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Woods Out Phil Back at Memorial

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Memorial Tournament officials held their breath as long as they could last Friday. And then they exhaled with a sigh of not relief, but understanding.
 
Tiger Woods decided to extend his hiatus from competition, meaning there will be nine full weeks between his last tournament, the Masters, and his next possible event, the U.S. Open ' possible being the key word.
 
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson is trying to become the latest major champion to win the Memorial Tournament.
This marks the first time since hes been eligible that Woods has skipped the Memorial, which is hosted by Jack Nicklaus. He won the tournament three straight times, from 1999-2001, and has only once finished outside the top 5 in the last seven years at Muirfield Village Golf Club.
 
But while Woods will be taking off more time to grieve the loss of his father, who died from lung cancer on May 3, the Memorial goes on ' and does so with another impressive field.
 
Seven of the top 10 players in the world are scheduled to compete, including world No. 2 Phil Mickelson.
 
Mickelson is making his first start since the Wachovia Championship four weeks ago. He withdrew from the EDS Byron Nelson Championship and then opted not to compete in the Bank of America Colonial, both of which had before won.
 
This event, however, is one that is missing from Leftys winning resume. One reason is that he hasnt played here since 2002. That year, he earned his best-ever finish at the Memorial, tying for ninth. Its his only top-10 finish in seven career starts.
 
Mickelson may not be able to improve upon that performance this time around, as his mind might not be solely in Dublin, Ohio. Instead, he might be thinking about an event about 600 miles away.
 
Mickelson has been prepping his game for more than a month in anticipation of winning the U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, NY, which would be his third consecutive major victory.
 
If there is good news this week for the reigning Masters and PGA champion, its that the Memorial has been very kind over the years to major champions.
 
The last time Mickelson competed at the Memorial, he wasnt a major winner. Now he is, three times over.
 
A look back on the Memorial winners list shows that 22 of the 30 past champions currently have a major title to their resume.
 
Will Mickelson make it 23-for-31? Perhaps. But here are five others, whose chances we like even more.
 
Fred Couples
Jimin Kang of Aeoul Korea in action during the first round of the McDonald
Fred Couples is trying to avoid another runner-up finish and win his second Memorial title.
If not for Ernie Els brilliance and Bart Bryants amazing recovery skills, Couples would be in search of his third consecutive Memorial title. Instead, hes just trying to win any TOUR event for the first time in over three years. Couples has finished runner-up each of the last two years in this tournament. He looked poised to win a year ago, but a remarkable par save by Bryant on the 72nd hole kept him out of the winners circle. Couples isnt without a victory at Muirfield Village, however, as he won here in 1998. In 17 career starts, he has a total of five top-5 finishes.
 
Vijay Singh
After two weeks off, Singh returns to action. And judging by his most recent results, he needed the break. Singh, who hasnt won this year, and hasnt had a top-10 since the Masters Tournament. For that matter, in three starts since Augusta, he hasnt cracked the top 35 ' and two of those tournaments were title defenses. Its no guarantee that Singh will return to championship form this week, but he does have a fantastic track record at the Memorial. In a seven-year stretch, from 1997-2003, he finished inside the top-5 on five occasions, beginning that run with a win.
 
Stewart Cink
After winning the 2004 WGC-NEC Invitational, it looked like Cinks career was ready to take off, and he was ready to live up to his promise. That, however, has thus far been the pinnacle of his success, and Cink hasnt since won. He needs to get something going ' and soon. Cink is currently outside the top 20 on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list. The normally reliable putter has struggled with his broomstick this year, ranking near the 100 mark on TOUR. This is a good opportunity for him to turn things around before the heart of the major season starts. He finished in the top-10 here from 2001-03.
 
K.J. Choi
As previously stated, major champions have dominated the Memorial winners' list over the years. Two of the last three winners, though, are not major champs, and Choi would like to make it three of four. The South Korean strongman has finished T13-6-T8 over the last three years at Muirfield Village.
 
Rod Pampling
Pampling has played the Memorial four times and has never finished better than a tie for 49th. So why is he on the list of favorites? Because he has had an incredible amount of success at events this season that have a direct connection to one of golfs legends. He won the Bay Hill Invitational, which is hosted by Arnold Palmer. He tied for eighth at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship. And he finished third at the Bank of America Colonial, where the course is nicknamed Hogans Alley. Should we expect anything less than a strong performance at Jacks event?
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Memorial Tournament
  • Woods Delays Return, Skips Memorial