Els Returns to Defend at Memorial

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Ernie Els is back in the U.S. And there is no place he would rather be. Except maybe Qatar or Dubai or China or Australia or any other international site where he seems to prove victorious over and over and over again.
 
Ernie Els
Ernie Els is in search of his fourth world-wide win of the season, but his first on the PGA Tour.
Els has 15 career PGA Tour wins, including three major championships. Hes won multiple events each of the last three years.
 
But no one wins world wide as does Els.
 
For all his Stateside success, Els is truly a global dominator. He is credited with 41 international victories ' and that doesnt even include his 2002 British Open triumph, which counts in the PGA Tour department. While hes won seven times on the PGA Tour over the last three and a half seasons, hes won twice as much during that same stretch on various other tours.
 
This year, his count is: three wins outside of the U.S., no wins on the inside.
 
It seems like the weather has been better on the European Tour, you know, and I like warm weather, Els said at last weeks BMW Championship. The places where the European Tour has gone, we've had some good weather and I think the golf courses have probably suited me.
 
Whatever the explanation for Ernies scale tipping in international favor, it will be six weeks before he heads back east of the Atlantic.
 
Els will be competing in this weeks Memorial Tournament, where he is the defending champion, and then will be teeing it up the following week at the Booz Allen Classic, which will be contested at Congressional Country Club, site of his 1997 U.S. Open victory.
 
The U.S. Open at Pinehurst is next on Els schedule. Hell then take off two weeks before heading to Scotland for the Barclays Scottish Open, one week prior to the Open Championship at St. Andrews.
 
Once again, Els will be heading to Muirfield Village Golf Club straight from the Wentworth Club in Surrey, England. Els, who owns his primary residence at Wentworth, disappointingly tied for 37th at the BMW Championship, the European Tours flagship event.
 
The result was Els second-worst finish of the year ' on any tour. He finished 47th at the Masters Tournament.
 
Perhaps, in some bizzaro way, thats good news for Els. This will be the third time hes returned to the U.S. after international ventures. On each of the two previous occasions, he won his final international start.
 
Perhaps its time again to win on the PGA Tour.
 
Five for the Title:
 
Ernie Els
Els used a pair of weekend, 6-under 66s to runaway from the field a year ago. He has never missed the cut in 11 career starts here. The victory was his second of the 2004 PGA Tour season, but hes still seeking his first this year. Beginning in 1993, Els has won at least once on tour every year with the exception of 2001. He will be trying to become just the second player to successfully defend his title in the event; which leads us to our No. 2 contender
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods is looking to bounce back from his first missed cut since 1998.
The Memorial might be Jacks tournament, but not even Nicklaus has a record like Woods. Tiger is the only repeat winner in this event, doing so three consecutive years from 1999-01. In fact, over the last six years he has only one finish outside the top-4. He was third a year ago, finishing six back of Els. If anything, Woods should be a safe bet to begin anew his cuts-made streak. The Masters champion had his tour record of 142 events without missing a cut come to an end in his last start at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship.
 
Vijay Singh
Singh isnt quite Tiger-like at Muirfield Village, but hes no slouch either. Singh won the tournament in 1997 and has four top-5 finishes in his last six starts here. He hasnt played since the Byron Nelson, but he has again supplanted Woods atop the Official World Golf Ranking, despite his absence. Woods certainly has the one win that counts most this season, but once again Singh has outplayed him on the whole. Despite playing five more tour events than Woods, Singhs average finish this season is 7.71; Tigers is 13.67. Singh, like Woods, has missed one cut, but unlike Woods, he has yet to finish outside the top 25. He also has only two finishes outside the top-5 since February. That should answer any questions as to who is No. 1.
 
Fred Couples
Players often say of a course, It suits my eye. Well, Muirfield certainly suits the eye of Fred Couples just fine ' at least now it does. Couples missed the cut in this event in three of his first five attempts. Since then, he has four top-4s, including a win in 1998. He was runner-up to Els a year ago, shooting 68 on Sunday, but still coming up four short. The 45-year-old hasnt performed particularly well this season, but he hasnt been awful either. He has made the cut in seven of nine starts and has four top-25s. His lone top-10 came at Bay Hill.
 
Kenny Perry
After dominating the Bank of America Colonial, Perry ' and his corrected eyes ' cooled off considerably at last weeks FedEx St. Jude Classic. But Perry has never had much success at the FedEx. So missing the cut wasnt that much of a surprise, considering he hadnt played there since 1999 and had missed the cut in each of his two previous starts at the TPC at Southwind. On the other hand, Perry has had great success at Muirfield ' just as hes had at Colonial. Perry won the tournament in 1991 and again in 2003 ' the year he also won the Colonial. He tied for sixth last year, giving him three top-10 finishes in his last four trips to Dublin, Ohio.
 
Playing Out the Front Nine
 
Four more players to keep an eye on
 
*Davis Love III, who tied for fourth last week in Memphis. Love has a modest record at Muirfield, making 12 cuts in 14 starts, with four top-10s. But those arent the numbers one might expect from a player of Loves pedigree at this event. Perry is the only player on the champions list over the last 12 years who doesnt have a major title to his credit. Love would fit nicely among that group.
 
*Jim Furyk, who ended Woods three-year reign with his 2002 victory. Furyk didnt compete in this event last year due to his wrist injury. He has never missed the cut here in nine starts and has a fourth-place finish (1998) and a runner-up (1997) to go along with his win.
 
*Mike Weir, who is still in search of his first win since the 2004 Nissan Open. Weir has been playing like a right-hander recently. After tying for fifth at the Masters, he missed the cut at the Wachovia Championship and did the same at Colonial. It was the first time he had missed back-to-back cuts since 1999. He does, however, have a good track record here, having made the cut in all five of his starts. He was third in 2003 and fourth in 2000.
 
*Jack Nicklaus, who will be making his 30th consecutive start in this event. Nicklaus, the tournament host, has played in each and every Memorial Tournament. He won in 1977 and again in 84. Nicklaus hates being considered a ceremonial golfer, but at least here he is semi-competitive. Nicklaus has made the cut in five of the last eight years here, including last year at the age of 64. Sam Snead, at 67 years, 2 months, 21 days, is the oldest player to ever make a cut on tour.
 
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