Tiger Woods skipped the Memorial last year in the wake of his father's death, but will return to play this year -- his first start in three weeks.
Woods, who hasn't played since he tied for 37th place at THE PLAYERS Championship, has won three of his seven PGA TOUR starts this season.
He is the all-time money leader in the tournament's 30-year history with more than $2.67 million in earnings, boosted by his three consecutive wins from 1999-2001.
Including the top-ranked Woods, 15 of the top 20 players in the world will be at Muirfield. One of the players missing from the field is new No. 14 Rory Sabbatini, who beat Jim Furyk and Bernhard Langer at Colonial on Sunday.
Last year, Carl Pettersson closed with a 1-under 71 -- his first round in the 70s all week -- to beat Zach Johnson and Brett Wetterich for his second PGA TOUR title.
The win qualified Pettersson for last year's U.S. and British Opens.
For the second year in a row Nicklaus won't be appearing in his own tournament, but to see the rest of the players check out the GOLF CHANNEL on Thursday and Friday and CBS on the weekend.
Next week is the St. Jude Classic, the last event before the U.S. Open at Oakmont. Jeff Maggert won last year's St. Jude.
Here are this week's favorites at Muirfield Village:
Amazingly, its been six years since Tiger last won the Memorial. His 2001 victory was his third in a row at Muirfield and, like at a few other venues, it appeared that he might never lose again at this particular site. But while Woods hasnt won here since 01, its not as if hes been stinking up the joint. Over his last three Memorial starts, Woods has finished no worse than tied for fourth. He didnt play here last year while mourning the loss of his father, Earl. Woods has played in six stroke-play events this year, but hes won every other start. He tied for 37th in his last appearance at THE PLAYERS, which means he may be due for another triumph this week.
You should hear plenty this week about the Tiger-Phil rivalry being renewed. With the U.S. Open just two weeks away, this would be a wonderful prelude to a 1 vs. 2 showdown. Mickelson used to always skip this tournament, doing so from 2003-05. But he returned in 06 and tied for fourth. Of course, he won his last start at THE PLAYERS. Now its time to find out if, like he penned on his new coach Butch Harmons victorious flag at Sawgrass, if that win was the 1st of many.
Its never easy to win back-to-back starts ' unless your name is Tiger Woods. But Johnson will try and do that this week. After taking last week off, Johnson returns from his AT&T Classic win a fortnight ago. He will now try to win a tournament for the first time outside the state of Georgia , where he has won all three of his TOUR titles. Johnson has only played this event three times prior, but he managed to tie for second here in 2006. Muirfield Village is supposed to remind people of Augusta National. Johnson sure hopes so.
This tournament seems just right for the Adam Scott resume. Its a high quality event, with a high quality field ' without the pressure of a major championship. Scott has also produced one victory this year, that at the Shell Houston Open. He has never before won twice in the same season on TOUR, but its about time to make that progression. Scott has played this tournament three times and tied for fourth here last year.
The last two Memorial champions has been relatively unassuming guys. First, it was Bart Bryant, who won his first ever TOUR event in 2004 and then captured the Memorial in 05. Then it was Carl Pettersson, who won his first ever TOUR event in 2005 and then captured the Memorial in 06. Perhaps this year it could be Wetterich. He won his first ever TOUR event in 2006 and captured the Memorial in 2007? Maybe. He did tie Johnson for silver medal honors last year.
Four more players to keep an eye on at Muirfield Village:
The Memorial is one of those tournaments where you often see the cream rise to the top. Singh did so a decade ago in 1997. Since then, he has yet to tack on another victory, but he has notched four top-5 finishes.
The young South African missed the cut in his first two Memorial starts, but has since played increasingly better. He cracked the top 10 a year ago, tying for seventh.
We could offer up the obligatory Jim Furyk stats right now ' but you already know hell probably finish in the top 10 and not win. So, instead, how about Anthony Kim? Kim was a chic pick at the start of the season to be Rookie of the Year. He hasnt yet won, but he does have three top-5s in his last seven TOUR starts. He shared the first-round lead last week at Colonial, before finishing in a tie for 18th. This will be his first start in this event.
That whole Murifield-Augusta thing maybe that will work for Taylor as well. Taylor, an Augusta native, tied for 10th at the Masters and then tied for fourth the following week in Hilton Head. He has since gone MC-MC-WD. He could use a little home cooking this week ' if it only looks like home.