Nicklaus' Memorial features 6 of world's top 10 (May 31, 2017)
Six of the top 10 players in the world are in the field this week when the PGA Tour heads north from Texas to Dublin, Ohio, and the Memorial Tournament, the event founded and hosted by native son Jack Nicklaus and a highlight of the tour's schedule each year.
Much of the talk among the players that are here this week at the Muirfield Village Golf Club at Jack's place is about two players who aren't -- world No. 2 Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and former No. 1 Tiger Woods.
Both are missing the tournament because of injuries. McIlroy is still in recovery mode after suffering a rib injury earlier this year and Woods is on the shelf for at least the rest of the season after spinal fusion surgery a few weeks ago. But the circumstances surrounding the discussions are completely different.
Everyone understands that McIlroy will be back in the swing of things sooner than later -- he is targeting the U.S. Open in two weeks for his return -- while it's questioned more and more if Woods will ever make it back to the tour, especially after he was arrested near his Jupiter, Fla., home early Tuesday morning for driving under the influence. Woods said it was the result of prescription pain medicine.
Although this is Nicklaus' tournament, it's hard to think about it without also thinking of Woods, who has won the event a record five times (1999, 2000, 2001, 2009 and 2012).
Nicklaus took time out during his press conference at the Memorial on Tuesday to show his support for Woods, who has won 14 majors to Nicklaus' 18.
"I'm a fan of Tiger's, I'm a friend of Tiger's and I feel bad for him," Nicklaus said. "I think that he's struggling. And I wish him well. I hope he gets out of it and I hope he plays golf again. He needs a lot of support from a lot of people and I'll be one of them."
Until winning the Memorial in 2014, Japan's Hideki Matsuyama, who's ranked fourth in the world, said he didn't realize how big a tournament this is and the clout a victory here can carry.
"Since winning here three years ago, I've come to realize what an important event the Memorial Tournament is," Matsuyama said. "There's a different feel here at the Memorial Tournament ... the course, the fans, Mr. Nicklaus hosting, it's a special event and always will be to me."
The Memorial Tournament is one of only five tournaments given "invitational" status by the PGA Tour and consequently it has a reduced field of 120 players as opposed to most full-field open tournaments of 156 players.
Those golfers will tee it up on the Nicklaus-designed, 7,366-yard, par-72 layout beginning Thursday in this northern suburb of Columbus, Ohio. The total purse is $8.7 million, with $1.566 million and 500 FedExCup points going to the winner.
The Memorial was won in 2016 by William McGirt in a two-hole playoff over Jon Curran after the two golfers finished at 15 under par after 72 holes. It was the first PGA Tour victory for McGirt, and he was the third straight champion to earn their first tour win at this tournament, following David Lingmerth of Sweden and Matsuyama.
"Anytime you get to shake Jack's hand, it's a pretty special moment," McGirt said when asked about Nicklaus' gesture after his win last year. "Coming back here to his place, which he's put so much time and effort into making his own Augusta National, and as defending champion is honestly a dream come true."
Joining Matsuyama from the top 10 in the field are Dustin Johnson (No. 1), Australians Jason Day (No. 3) and Adam Scott (No. 10), Jordan Spieth (No. 6) and Jon Rahm of Spain (No. 9). In all, 31 of the top 50 players in the world are in the field.