Expectations are high, and time is running out.
Those eight words could apply to many elite players this week in Dublin, Ohio for the 46th edition of Jack Nicklaus‘ legacy tournament, the Memorial. One of the most coveted titles of the entire PGA Tour season has wanna-be winners swarming around a vision of Jack handing them the trophy on Sunday that it’s hard to imagine this won’t be a fight to the finish.
Justin Thomas will be playing for the first time since the Masters, where he re-injured his wrist, originally hurt a month earlier at The Honda. Now ranked No. 6 in the world, the 26-year old Kentucky native won eight times the past two seasons, but has yet to hoist a trophy in 2019. With the calendar flipping to June, and two majors in the books, time is running out for Thomas to live up to pre-season expectations.
Much of the focus will also be on Thomas’ good buddy, Jordan Spieth, who enters Muirfield with lower expectations, but plenty of questions, despite posting his best two finishes of the season (T2 and T8).
In all, six of the world’s top-10 will be at Muirfield this week, headlined by Masters winner Tiger Woods, who cracked the world top-5 for the first time since 2014.
Here’s even more to get you ready for this week’s big event in the Buckeye State.
Tournament: The Memorial Tournament
Dates: May 30-June 2, 2019
Where: Dublin, Ohio
Course: Muirfield Village Golf Club
Distance: Par 72, 7,392 yards
Architect: Jack Nicklaus/Desmond Muirhead
Format: 72-holes, stroke play, 36-hole cut
Winning Share: $1,638,000
Defending Champion: Bryson DeChambeau
Top-10 Betting Favorites: Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Patrick Cantlay, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose, Justin Thomas, Matt Kuchar, Rickie Fowler, Gary Woodland, Hideki Matsuyama.
TV & Online
Round 1: Th 02:30-6:30 pm (GOLF)
Round 2: Fr 02:30-6:30 pm (GOLF)
Round 3: Sa 12:30-2:45 pm (GOLF)
Round 3: Sa 03:00-6:00 pm (CBS)
Round 4: Su 12:00-2:45 pm (GOLF)
Round 4: Su 03:00-6:00 pm (CBS)
It was Masters week 1966 and Jack Nicklaus was five years into a golf career that would one day rival the best in the history of professional sports.
Prior to that tournament, which Nicklaus would win, he spoke candidly about a dream he had. Nicklaus, who had quickly become a branding giant as the biggest name in pro golf, expressed his desire to create his own tournament. He wanted it to be like The Masters, an elite event that would draw eyes from all over the world.
Grateful to an exuberant central Ohio golf community where he grew up and became one of the all-time greats, Nicklaus wanted to bring the prestige of championship golf to them.
That dream would later be realized in the form of Muirfield Village Golf Club, a golf haven built in the Columbus suburb of Dublin that would represent everything Nicklaus adores about the game that made him a legend.
Muirfield would be the host of Jack’s event, a tournament known as tThe Memorial.
In 1976, the first edition of the Memorial teed off, and since then, it has evolved into one of the greatest shows in golf. Today, the Memorial draws a field that rivals any non-major on the PGA Tour. With the passing in recent years of Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson and Arnold Palmer, it is also a bit poignant given the tournament’s focus on honoring the past that it is the one event left that allows today’s players to vie for a title presented by a living legend, with Nicklaus himself presenting the winner’s trophy.
Constructing Muirfield Village with fan viewing foremost in mind, Nicklaus did not just create a golf course, he created the ultimate golf fan experience. Muirfield Village launched a global Jack Nicklaus design empire, as he would go on to put his name and ideas to many of what are now known as the best golf courses in the world, such as Valhalla (Kentucky), Harbour Town (South Carolina), Killeen Castle (Ireland), and Manele (Hawaii).
As for The Memorial Tournament, the inaugural event was held in 1976, with Roger Maltbie taking down Hale Irwin in a playoff. With an even-par champion, Muirfield Village was brutally difficult in that first year, but changes were made as the tournament progressed, and while the course never got anywhere near easy, it became more appropriately challenging, yielding winning scores that were more in line with most of the best tournaments.
Memorial champions have included Nicklaus himself, along with Tom Watson, Raymond Floyd, Hale Irwin, Curtis Strange, Fred Couples, Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods, and Ernie Els.
With five victories, Tiger holds the record for most Memorial titles, with Kenny Perry (three) being the only other golfer with more than Nicklaus (two).
The Memorial’s most famous tradition is the annual honoring of one person who has greatly contributed historically to the game of golf. Previous honorees (chosen by something called the Captains Club) have included Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Patty Berg, Babe Zaharias, Hogan, and Palmer.
Nicklaus was even chosen to be the honoree one year (2000). This year’s honoree is LPGA legend and broadcasting pioneer Judy Rankin.
History: Recent Winners
2018: Bryson DeChambeau (-15)
2017: Jason Dufner (-13)
2016: William McGirt (-15)
2015: David Lingmerth (-15)
2014: Hideki Matsuyama (-13)
2013: Matt Kuchar (-12)
2012: Tiger Woods (-9)
2011: Steve Stricker (-16)
268 (-20) Tom Lehman (1994)
5 – Tiger Woods (1999, 2000, 2001, 2009, 2012)
3 – Kenny Perry (1991, 2003, 2008)
With a 1-under 71 on Sunday, the ostentatious 24-year-old Southern Methodist University product Bryson DeChambeau captured his second career victory.
Coming at the much-beloved event at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio, the win was extra impressive as it was against one of the best fields seen at non-major tournaments.
Despite borderline abysmal play from the tees, DeChambeau was strong enough everywhere else to transmute a small 54-hole lead into a colossal statement.
Joining DeChambeau in the Memorial’s first three-man playoff were two-time Tour winner Kyle Stanley, who birdied Nos. 14, 15, 16, and 17 in regulation, and South Korea’s Byeong Hun An.
Seeking his first career PGA Tour win, An, whose marquee achievement was a six-stroke romp at the European Tour’s flagship event three years ago. After an incredible flop shot by An from a difficult lie on the second playoff hole to miraculously save par, DeChambeau calmly sunk a 12-foot birdie putt to preclude a third extra hole.
Final Top 5
1 Bryson DeChambeau -15
2 Byeong Hun An -15
2 Kyle Stanley -15
4 Patrick Cantlay -14
5 Peter Uihlein -13
The field in Ohio includes seven players ranked in the world top-10, including four in the top-6, led by five-time Memorial winner Tiger Woods.
Woods enters off a missed cut at Bethpage Black, but before that he won his 15th major title at the Masters.
Joining Woods as the field’s marquee players will be Justin Rose (No. 3), Rory McIlroy (No. 4), and Justin Thomas (No. 6).
Rose will tee it up following a disappointing title defense at Colonial where he finished T58 and was never in contention. The 38-year old Englishman won at Torrey Pines earlier this year, but hasn’t been quite as steady as in year’s past, and will enter with finishes of T58-T29-MC in three of his last four starts.
McIlroy won THE PLAYERS, and prior to that was red hot (five straight top-10s including four top-5s), but since that victory at Sawgrass, he’s been good but not great, although it’s all relative in terms of expectations, as three of four have resulted in top-10s (T8-T8-T9) but he was never in contention at either of the first two majors.
Meanwhile, the fourth member of the top-6 is Thomas, who returns from a bum wrist which required several weeks of rest. Thomas entered the 2019 season as the most prodigious winner over the last two seasons (eight titles) but has been shutout thus far in 2019. He has two-straight top-10 finishes (T4 2017, T8 2018) at Muirfield.
The rest of the top-10 include a struggling defending champ in Bryson DeChambeau (three-straight missed-cuts), two-time 2019 season winner Xander Schauffele (No. 9), and the always popular Rickie Fowler (No. 10).
Patrick Cantlay is another top-ranked player to keep an eye on this week in Ohio. The UCLA product owns three top-10s, including two top-3s, in his last three starts – two of which were majors (T3 PGA, T9 Masters). Cantlay is one of three players, along with Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson, to finish in the top-10 in both majors.
Joining Cantlay as a popular pick from outside the top-10 is Jordan Spieth, who enters off two top-10s, yet both are rather deceiving. His T3 at the PGA came by the way of two over-par rounds on the weekend, while his T8 last week at Colonial was after entering the final round tied for second, just two shots behind the leader, before a final-round 2-over par 72 sent him tumbling to T8, eight shots back.
In both instances, Spieth failed to capitalize on good early rounds by playing his weekend rounds to 3-over par in the aggregate (+2, +1, -2, +2).
Jason Day, Tony Finau, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, and Hideki Matsuyama are more familiar names with great potential this week.
Joining Woods (Masters) are several recent Tour winners (April-May), including Kevin Na (Schwab Challenge), Max Homa (Wells Fargo), Sung Kang (Byron Nelson), and Corey Conners (Valero).
Full Field: Odds and Rankings
Joel Cook and Carey Hoffman contributed to this preview.