Woods and Weir at Home at Memorial
The tournament created by Jack Nicklaus looks a lot like the major championship Nicklaus won a record six times, although Muirfield Village will never be mistaken for Augusta National.
The caddies wear white coveralls.
There are no electronic leaderboards, only scoreboards attached to the trees behind each green.
Tournament committee members wear green jackets.
The course is in immaculate condition, as always, and Nicklaus is constantly tinkering to make it better.
'Jack is just trying to make this a first-class event, just like the Masters,' Weir said. 'You have to putt the ball well here and the premium is on iron play, just like Augusta is.'
That doesn't make Weir the favorite in the Memorial, where he has never finished within seven strokes of the lead.
Tiger Woods returns to the PGA Tour for the first time since the Masters, and he practically owns Muirfield Village. Woods won three straight times, a streak that ended last year when he shot a 66 in the final round to climb into a tie for 22nd.
Weir and Woods share something in common besides a green jacket. Both are playing for only the second time since the Masters.
Woods was in Germany two weeks ago for the Deustche Bank-SAP Open, where he finished nine strokes behind in a tie for 29th, the first time he has finished out of the top 15 in a non-PGA Tour event.
'I feel pretty good because I hit the ball really well in Germany,' Woods said. 'The greens over there weren't like this, so I'm pretty excited to be able to putt on smooth greens again.'
Weir has played only the Wachovia Championship three weeks ago, where he was befuddled by the speed of the greens and finished six strokes behind in a tie for 18th.
Both of them have the U.S. Open on their mind.
'I spent a little time in California with my coach working on my game,' Weir said. 'I have him out here to fine tune a few things and try to prepare for this tournament and get ready for the U.S. Open.'
Woods went one step further, sneaking over to Olympia Fields outside Chicago on Tuesday for a practice round at this year's U.S. Open course.
It will be the first time in his career that Woods has played only twice between the Masters and the U.S. Open, but he's not worried.
'My practice sessions have been pretty good,' he said. 'If my practice sessions haven't been good, then there is a little bit more concern. But the way I struck the ball in Germany, and the way I'm hitting it now, I'm very pleased. I just need to get on some good greens.'
Weir says he might be a little rusty, but he's mentally fresh.
Winning the Masters, the first major championship by a Canadian male, has come with a few distractions. He dropped the opening puck at a Stanley Cup playoff game in Toronto and turned down a request to be on the David Letterman Show.
'I'm ready to start playing again,' Weir said. 'I'm more motivated to do well and make this a real special year. I don't feel any complacency. I want to keep pushing.'
Seven of the top 10 players are at the Memorial, including Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington and defending champion Jim Furyk.
Missing is Davis Love III, who withdrew because of a death in the family. Love is leading the PGA Tour money list by $422,000 over Weir, and Woods is a distant third.
This is new territory for Woods, who has had a comfortable lead this deep in the season every year since 1999.
Don't get the idea he's worried. Woods sees the season as being only four months old, not five months from being over.
'I look at the fact that I've only played in six tournaments,' Woods said. 'That's the positive side. Now I can play more and see how I am after the summer.'
Of greater concern is his driving -- he ranks 47th in driving distance on the PGA Tour, used a TaylorMade driver in the final round at the Deustche Bank.
'That was just an experiment,' he said. 'I just wanted to mix it up a little bit. It's not like I haven't tried anything before at home; I've tried all the different brands. I just wanted to try one in competition.'
'It had a nice flight to it,' he said.
Still, a new Nike prototype was in his bag Wednesday, and Woods said he likes it.
Driving is a big key to winning at the Muirfield Village, which is 7,265 yards and usually plays every bit of that because of rain. Only three times in the last 14 years has a round not been suspended by rain.
'Jack gives us a chance to drive the ball here,' Woods said. 'You have to be pretty precise on your iron shots coming into the green, but he gives you a chance to hit your driver. I think that's one of the reasons you see so many long hitters doing well.'
That's what they say about the Masters.
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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters
Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.
Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.
In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.
Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.
“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”
Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking.
Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup
In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.
Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.
Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.
“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”
McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.
“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
September can’t get here quick enough.
Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.
There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.
In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.
“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”
The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”
Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.
Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.
The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.
The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.
“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.
Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.
After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.
It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.
Tweet of the week:
Welp I didn’t get hit by a ballistic missile today so that’s a plus! #imalive— John Peterson (@JohnPetersonFW) January 14, 2018
It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”
The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.
Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake
Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.
While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.
“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.
Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.
DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi
Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.
“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”
Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).
“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.”
Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.
Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace).
“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”