Memorial Tournament Preview, Picks & Analysis
Post by Sports Writer Derek Clements
YOU know we are reaching the business end of the season when the PGA Tour rolls up to Jack's place for the Memorial Tournament. Muirfield Village, with Jack Nicklaus waiting beside the 18th green to greet the winner on Sunday, is a special place.
Last year it was won by William McGirt, a hitherto journeyman professional whose life and career have been transformed by his success. Many people told McGirt he deserved to be on Tour, but the player himself required convincing and 12 months ago it all came good for him as he defeated Jon Curran in playoff. The tournament was won in 2010 by Justin Rose, in 2011 by Steve Stricker, in 2012 by Tiger Woods, in 2013 by Matt Kuchar, in 2014 by Hideki Matsuyama and in 2015 by Sweden's David Lingmerth, who was as much of a surprise champion as was McGirt.
Kuchar is finally starting to show some form after a poor start to the year. Another former winner, the American is beginning to enjoy the fruits of his labour. He worked hard on his game during the brief off-season, though why he would want to change a technique that turned him into the most consistent player on the PGA Tour is anybody's guess.
After missing the cut at the Shell Houston Open, he finished fourth at The Masters, 11th at the RBC Heritage, 40th at the Valero Texas Open and ninth at the AT&T Byron Nelson. The one blip came at The Players Championship, where a third-round 81 put paid to his chances. Unusually, he has missed four cuts this season, but he already has eight top 25 finishes to his name. Kuchar is one of the straightest hitters in the game. He enjoys courses that require some thought - and Muirfield fits that bill in spades.
Watch out, too, for Dustin Johnson, coming back to his best after injury. The world number one is having the year of his life. On paper, Muirfield should not suit him, but golf is not played on paper and the Dustinator missed out on the playoff 12 months ago by a single shot. The truth is that Johnson can win anywhere on any course. We all know that he hits the ball into the middle of next week but tournament golf is full of guys who smash the ball 320-plus yards. You don't achieve what Johnson has unless you have a whole lot to your game than raw power.
Is there currently a better short-iron player in the game than Johnson? And here's the thing - when you hit the ball as far and as straight as he does, then you are going to get a whole lot of practice with a wedge or a nine iron in your hands. Time after time, he hits it stiff. He has also become one of the best in the business from 10-15 feet.
At the start of the season, it appeared that Matsuyama and Justin Thomas were going to sweep all before them. Of course it couldn't continue, and it hasn't. But they are both class players and Matsuyama will return with plenty of positive thoughts. The Japanese golfer is a huge talent who hits the ball almost as far as Johnson. The difference between the two is that Matsuyama is a streaky putter - when he is good, he is great, but when he is bad, he is awful. Muirfield Village will be set up like a major venue, and that means punishing rough and lightning-fast greens - hardly ideal if you have any concerns about your putting stroke. But Matsuyama is a former winner here and this just might be the week when he gets his season back on track, with the US Open just around the corner.
Sadly, Rory McIlroy has confirmed that he has yet to recover from his rib injury and will spend yet another week on the sidelines. This is already looking like another season to forget for the Northern Irishman
To Win: Dustin Johnson. How can you back anybody else
Each Way: Hideki Matsuyama. Course specialist
Each Way: Louis Oosthuizen. In superb form
Dustin Johnson. Just keeps rolling along
Hideki Matsuyama. Due another big, big week
Louis Oosthuizen. Best swing on the PGA Tour
Jon Rahm. Enjoying a brilliant season
Adam Scott. Looking for something special
Jason Day. Back to form
Rickie Fowler. This course should suit him down to the ground
Justin Thomas. Big hitter who has lost his way a little
Matt Kuchar. As popular a player as there is on tour
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