After a lengthy run through Texas the PGA Tour emerges in Ohio this week with a riveting field set to face off at The Memorial Tournament.
Phil Mickelson made a great charge in the last few weeks, closing the gap on the lead of Tiger Woods in the Official World Golf Rankings, and accordingly, much attention will fall on the pair this week in Dublin.
This time last year Phil was dealing with family matters and in his absence Tiger shook down the Jack Nicklaus/Desmond Muirhead collaboration for a final round 65 and his 4th tournament title. That included what appeared to be an unprecedented performance by Woods that saw him hit 14 of 14 fairways on the tree-lined layout. (He had actually last hit the stat in 2003 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational) It was the first win in the tournament for him since his three year consecutive winning streak from 1999 through 2001.
Whether he can transform his driving from the poor display he had at Quail Hollow back to 2009 Memorial-like numbers is hard to fathom but the man who still holds World’s #1 ranking said in a press conference Wednesday prior to the Memorial Skins Game that he is ready to go.
“Life is moving forward. The last 6 months were pretty tough,” admitted Woods who looked relaxed, mixing in several self-effacing jokes with the media corps. “I’m now starting to get into a routine of playing.”
That included 54 holes in a single day over the weekend at Isleworth alongside Arjun Atwal. “We played in carts..and fast.”
As for two of Tiger’s latest issues – his coaching separation and his neck injury Tiger revealed little on Wednesday other than that he has no plan of a replacement coach right now and he will continue to work with videotape to re-establish his swing. He is obviously still recovering form the neck injury, challenging one media member that he did not have to tell him how good or bad the neck currently is but asserted, “I’m good enough to play.”
With the U.S. Open on the horizon Tiger has his eyes on his 15th major win and the conditions at Muirfield Village, announced Wednesday as the host for the 2013 Presidents Cup, will provide great preparation. “It will be nice to get four rounds, get in contention and win this thing. I would like to see where my game is at going into the Open.”
And so will the rest of the field, many will be tangling with Woods at Pebble Beach later this month.
That includes a number of players that should garner close attention this week. Among them will be Rory McIlroy definite contender considering his win on a similar layout at the Quail Hollow Championship. It will be his first start at The Memorial so that might be the mark against him earning his 2nd PGA Tour win this week.
Only 2nd to Tiger in wins at The Memorial is Kenny Perry who returns for his 22nd appearance. In those showing he has 3 wins and 6 top-tens among his tally. He has made the cut in his last 16 trips to Muirfield Village.
The winner this week will have to be out on a favorites list for the U.S. Open in a few weeks. They will also have the luxury of earning just over $1,000,000 for the win – just enough to get them a nice room at The Lodge when they head to the Monterey Peninsula.
With many of the top players and the 2010 winners in the field this week, it should be a nice run to Sunday to see who can add a Gray Jacket to their wardrobe and a much-cherished tour title to their resume.