Tribute season continues on the PGA Tour. After weeks where Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson were given their due the PGA Tour is in Ohio this week at the home of Jack Nicklaus. Nicklaus, of course, is not only highly respected for his playing record but also for his influence in other aspects of the game including golf course design, equipment, and endorsements.
There is a lot for current PGA Tour players to be grateful for and the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance allows for a little reflection on many things.
Only 120 players make up the field at the Memorial, making it a tournament that many players long to get into each year. Winning it just means that much more as Mr. Nicklaus awards you the honour of being the champion at his event.
In 2010 Justin Rose achieved that high standard, and he did so in an impressive fashion. Facing a four-stroke deficit to third round leader Rickie Fowler, he charged to the clubhouse with a 66, the lowest score in the field in the final round and enough to create a three stroke margin of victory. It was his first PGA Tour win and made him only the 2nd European to have won the Memorial, following Carl Pettersson who was the 2006 champion.
Just as it is every year, this is shaping up to be a must-watch tournament with a good number of top players returning to action. On a Tour level there are 8 of the top 10, 25 of the top 30, and 38 of the top 50 players from the current FedEx Cup standings teeing it up in Dublin, Ohio at Muirfield Village.
On a world level that entails six of the top 11 players within the Official World Golf Ranking and nearly half of the top 50.
The contenders will include seven of the last nine champions: Justin Rose, Kenny Perry (2), K.J. Choi, Ernie Els,
Carl Pettersson and Jim Furyk while fifteen players who account for 17 PGA Tour wins in 2011 will also take a shot at Jack’s tournament. Those players alone would make for a pretty good field since they are led by none other than new World #1 Luke Donald who was not in the field last year.
Try as they will to have Muirfield Village in top shape, it is sure to be soft after a very wet spring in Ohio. With that being the case expects scores to be as low as last year when Rose’s tally of -18 took the title. You might even see the winner fire four rounds in the 60’s, a feat that has not been accomplished since Bart Bryant did it in his 2005 victory (69-69-66-68). Rickie Fowler and Tim Petrovic had opportunities to accomplish that going into the final round in 2010, but Fowler shot a 73 and Petrovic a 74. Four rounds in the 60s has only been accomplished eight times in Memorial.
This year’s winner will have to make a good share of birdies and for that reason I have am going with Bo Van Pelt as my pick for the win. Van Pelt is not afraid to go deep and is coming off a week of rest after taking 3rd at Colonial with a final round of 65. He tied for 3rd place at the Memorial in 2010 and is riding a streak of three straight tournament rounds in the 60’s at Muirfield Village coming into the week.
Luke Donald is my secondary pick because, frankly, you’d be crazy to bet against him. We’ll see how he carries over the momentum from last week’s BMW PGA Championship victory at Wentworth.
2011 the Memorial Tournament
Dates: May 30- June 5, 2011
Where: Muirfield Village Golf Club, Dublin, OH
Par/Yards: 36-36—72 / 7,366
Defending Champion: Justin Rose
FedExCup Points: 500
Purse: $6,200,000; Winner’s Share: $1,116,000; Format: 72-hole stroke play