Major Champs Dominate at Memorial

By Associated PressJune 1, 2005, 4:00 pm
DUBLIN, Ohio -- The framed pictures of past champions that hang on the wall represent an All-Star collection of major champions, a testament to how Muirfield Village brings out the best at the Memorial.
Or maybe there's another reason.
'When you get all the best players in one place, it's more likely that they're going to win,' Davis Love III said Wednesday, aching to join that elite list of winners.
The Memorial doesn't have the strongest field of the year -- only 10 of the top 15 players from the world ranking, although it starts with Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods and defending champion Ernie Els.
Tournament officials don't pamper players with a Mercedes-Benz for a courtesy car and chartered excursions for their wives. Players don't have access to a five-star hotel attached to the golf course. There was no corporate outing on Monday that smacked of appearance money.
All the Memorial offers is a demanding golf course that stretches to 7,300 yards and places a premium on the second shot, and a tournament host -- Jack Nicklaus -- who tries to make this feel like Augusta National.
That's usually enough.
'When you have a golf course that's so pristine, you just want to play well,' Els said. 'Jack Nicklaus has also got something to do with that. Everybody wants to win this golf tournament.'
Most of the big names already have.
Twenty-two of the 29 winners at the Memorial have won major championships, and the only exception in the last 12 years is Kenny Perry, who is No. 11 in the world.
Els won last year by holding off an early charge from Woods and late one from Fred Couples, and by making so many clutch putts along the back nine that even the most renowned clutch putter of them all -- Nicklaus -- was impressed.
The Big Easy has not missed the Memorial since he first started playing on the PGA Tour in 1994, and counts it among his favorite tournaments. Even better, he will play the first two rounds with Nicklaus.
'He just makes this place better every year,' Els said. 'The golf course keeps improving, the quality of the way they present the golf course gets better all the time, and I think this year is no different. It's just great playing on a golf course like this. He runs a great show.'
For Nicklaus, it might be his final show in the United States competing against the best players.
The 65-year-old Nicklaus has said the British Open next month at St. Andrews will be the end of his competitive career, although there is always an asterisk attached. In this case, he reserved the right to play in the Memorial, a tournament he founded in 1976, as long as he feels like playing.
'I've been retiring for years,' he said.
Woods spoke to Nicklaus about his future when he showed up Tuesday morning for the pro-am round and empathized with his position. It's difficult to compete on the PGA Tour without being able to prepare for it.
'We talked about it back in 2000 when we played together in his last PGA,' Woods said. 'He was saying, 'Why am I even here?' I said, 'C'mon, Jack, you're out here competing. I'm trying to beat your brains in, you're trying to beat my brains in, so don't give me any of that.'
'He's a competitor, and being such a great competitor, it must be hard for him not to be prepared,' Woods said. 'I can understand why he's bowing out now.'
Woods has had two weeks and two days to prepare for the Memorial, his final tournament before he goes to Pinehurst No. 2 for the U.S. Open. He is playing for the first time since his record cut streak of 142 tournaments ended at the Byron Nelson Championship, where he missed a 15-foot par putt on the 18th hole to miss the cut by one shot.
Any lingering bitterness?
'Zero, absolutely zero,' Woods said. 'I'm here to try to get ready to win this tournament, and hopefully come out of this week positively so I'll be in good standing going into the U.S. Open.'
A victory would return Woods to No. 1 in the world in what has become a case of musical chairs at the top.
It all starts with navigating Muirfield Village, where every year the fairways seems to get a little tighter and more bunkers come into play. The only significant change Nicklaus made this year was pushing the 10th tee back some 30 yards to keep the big hitters from getting extra roll off a slope in the fairway.
That's something else the past Memorial champions seem to have in common -- power. Els, Perry, Woods, Singh, Couples and Greg Norman seem to back that up.
Still, that would be ignoring winners like Jim Furyk, Paul Azinger and Curtis Strange.
'You look down that list, you can't really say that guy was a chop ball-striker,' Woods said. 'You have to hit every single golf shot. Plus, this golf course, you have to manage your game so well. The majority of the winners who have come through here are major championship winners.'
Odds are, there will be another one by the end of the week.
Related Links:
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    Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

    By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

    Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

    Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

    Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

    Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

    12/1: Dustin Johnson

    16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

    20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

    25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

    30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

    40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

    50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

    60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

    80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

    100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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    Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

    By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

    If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

    Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

    Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

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    There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

    There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

    Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

    John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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    Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

    By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

    Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

    Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

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    “I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

    Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

    “I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

    But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

    “I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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    Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

    Hoylake in 2006.

    That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

    So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

    With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

    “The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”