2023 Memorial Tournament Preview, Picks & Analysis
MUCH is made of The Players Championship being golf’s fifth major, but if ever there was a course that was made to host the US Open it is Muirfield Village, the venue for this week’s Memorial Tournament, hosted by Jack Nicklaus.
Billy Horschel will return to defend a title he won in some style 12 months ago, a huge eagle putt at the 15th setting him on his way to a four-shot success.
He began the day leading by five and closed with an even-par 72 on one of the most difficult courses the PGA Tour visits every year.
He has made no secret of his desire to secure a place in Zach Johnson’s Ryder Cup team and a successful defence of this title would go a long way to helping him achieve that ambition.
Horschel's streak of 49 consecutive holes without a bogey ended on the sixth hole. He didn't make his first birdie until the 10th hole. He had to scramble for bogey on the par-3 12th that saw his lead to two over Aaron Wise.
Before that long eagle putt, Horschel saved himself with par putts of 12 feet on the 13th hole and eight feet on the 14th.
And then it was over. From the front of the green on the par-5 15th, Horschel's putt from just inside 55 feet had the perfect line and perfect speed, bending left and dropping in the left side of the cup as he stretched out both arms in a quiet, disbelieving celebration.
“Just like you, big man,” Horschel said to tournament host Jack Nicklaus when it was over. His lead was four shots, and it was a comfortable finish. Horschel finished at 13-under 275 and won $2.16 million. As an elevated event, the win came with a three-year PGA Tour exemption.
Horschel said he has learned from Tiger Woods and Nicklaus that he didn't need to do anything special with a five-shot lead unless the moment called for it. It was calling on the 15th hole after Wise stuffed a wedge into two feet for birdie.
“If I had to do something special, I was ready for it,” he said. “Making that was huge.”
If Horschel is to win again then he is going to have to beat a world-class field led by Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, two-time champion Patrick Cantlay, Viktor Hovland and Xander Schauffele. It is a field worthy of a major.
Muirfield Village rewards straight driving so it should be made to measure for Hovland, who was on course to win his first major at Oak Hill until a late double-bogey in the final round.
Hovland finished joint runner-up to Brooks Koepka and was clearly bitterly disappointed to miss out. He is a wonderful ball striker with a fabulous temperament and a game that is made for difficult courses - and they don’t come much harder than this.
Questions have been asked about his short game but nobody could achieve everything he has in our sport without a world-class short game. He did realise that his chipping was not in the same class as many of his rivals and he has worked tirelessly to put that right.
It is only a matter of time before he lands that elusive maiden major, and he is due another victory on the PGA Tour. This could be his week.
Scheffler continues to impress every time he tees it up and reclaimed the top spot in the world rankings from Rahm after finishing joint second at the PGA. Like Hovland, Scheffler thrives on challenging courses and has a wonderful temperament. He is able to deal with whatever this infuriating game throws at him and consistently bounces straight back.
It would be a huge surprise if he were not to contend this week.
McIlroy dosen’t have a great recored here. The bottom line is that if you don’t find fairways - and lots of them - it is impossible to score well at Muirfield Village. And the Northern Irishman has struggled with his driving for much of this season. He leads the driving distance stats with an average of 326.2 yards but hits just 49.49% of fairways, which leaves him in 192nd place in the standings. And if he repeats that sort of performance this week he will struggle to make the cut.
It was won in 2015 by David Lingmerth, in 2016 by William McGirt, in 2017 by Jason Dufner, in 2018 by Bryson DeChambeau, in 2019 and 2021 by Patrick Cantlay, in 2020 by Jon Rahm and last year by Billy Horschel.
Muirfield Village was designed by Jack Nicklaus and provides one of the toughest tests on the PGA Tour every year. With the US Open just around the corner it gets the world’s best players in the right mindset. It opened in 1974, measures 7,553 yards and is a par 72. Accuracy is essential as the rough is punishing and the greens are extremely fast. After the tournament in 2020 the course was extensively renovated, with every green rebuilt and bunkers enlarged and deepened. Nicklaus described it as “his final bite at the apple”.
Viktor Hovland. Muirfield Village is made for him
Scottie Scheffler. Brilliant consistency
Jon Rahm. Looking to get back on track after Oak Hill
Five to Follow:
Viktor Hovland. Wonderful temperamant
Scottie Scheffler. Has every shot in the book
Jon Rahm. Determined to reclaim world No1 spot
Patrick Cantlay. A course specialist
Xander Schauffele. Due a big week
Five Outsiders to Watch:
Lucas Herbert. Australian who tends to go under the radar
Kurt Kitayama. Underrated American
Matt Wallace. Enjoying an excellent season
Scott Stallings. In need of a decent performance or two
Christiaan Bezuidenhout. Will surely make the breakthrough at some point
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