Biggest Winners and Losers at the Memorial
What is a golf tournament without Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy?
They both participated in the Memorial Tournament held at Muirfield Village this past weekend, but neither showed up, if you get my drift.
Meanwhile, is there a shift in the wind, or were those just the formidable gusts that blew apart many a game this weekend?
As the weather quieted down on Sunday, a variety of new names came to the fore, while an old standby scored another big win.
And as the pro tour turns its eyes to the upcoming U.S. Open in two weeks, the tournament may have shed some new light on possible contenders.
Here is a list of the big winners and losers in Ohio.
Winner: Matt Kuchar
The beneficent sounds of “Koooooooooo” greeted Matt Kuchar as he made his way around the course in a strong and steady performance that defied both the weather and his competitors.
The fan favorite with a smooth stroke and constant smile had plenty to be happy about. He seemingly hit every fairway and every green. Over the course of the tournament, he hit 75 percent of greens in regulation to lead the field.
He took charge of the tourney with excellent course management and distance control that made him hard to catch.
Kuchar won the Accenture Match Play Championship earlier this year and currently ranks third in FedEx points, which will assuredly go up after this weekend. This marks his sixth top-10 finish in 13 events this season.
Kuchar has the perfect game for a U.S. Open, which demands straight drives and a sure putting stroke. Look for him to be at the top of the field at Merion in two weeks.
Loser: Rory McIlroy
The No. 2 player in the world seemed finished after the first round, carding a 78 and looking lackluster and even a bit lost. It took a stellar 69 in the second round for him to make the cut, but that surely cannot be enough for this golf superstar who has struggled of late.
McIlroy is having an up-and-down season, to say the least. Yes, he has four top-10 finishes in nine events, but he hasn’t really been in contention the past few weeks.
Notably, he switched clubs to play the Nike brand and still seems to be tinkering with his swing while adjusting to the new sticks.
Said Curtis Strange about Rory’s play, “Rory is the sort of player who is always going to blow hot and cold, a bit like Phil [Mickelson]. I like all-out aggressive players and you never know what you are going to get with Phil or Rory.”
Rory, who finished tied for 57th, has surely proven that his name can be said in the same breath as Phil or Tiger, but he is going to step up his game if he intends to make a run at the upcoming U.S. Open.
Winner: A Surpising Trio
Three up-and-comers made a run at Matt Kuchar, elevating their games and their standings on the pro tour.
Kevin Chappell may have missed seven cuts this year, but he was constantly in contention this weekend and carded back-to-back scores of 68 to finish second. A standout college player at UCLA, Chappell has been on the tour since 2008, and his performance at Muirfield will likely provide him with the confidence to succeed down the road.
Kyle Stanley is a name you may be familiar with. While he has only won once on the tour, at the Waste Management Tournament last year, he possesses an aggressive style that placed him in the top 10 of two tournaments in the last month. He deftly managed his powerful draw at the Memorial, setting up numerous birdie attempts that eventually led to a third-place finish.
Scott Stallings bounced back from a 75 on Saturday to score a nifty 67 on Sunday that secured him a tie for fourth place. On the back nine, he came within a few strokes of matching Kuchar in what would have been a phenomenal finish. Scott finished tied for fourth last week at the Crowne Plaza International. Still, his showing at the Memorial was a pleasant surprise.
Loser: Tiger Woods
By now, everyone knows of Tiger’s 44 en route to a 79 in the third round. He was virtually nowhere to be found on Sunday when he shot par and dropped to a tie for 65th place.
Tiger, this is no way to prepare for an Open.
Still, it does create some much needed drama going into the next major. With four wins already this year, it seemed that going into the Memorial, Tiger would just do a little a tuneup on his game and then skate to a win in two weeks.
That may be a lot more difficult than it appears, especially with players like Kuchar yapping at his heels.
Winner: NBC Sports
The upcoming U.S. Open on NBC Sports will undoubtedly get an even larger viewing audience than usual now that it seems like Tiger may be wavering a bit.
It is one thing to have Tiger rampaging through the field and quite another when there appears to be some drama and perhaps even some doubt about his game. People watch car races for the crack-ups, and that is one reason more viewers will be tuning in to watch and see how Tiger performs.
Put him along side Sergio Garcia, and there may even be fireworks.
Of course, this is a major golf championship that always garners large viewership. Still, NBC could not have written a better script as Tiger floundered going into the next big event.
Loser: The Fans
Matt Kuchar may be a great golfer, but he is no Tiger, Rory or Phil.
Golf fans don’t necessarily tune in to see a guy hit the middle of every green, and they surely are not inspired by a group of youthful whippersnappers hoping to make a putt.
Fans want to follow Tiger and Rory as they battle it out for first, not 51st. It was actually a bit comical to have the TV camera cut to Rory trying to make a 35-foot eagle only to have him miss it by a few feet. There was really nothing compelling about it.
Of course, they also cut to Tiger sizing up an uphill seven-footer for par that he shot by the hole.
Not even the wind kicked up on the final day, which left only a basic and boring golf tournament to be slept to.
Winner: Bill Haas
Bill Haas had a legitimate chance of winning the Memorial and was the leader after 36 holes.
Haas then blew up in the third round with an out-of-character score of 76. And even though he finished fourth, his final day of even par was just not enough to make a run at the leader.
After two missed cuts the past couple of weeks, things may be looking up for Haas, who always seems to have a chance to win.
The Memorial offered him a chance at redemption, and he made the best of it. Look for him to get back on track going forward.
Loser: Justin Rose
Justin Rose looked like a guy who might win this event. Then he didn’t.
He came into the final round close to the lead but dropped four strokes by the end. Was that his knees that were wobbling?
Rose is one of the best players on the tour, and this marks his fourth top-10 finish this season.
That’s the problem. He always seems to be in the top 10 but cannot seem to win. A bridesmaid again.
Considered one of golf’s best ball-strikers with a swing that everyone wants to emulate, Rose could secure his worthy reputation with a win at a major.
Right now, however, he is just an also-ran.
Winner: Charl Schwartzel
With six top-10 finishes already this season, the confident South African is definitely a player to contend with. Although he dropped a stroke to finish in a tie for 8that the Memorial, Schwartzel once again was in the mix.
Like many of the players this weekend, he got upended by the blustery weather but ultimately secured himself.
Schwartzel currently ranks second in scoring average and 13th in overall putting, two stats that bode well for him as he makes his way to the next major at Merion.
Loser: Brandt Snedeker
Ranked second in the FedEx Cup standings, Brandt Snedeker faltered a bit this weekend, not even making the cut.
Snedeker began the year with a bang, or multiple bangs, that included a win at Pebble Beach and three finishes in the top five. He was the man to beat.
His showing at Memorial may not be a bad omen, but any missed cut can’t be good.
The question: Can he rebound?