When predicting The Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance, several factors play into the winning formula. First, and foremost, the strength of the field has to be the number one consideration. The field is somewhat small by today’s standards, but host, Jack Nicklaus has invited 120 of the best players on the planet to his annual event at the Muirfield Village Golf Course in Dublin, Ohio.
Seven of the top ten players in FedEx Cup rankings are in the field which includes 76 PGA Tour winners, 18 major champions, and 16 World Golf Championship winners. Both winners from last weeks tournaments will be teeing it up on Thursday for a share of the $6.2 Million Dollar purse, and the 500 FedEx Cup points awarded to the winner.
Most of the top players from the European Tour who played last week at Wentworth will be in the field at Jack’s Place, and you wonder if they will have any gas left in the tank after the travel, and time changes.
European Tour players are accustomed to hopping around the globe to play golf, so I wouldn’t count out a winner who played in Virginia Water last weekend.
The American players had two swings at Muirfield Village last year with the 2013 Presidents Cup being contested there, but there has been changes to the course due to one of the harshest winters in recent history this year. I don’t see this being a huge factor in determining a winner this year.
I liked what I saw from Luke Donald last week where he finished tied for third at the BMW Championship. His added distance has been a factor all year, and with four top tens in his last eight starts worldwide, all he needs now is a win. Donald has always had an impeccable short game, now with the added distance, he becomes a favorite anywhere he tees it up, including the majors. He has finished in the top 25 in his last five starts at Muirfield Village.
The big difference between Adam Scott winning, and Adam Scott finishing mid-pack, is his putter. Last week at Colonial, flirting with the cut line after the first round, he was able to get the broom-stick working to his advantage. If his putter continues to stay hot, the new World’s number one can be unbeatable. Scott has made 7 of 8 cuts at Muirfield, and finished T 13 here last year.
The big question on everyone’s lips this week, was Rory McIlroy’s win at Wentworth a fluke, or has the 24 year-old Ulstermen turned the corner on his game? Can he maintain the swagger we saw last week, and more importantly, can his putter continue to perform? If Rory can continue to put his girlfriend problems behind him, and dedicate himself to his golf-game, I think he can become unbeatable. Rory hits the ball as high as anyone on tour, and that will be a big asset considering the smallish greens at Muirfield Village. McIlroy has had a season filled with top ten finishes, and was able to put the stamp on it last week with the big come-from-behind win at Wentworth.
Most of the experts are saying Matt Kuchar’s missed cut last week at Colonial was a chance for the defending champ to get some rest before defending his 2013 title at Muirfield. I tend to agree. At a golf course where there is a premium for hitting fairways and greens, The Kuch has to be a solid favorite to become the first repeat winner since Tiger Woods did it three times in a row from 1999 thru 2001.
The Muirfield Village golf course is a place where a grinder like Jim Furyk can shine. Furyk is third in all-time earnings at the Memorial, and has an excellent record at Jack’s Place, including a win in 2002. Furyk has been in top 20 in his last six starts on the tour including a heartbreak at Sawgrass, and has 13 top 20 finishes here in his last 18 starts.