The 2014 Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, is hosted by the legendary Jack Nicklaus, and it emanates an innate prestige as one of the biggest events on the PGA Tour. Since it is a rare invitational, the field is even more select than most others.
Nicklaus also established the tradition of paying tribute to some of the game's greats, and this year, former women's superstar Annika Sorenstam will be the honoree. Kelly Tilghman of Golf Channel captured where Sorenstam's plaque will be placed at Muirfield Village:
Many of the players teeing it up beginning on Thursday will be using the tough test and high stakes as a suitable tuneup for the U.S. Open, which starts on June 12. Many of the best golfers are entering the Memorial in top form.
Two of last year's major champions dueled it out in a playoff at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial this last Sunday, with new world No. 1 Adam Scott topping Jason Dufner in extra holes.
Across the pond, two-time major champion Rory McIlroy won the European Tour's flagship event in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. That backed up McIlroy's excellent recent form and finally translated into a win, boosting him from 10th to sixth in the world ranking.
McIlroy will be paired alongside Adam Scott and Jason Day to start, prompting this analysis from Australian golf commentator Luke Elvy:
Jason Day paired with Adam Scott & Rory McIlroy for the first two rounds @MemorialGolf. That could be the super group for the next 10 years.— Luke Elvy (@elvisgolf) May 27, 2014
Combine that with plenty of other capable contenders in this week's star-studded lineup, including 2013 winner Matt Kuchar, and this has all the makings of being yet another memorable Memorial.
Here is a look at all the vital information for when and where to catch the tournament, the TV schedule and a more detailed analysis of some of the premier groups to watch during the first two rounds.
Note: Statistics and video are courtesy of PGATour.com unless otherwise indicated.
When: Thursday, May 29 through Sunday, June 1
Where: Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio
Tee Times: For a complete list of tee times for the first two rounds, visit PGATour.com.
Purse: $6,200,000; Winner's Share: $1,116,000
FedEx Cup Points: 500
|Thursday, May 29||2:30-6:30 p.m.||Golf Channel|
|Friday, May 30||2:30-6:30 p.m.||Golf Channel|
|Saturday, May 31||1-2:30 p.m., 3-6 p.m.||Golf Channel, CBS|
|Sunday, June 1||1-2 p.m., 2:30-6 p.m.||Golf Channel, CBS|
Analyzing Marquee Groups
Adam Scott, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy
Australian compatriots Scott and Day have gotten to know each other well on some of golf's grandest stages. They were Presidents Cup teammates this past October at Muirfield Village, and both were in contention at the 2011 and 2013 Masters, the latter of which Scott won.
Scott cemented his status as the planet's top-ranked player by winning last week. Now, he travels to a tournament that's seen him record two top-five finishes in 2004 and 2005 but hasn't been as kind since.
This venue happens to be Day's home course, so he should garner plenty of support from the local galleries in pursuit of his third PGA Tour victory. A thumb injury hampered his hot start to the 2013-14 campaign, but this is an ideal event for Day to thrive.
Golf Channel's Todd Lewis provided an update on Day's troublesome digit:
Then there's McIlroy, who has been nothing short of remarkable as of late, per Kyle Porter of CBSSports.com:
Rory's 10 stroke-play finishes on European/PGA Tours this season: T6 T2 T9 T2 T25 T7 T8 T8 T6 1 Decent.— Kyle Porter (@KylePorterCBS) May 27, 2014
McIlroy has had mixed Memorial results, but arguably no one other than Scott is playing better from tee to green. One key that led McIlroy to victory at the BMW PGA Championship was a tidier short game, which McIlroy attributed to a new Nike VR X3X Toe Sweep wedge in the bag, per Golf Digest's E. Michael Johnson:
The Toe Sweep is something I've been messing around with for a while and I felt like last week was a good time to put it in play. The one thing I really like about it is how well it goes through the rough. Some of those shots on the way in Sunday were key up and downs. The chip-in on 10 and the flop shot that I played on 14, those two were out of the rough. The way the club is designed it feels that it slides through that longer grass really easily and the ball comes out that much better for me. If there was one area of my game that I needed to improve this year it was probably scrambling, and this wedge helped a lot this week with that.
The wedge is of the 59-degree variety, which gives it more loft than a standard sand wedge (56) but offers just a little more release than the usual lob wedge (60). Apparently, that happy medium helped McIlroy regain his touch around the greens—something that's been lacking all season, as evident in his rank of 174th in scrambling.
Making birdies in bunches has been no issue for McIlroy; he ranks first in birdie average and birdie or better conversion percentage. As long as he continues to stay composed after calling off his engagement to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, he should be in for another strong week.
Matt Kuchar, Justin Rose and Steve Stricker
Never say never to Kuchar. He's a fixture on leaderboards just about every time he's on the links, with a methodical, smart approach to the game that bodes well for Muirfield Village's shot-maker's course.
The fit for his strong all-around game and what the Memorial demands culminated in Kuchar's coronation as champion last year. PGA Tour Media alluded to the crazy consistency Kuchar has displayed over the past several seasons:
That's pretty good. It has also led to Kuchar's designation as one of the best players never to have won a major. Since Kuchar is coming off a missed cut at the Crowne Plaza Invitational, he needs a positive jolt before the U.S. Open.
Speaking of which, Rose broke through for his maiden major at Merion last season. Prior to a top 25 in the BMW PGA Championship last week, he'd placed eighth or better in each of his last three starts on the PGA, with the latter of those two being top-five efforts.
Stricker, 47, continues to voluntarily limit his schedule toward the end of his career, but he tied for 13th at The Players Championship the last time he was seen in action. Keep him in mind as a dark horse at the Memorial based on that finish, where he was under par for all four rounds.
Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth and Bill Haas
Perhaps no one is need of a redemptive outing more than Mickelson. A nightmarish season has seen Lefty fail to record a top 10, leaving him reeling before his latest attempt to complete the career Grand Slam.
Mickelson posted an opening round of 79 at the 2012 Memorial and withdrew thereafter. Then, he didn't play here the following time. None of that bodes well for his chances to get his maligned game back on track coming off missed cuts in two of his last three starts.
Just like Scott and Day, though, "Phil the Thrill" partook in the 2013 Presidents Cup and has fed off of young hot shots such as Anthony Kim and Keegan Bradley in international competition before. Perhaps the 20-year-old Spieth can provide a similar spark despite his less dramatic antics.
Although he stumbled down the stretch at Colonial, Spieth still managed a tie for 14th. Heartbreaking close calls at the Masters and The Players could have had him bordering on legendary status already. As a result, he will field criticism until he adds more than one tour win to his resume.
Who will fare best at the 2014 Memorial Tournament?
A ghastly third-round 82 in his Memorial debut dashed any hopes Spieth had of recording a strong finish in what was an overall spectacular explosion onto the scene as the reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. The bigger the prize, the better Spieth can rise to the occasion, it seems, so the Memorial may mark another massive step in Spieth's promising progression.
In the 15 of 16 cuts he's made this season, 2011 FedEx Cup champion Haas has recorded 10 top 25s but just two top 10s. That comes off an impressive prior year that saw him log nine top 10s and further establish himself as one of the game's best.
But Haas still doesn't have a top 10 in a major, making his preparation for Pinehurst No. 2 this week at the Memorial all the more critical. You can count on Haas being fired up to get back to Muirfield Village based on the fact that he led after 36 holes at the previous Memorial before fading to joint fourth on the weekend with scores of 76 and 71.
American golf would benefit greatly from any of these three players doing well. Mickelson is a fan favorite everywhere and needs to mount a charge ahead of the U.S. Open. Spieth can get even higher in the world golf hierarchy by emerging with the trophy.
Both of them are worthy of challenging Scott for the top ranking before season's end, but based on McIlroy's surge, it could become a two-player race for that distinction, perhaps along with Bubba Watson. That subplot adds to the drama bound to unfold at the 2014 Memorial Tournament.
The margin of victory at the Memorial has not been more than three strokes since 2005, so bet on a tight finish on the back nine in the final round.