Day 4 Recap
Although Kevin Na and Hideki Matsuyama had just one PGA Tour win combined during their careers, both put together strong final rounds and were the last two golfers remaining Sunday.
After winning in a playoff, Matsuyama came away with his first PGA Tour victory at Muirfield Village. The 22-year-old had five Japan Tour triumphs coming in to the event.
Na and Matsuyama were the two men remaining on an eventful final round, while several notable names struggled to gain ground. Both Watson and Scott remained in contention but couldn't come up with clutch shots when needed to pull off the win.
With the 2014 Memorial tournament complete, here's a look at the final leaderboard and a recap of all the action:
|T1 (playoff winner)||Hideki Matsuyama||-13||64|
A full look at the standings is available at PGATour.com.
After a phenomenal four days of golf, 18 holes on the final round weren't enough.
Coming into the day, Watson was the clear favorite to take the title. But after several sensational rounds from the Masters champion, he was undone by a few poor shots, including a double-bogey on the 15th hole.
Ryan Lavner of the Golf Channel noted Watson's struggles when holding a lead heading into the final day:
Bubba Watson now 2-for-9 when holding at least a share of the 54-hole lead on Tour. Mariano Rivera, he is not.— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) June 1, 2014
While Watson was struggling, Na was simply surging his way through the course.
The 30-year-old, who missed the cut at the Crowne Plaza tournament, found himself atop the leaderboard while in the clubhouse after a huge afternoon. His eight-under 64 was the best round on the day and helped him climb 19 spots to playing for the win against Matsuyama.
The PGA Tour's official Twitter account and Golf Digest mentioned the South Korean's dominant round:
Clubhouse leader Kevin Na (-13) made a big move with his bogey-free round of 64 at Muirfield Village. He's T-2, one behind Matsuyama.— Golf Digest (@GolfDigestMag) June 1, 2014
Na may have put together the best round of the day through the first 18 holes, but it was Matsuyama who emerged victorious. The 22-year-old had a more modest three-under day in regulation but came away with a clutch shot in the playoff to clinch the victory.
After staking his claim on the Japan Tour, Matsuyama officially has his first win in America. Not only did the Japanese player take down Watson to reach the playoff, but his calm under pressure proved he might someone to watch moving forward.
One notable statistic for Matsuyama was his control over the 18th hole, one that Jack Nicklaus observed (via Golf Digest):
Matsuyama not only has a win on the tour but also has a weight off his shoulders. Though his dominance translated well in the Japan Tour, he hadn't yet seen similar success on the main circuit.
Greg Norman personally believes this will be just the start of a great career on the PGA Tour:
With the 2014 Memorial coming to a close, several of golf's most notable contenders will be looking to rebound in the coming weeks. Neither Watson nor Scott were competing at the end of the day for a win, but several strong rounds should give both confidence moving forward.
Day 3 Recap
Paul Casey came into the day with a three-stroke lead, but his struggles opened things up for Bubba Watson to take the lead going into the final day at the Memorial Tournament.
Scott Langley, Hideki Matsuyama and Adam Scott each had impressive days to shoot up the leaderboards and remain in contention with 18 holes left.
There are still a number of players capable of winning this event, but here is a look at the top 10 through the first three rounds at Muirfield Village Golf Course.
A full look at the standings is available at PGATour.com.
Watson is known for his inconsistent play, but he had an impressive stretch right from the start. After a par on the first hole, he then birdied five of his next six holes. Every part of his game was working as he was able to take the lead:
Although he slowed down a bit from there, he was still able to end the day with the lead. Kelly Tilghman of Golf Channel provided some insight as to why Watson was playing so well:
Jack's design of Muirfield Village GC inspired by Augusta National. No surprise to see 2x Masters champ Bubba Watson leading there.— Kelly Tilghman (@KellyTilghmanGC) May 31, 2014
Casey did not have quite as much success after back-to-back rounds of 66 in the first two days. After hitting par on the front nine, he fell apart with three bogeys in four holes to start the second half of his day.
He seemed to settle down, but a double bogey on 18 led to a final score of 76 to cap a miserable day.
Langley had one of the best days of anyone to get himself near the lead, finishing with a 67. He avoided mistakes and had four of his five birdies on the back nine to put himself in the final group on Sunday.
Scott was not near the top of the leaderboard through two rounds, but he was playing just well enough to remain in the hunt heading into the weekend. He finished with a 68 to get to nine strokes under par.
As Doug Ferguson of The Associated Press noted, Scott's consistency helped on that front:
Adam Scott now tied for 2nd, two shots out of the lead. It helps going 28 straight holes without a bogey.— Doug Ferguson (@dougferguson405) May 31, 2014
He ended up getting a bogey on No. 18, but he remains in striking distance going into Sunday. It will certainly be easier if he can keep making shots like this:
Meanwhile, the young Matsuyama continued to impress with his third round in a row under par. Justin Ray of Golf Channel notes that he has fared extremely well on Saturdays so far this year:
Matsuyama loves moving day. Hideki has shot par or better in all nine of his prev. 3rd rounds on @PGATOUR this season (combined -17).— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) May 31, 2014
These players clearly have the best chance to come through with a win, but fans should not count out Charl Schwartzel, Jordan Spieth or others that sit at eight strokes under par.
Additionally, Rory McIlroy always remains someone to watch after posting a 69. This came on the heels of his 78 in Round 2 and three bogeys in his first six holes on Saturday, but he recovered to get back to tied for 14th.
If he can avoid getting into trouble, he has a chance to catch Watson and the rest of the top contenders on the final day of the Memorial Tournament.
Day 2 Recap
Paul Casey followed up his opening round of 66 with another 66 on Day 2, securing the 36-hole lead at the Memorial Tournament with a score of 12 strokes under par.
Bubba Watson had an up-and-down day to remain in contention, while Chris Kirk, Hideki Matsuyama and Martin Flores also remain in the hunt. Here is a look at the top of the leaderboard through two rounds in Muirfield:
A full look at the standings is available at PGATour.com.
Rory McIlroy came into the day with a three-stroke lead, but things went south fast for the talented player, as noted by the Sporting News:
He bogeyed his opening hole starting on No. 10, and then after a birdie on No. 12, he suffered through three double bogeys in a row. Holes like this seemed to define his day:
McIlroy finished the day with a 78, putting him in a tie for 25th place at three strokes under par.
Casey did not face the same problems, totaling six birdies and an eagle to go with only two bogeys. He reached green in regulation in over 80 percent of his holes thanks to his impressive accuracy off the tee.
As Justin Ray of Golf Channel notes, this is the best start to a tournament in the veteran's career:
Paul Casey to -10, leads by 3. Casey's best 36-hole score to par on @PGATOUR (144th start) is -10, at the '02 Honda Classic.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) May 30, 2014
Of course, this event is not a runaway thanks to the impressive play of Watson. While the lefty remains his usual wild self with five bogeys, he made up for it with six birdies and an eagle. This incredible approach on No. 15 helped him get the eagle on a par-five:
If Watson can find some sort of consistency, he could easily challenge for his third tournament title of the year. Then again, this is a lot to hope for with one of the most unique players on tour.
Also in contention are Kirk, Matsuyama and Flores, three players who combined for just four holes over par in the second round. Meanwhile, it is also never a good idea to count out players like Adam Scott, Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson who are a few strokes off the lead.
In reality, anyone who remained in the tournament ahead of the cut of even par has a chance to make a run in the final two days.
Casey remains the favorite going forward, but there will be plenty of challengers in the last 36 holes.
Day 1 Recap
The single life is treating Rory McIlroy's golf game just fine, thank you very much. A week after roaring back from a seven-stroke Sunday deficit to take the BMW PGA Championship, McIlroy carded a nine-under 63 to give himself a three-stroke cushion over the field.
The sixth-ranked Northern Irishman dominated Muirfield's par-fives, carding two eagles and a birdie to play the holes at five under. Every facet of McIlroy's game was in peak form. He hit better than 70 percent of his fairways and greens in regulation, and his putter worked all afternoon.
Rory. 9 under 63. Love stinks.— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) May 29, 2014
McIlroy's only blip on the radar was a frustrating double bogey on the par-four 14th. But he followed that with an eagle one hole later and finished off his round in fine form to shoot 31 on the back nine.
“At the golf course I’m at a good point,” McIlroy told reporters coming into Thursday's first round. “(Winning) gives me confidence knowing my game is holding up under pressure when it matters.”
Paul Casey, Bubba Watson and Chris Kirk each carded six-under 66s to tie for second place after the first 18 holes.
Watson has played in just one PGA event since winning the Masters, a tie for 48th at The Players Championship. It's been interesting to see how the win at Augusta affects Watson's trajectory at Muirfield this week. Though it started out promising in Round 1, Watson has finished no higher than a tie for 23rd in his eight previous cracks at the Nicklaus-designed venue.
On the back nine, Watson started his day with birdies on two of his first four holes and went four under on the day with an eagle at No. 15. But back-to-back bogeys after that eagle followed by a string of pars made it seem as though Watson's Memorial woes were rearing their head. Four birdies in his last five holes later, including three straight to cap it off, instead have him right in the thick of things.
"I love this place," he told reporters. "Coming back here, it's one of the places that you always see a great field, a good golf course. For me, I love the look of it. I don't think I've ever played very well here, but I love coming back and challenging myself.
Overall, the course played easier than expected. The wind conditions were optimal, there was no inclement weather in the area, and most top names took advantage to card low scores. Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott are both hanging in 11th place at three under, Phil Mickelson was inching toward the leaderboard until he collapsed down the stretch for a 72, and Ernie Els finished at two under.
Looking at the scope of the field, it seems McIlroy is going to have a gaggle of Americans headed his way. Sixteen of the top 20 players in the field are from the United States, including eight of the first 10.
I guess home-field (or home-country) advantage doesn't only apply to team sports. If McIlroy continues playing the way he did Thursday, though, it wouldn't matter if he were from Mars; he'd be taking home the Memorial.
Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.