5 Reasons to Watch the PGA Memorial Tournament

Ron Juckett@ronjuckettContributor IIIMay 30, 2012

5 Reasons to Watch the PGA Memorial Tournament

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    The Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club is always a special event on the PGA Tour. 

    Here are five things to watch for as we celebrate the first big northern stop on tour and, of course, Jack Nicklaus.

    Along with returning champion Steve Stricker, an elite field from both the United States and Europe will visit Jack's home this Thursday in Dublin, Ohio.

1. It Is a Really Good Field

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    Outside of the Majors, it is very rare to find most of the world’s top 50 players teeing it up at the same event.

    One could also include the Players, WGC, Arnold Palmer’s stop at Bay Hill and Jack Nicklaus’ other event at PGA National, but it is typically the Majors or big-money, limited-field events that attract the best players.

    With the importance of other tours around the world, it is difficult for an average Tour event to gather together the talent on display this week.

    Even Bubba Watson is at the Memorial, playing probably his only tune-up before the United States Open at Olympic in San Francisco later this month.

    Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and Keegan Bradley are grouped together for the first couple of rounds. Not only are Donald and McIlroy No. 1 and 2 in the world, respectively, but you have two-time defending European PGA champion Donald, current PGA champion Bradley, and defending US Open champ McIlroy—what a trio.

    CBS will be giddy to see any combination of those three paired up late Sunday afternoon.

2. Tiger and Phil Are Here

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    If Jack says "Please play," you do.

    Tiger has won the Memorial by big margins before, and Phil really embraced his place in the history of the game, following his induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame the Monday before the Players.

    Anytime they tee it up—no matter what kind of shape their game is in—they can win.

    Though not paired together, they will both draw huge galleries wherever they go, giving this week a bigger feel.

    Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III and Vijay Singh also represent the senior set and have a chance on this course. 

    Fairways and greens—but isn’t it always about fairways and greens?

3. The Presidents Cup Is Here Next Year

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    This week, Freddy Couples and Nick Price were named captains for the 2013 event.

    This will be Couples’ second-consecutive year as captain, as his American team defeated Greg Norman’s International team 19-15 at Royal Melbourne in Australia.

    Price is best known for his summer in 1994, when he won the British Open Championship at Turnberry by one stroke then romped the field for his second PGA Championship at Bellerive. Couples' and Price’s peaks were in the same era, so they should know each other’s thinking pretty well.

    Muirfield is an immaculate parkland course that requires thinking to get around trees and creeks that go through the paths to the green. 

    Both captains will be watching to see who plays well, as they will have at least two picks of their own for the next year's team.

4. Tom Watson Is the Honoree

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    Each year, the tournament remembers and honors a person that has made a significant contribution to the game of golf.

    Last year saw Nancy Lopez honored, and this year’s honoree is Jack Nicklaus’ biggest rival, Tom Watson.

    Watson and Nicklaus held some epic duels in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

    Both had lapped the field at the 1977 British Open, so they held a two-round match play event. Watson won that Open late on Sunday with a birdie on 17 following a Nicklaus miss.

    They also dueled at the 1982 US Open at Pebble Beach.

    Not paired together that Father's Day, Jack looked like the winner as he birdied the last hole and Watson’s tee shot on the impossible par-three 17th was tangled in the rough. Watson holed his chip from the rough and denied Nicklaus the honor of being the only five-time Open champion.

    Though fierce rivals, they held a rather intense mutual respect for each other. Jack—Watson's idol growing up—was always extremely gracious after Watson would best him.

    Watson’s last tour win came here at Muirfield.

5. It’s Jack’s Tournament

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    It’s his course.

    It’s his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

    He still has the greatest Major championship record ever assembled, including 19 second-place finishes.

    He built Muirfield to be his lasting contribution to the game. While he has designed other championship courses—including PGA National and Valhalla in Louisville—this is his opus.

    It so fits him, too. It matches his stature in the game to take a week to openly honor others who have achieved and given so much to the game. Those others play a fairly good week of golf on a course and a Tour that Nicklaus built.

    No matter the designated honoree, the players of tomorrow would be wise to always honor and remember Jack.