During the 1966 Masters, Jack Nicklaus first spoke of his desire to host a tournament like the Masters.
So, in the early '70s, Nicklaus went off and began creating Muirfield Village, which is named after the site of his first British Open title (Muirfield, Scotland) and is a half mirrored image of Augusta National (only with right to left holes replacing Augusta’s left-to-right holes because Nicklaus used to play a fade rather than a draw), and half Nicklaus shrine in the middle of his home state of Ohio.
Nicklaus even created a large statue of himself helping a child learn how to play golf on the grounds, which is more or less a golf course designer’s equivalece of hanging a centaur painting in the likeness of himself behind his corner office desk.
In 1976, the first Memorial Tournament opened for business with Nicklaus as the host.
“The Masters”, “The Memorial”, even the name sounded similar. Heck, all that was missing was a green jacket and Nicklaus changing his last name to Jones, and we would have had a second tradition like no other in early June—minus the prestige, strength of field, and major championship label of course.
But The Memorial never evolved into The Masters, no matter how hard Nicklaus tried.
There are basically four tiers of golf tournaments on the PGA Tour.
Tier one consists of the four major championships.
Tier two consists of the Players Championship and the World Golf Championships.
Tier three consists of tournaments such as The Quail Hollow Championship, The Arnold Palmer Invitational, the BMW Championship, and The Memorial.
And tier four consist of all the others, you know, the tournaments where the likes of Blake Adams and Jason Day battle it out for a million dollar pay day with a 16-year-old kid nipping at their heels while Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are home relaxing in their 10,000-square foot mansions.
Although it has been and always will be Nicklaus’ desire to move The Memorial into that exclusive major championship club, it just doesn’t appear to be a reality; at least not any time soon.
The field at The Memorial is strong, but is trumped by the Players Championship and the WGC events. Even the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Wachovia Championship can contain stronger fields depending on the year.
The golf course is always in immaculate condition, but it’s no Augusta National. The closing holes simply lack the excitement that Augusta National and many other courses such as Quail Hollow, Bay Hill, and TPC Sawgrass provide.
Now in fairness, The Memorial Tournament is a strong-fielded event that has survived on the PGA Tour for 34 years, donates a tremendous amount of money to local charities, and hosts free junior clinics each and every year.
But, aside from a made-for-Golf Channel skins game that takes place on Wednesday, there is little that separates The Memorial from every other strong-fielded event on the PGA Tour.
It seems as if Nicklaus has come to terms with this in recent years, which is perhaps something the big wigs at Ponte Vedra Beach can learn from as it pertains to the Players Championship.
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