and GolfDigest.com and serves as editorial director for The Memorial, the official magazine of the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio. He is the author of five books and has contributed to three others, including the second edition of “Golf For Dummies,” with Gary McCord. His last book was a collaboration with Arnold Palmer for his final autobiography, “A Life Well Played,” published in 2016. He’s a fan of all Cleveland professional sports teams, the poor fellow.The PGA Tour heads to Dublin, Ohio this week for the Memorial Tournament, played at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Muirfield Village Golf Club. The event serves as the final tune-up before the U.S. Open for the top players in the world, many of whom skip next week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic to begin preparations.
The test Muirfield Village provides, plus the fact it’s Jack’s course, always makes for one of the stronger fields on the schedule for a non-major, non-WGC event. This year eight of the top 10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking will tee it up, and that doesn’t include other main attractions like Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, who rank 19th and 80th respectively.