Expert Picks for the Memorial Tournament
There is a reason so many of today's top players hit the course that serves as host for the Memorial Tournament. This is the product of a vision by the great Jack Nicklaus, a course built by the world's best that will challenge the world's best. It is consistently found among the top-ranked courses in the world, it is consistently found on the PGA Tour schedule marked with one of the best non-major fields of the season, and it provides a unique challenge normally bested only by the game's most prolific talents. The land on which Muirfield Village Golf Club was built was acquired in 1966, a site measuring 220 acres. The course was dedicated on Memorial Day (May 27, 1974) and was commemorated by an exhibition match between Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf. The Golden Bear put a six-under par 66 on the board that day, a score that stood as the course record for the next five years. Today he serves as the official host of the tourney with two Memorial trophies (1977, 1984) on the mantle. Other former winners include Tom Watson (two-time winner, in 1979 and a miracle win in 1996, nearly 20 years later), Raymond Floyd, Hale Irwin (another two-time winner), Curtis Strange, Greg Norman (another two-time winner), Kenny Perry (a four-time winner, the first three in 1991 and the most recent in 2008), Fred Couples, Tiger Woods (a three-time winner, all in consecutive fashion from 1999 to 2001), Jim Furyk, Ernie Els, KJ Choi, and defending champ Justin Rose. Last season Golf Digest ranked Muirfield as #16 on their prestigious list of America's 100 Greatest Courses. The tracks are lined with a total of 77 bunkers with 11 of the 18 holes including water hazards. Many of the low scores produced in recent seasons have been posted by golfers that can mix great length with accuracy. The course can offer some of the lower scores we'll see on the Tour this season, and this year's field is sure test those bounds once more.
Luke Donald [Yahoo Class B] - World Ranking: #88
He comes fresh off the win at the European PGA Championship, he has been outstanding all season long, and there are few who can compete on any course in the world right now. Donald has rarely fallen out of the top ten in PGA Tour stops this season, but this week, anything less than a win might disappoint.
Matt Kuchar [Yahoo Class C] - World Ranking: #20
Kuchar has secretly enjoyed life as one of the elite American golfers on the scene over the last two seasons, but it is his resume at the Memorial that draws us to believe he can compete with the hottest golfer on the planet (Luke Donald) today. The kid has been a force at this tourney and his play this year suggests he will be again in 2011.
Rory McIlroy [Yahoo Class B] - World Ranking: #4
McIlroy has been wildly inconsistent for most of his career to date, but the top levels of his ability with the golf club, matched with his performance on this track last season, can't be ignored. He has been on target for wins on the Tour this season, and in efforts to be there when it happens, we would prefer to gamble his way on this particular track.
Jim Furyk [Yahoo Class B] - World Ranking: #23
Furyk is a former winner at the Memorial, he's a persistent member of the upper reaches of final leaderboards, and he easily ranks as one of the more reliable options for fantasy rosters at this particular event. There's no doubting his ability or history. It is simply a question if others can play better.
Steve Stricker [Yahoo Class C] - World Ranking: #85
We're taking a risk based on Stricker's body of work this season. He is Ranked as one of our most disappointing commodities thus far, but his resume at Muirfield is very difficult to ignore. Even when times have been bad during his career, Stricker has found the Memorial to be a safe haven to recover. We like his chances to surprise with another rebound this week.
K.J. Choi [Yahoo Class C] - World Ranking: #108
Choi has been so impressive over recent starts that his formidable record of performance at the Memorial becomes so much more alluring. This is one of the best spots to reach for the Korean vet as he is persistent in chase of the win at this event. Ponder that as you view his recent work on the Tour and you'll understand why this may be the time to jump onboard.
Phil Mickelson [Yahoo Class A] - World Ranking: #13
Mickelson should be ranked higher, sitting as the top American in the World Golf Rankings during a time when the Europeans are taking control. However, his record at Muirfield leaves plenty of room for doubt and, with so many options of momentum and experience available for hire, we can't justify a place for Mickelson that suggests he is an option of fantasy value.
Watney has yet to break through as we hoped he would in terms of solidifying respect among the best in the world, but he is knocking on that door and his work at the Memorial has played a significant role in his career maturation. You'll note his persistence in pushing the game's elite on top historical tracks and suddenly you'll want him on your roster for this week.
Bubba Watson [Yahoo Class A] - World Ranking: #6
Watson lacks the history we yearn for in selecting candidates for our own roster, but he's been so good over the last two years that a place outside of the top ten seems foolish. He's managed to post low scores at several courses he has failed at in the past. We wouldn't be surprised at all if he does it again this week at Muirfield.
Justin Rose [Yahoo Class B] - World Ranking: #12
The defending champ should likely be ranked higher, but Rose has left us wanting more on several occasions this season and we find a stout field loaded with options we prefer this time around. You cannot deny Rose has the knowledge and game to put low scores on this track but we wonder if he has the heart and focus to compete with the likes of those named above this season.
He has struggled with ups and downs on this course during his career, but talent alone gets Mahan on the short list regardless of the event or host. We've seen Mahan reward those who are loyal with top performances against similar fields, but the lack of comfort he seems to have on this particular course leads to questions that might be answered with better options.
Rickie Fowler [Yahoo Class A] - World Ranking: #8
The danger with Fowler, as always, is his age. He hasn't played long enough to build history on any PGA track, but on these links last season, Fowler was in the hunt and fell just short despite his age. The field is strong again this season and if he can show and prove once again, we'll have him lined up for a spot in the top five in 2012.