This week, the PGA Tour moves out of Texas and begins their jaunt through the Northern United States. The world’s best head to the house that Jack built — literally. Muifield Village hosts the Memorial Tournament — where the man handing out the trophy is more important than the prize itself.
As has become the norm, the best players in the world have flocked to Ohio for the chance to hoist a trophy presented to them by Jack Nickalus. And, you know — collect those FedExCup Point things. And the cash. The cash is nice.
Last year, it was Jason Dufner who ended up getting his picture taken with the Golden Bear. This year, who knows? In the past, this tournament has yielded surprise winners, journeymen players picking up their breakthrough titles and the game’s greats picking up big wins.
So — who get’s the job done in Dublin, Ohio?
Here’s a look at those with a real chance of getting cozy with Jack — and those who will still be dreaming come Monday.
Rory McIlroy — Mark my words: If Rory McIlroy comes home with anything but a top-5 this week at Muifield Village, I won’t pick him the rest of the summer. I swear — every time I pick the guy, he has a down week. Ignore him? He finishes runner-up, etc. It’s crazy. The universe being against me aside, Rors has been playing some great golf. He has a reverence for Jack beyond that of most of his peers and win at the Memorial would certainly rank high among his personal accomplishments list.
Tiger Woods — Going to pass on Tiger this week? Not me. I’ll be honest — I’m not one of these people who wants Tiger to return to the 1997-2001 form that made him the second greatest player of all-time. That said, I think he’s going to win again and win this year. He almost took done the title at the Valspar and has been playing OK since. Tiger is going to get the first win of this comeback somewhere he’s comfortable — and Jack’s place certainly fits that criteria. Woods has won here five times — from 1999-2001, 2009 and 2012.
Tony Finau — No player ranks higher in FedExCup Points without the benefit of a win than Tony Finau. While Finau has cooled a bit since his early season run, he’s still playing some solid golf. In his last two trips to jack’s place, he’s picked up two T-15 finishes. Finau has all the tools in the world and eventually will get a big win on a big stage. The Memorial is as good a place as any to pick up that win.
Charl Schwartzel — Looking for a bit of a sleeper? Look no further than Charl Schwartzel. In his last couple starts on Tour, Schwartzel has picked up a T-9 at the Wells Fargo Championship and a T-2 at the PLAYERS Championship. If that momentum isn’t enough, there’s also his track record at Muirfield Village to consider. Five times, Schwartzel has put together top-25 finishes. It’s hard to believe that the South African Masters champion has only won twice on U.S. soil. Does he get win No. 3 this Sunday? Maybe — but my guess is he picks up another good finish this week in Dublin.
Matt Kuchar — Aww, schucks. Matt Kuchar lands in the posers portion of this piece again. I’ve said many times before — I hope Matt Kuchar figures it out soon. I’m honestly beginning to worry. He hasn’t done much since falling short of his first major title lat year in the Open Championship. Kuchar seems like a great choice on paper with a win, four top-5’s and seven top-10’s in the event — but he still can’t be trusted at the moment.
Pat Perez — One of my favorites all year has been Pat Perez — but it might be time to shelve him for a while. It’s been a few weeks since the king of cool, every-man has posted nary a top-40 finish. Like Kuchar, he’s had some success at Muirfield. But, also like Kuchar, I think recent form trumps track record. Sit Perez at the Memorial.
Phil Mickelson — The king of inconsistency, Phil Mickelson, is capable of just about anything. Just three weeks away from the U.S. Open — the final jewel left to collect in his illustrious career — and Lefty has been as OK and unpredictable as ever. I’m not taking a chance on him this week at Muirfield Village, but I am still watching closely. No one — and I mean no one — is as unpredictable as Micklelson. Which means a poor week this week definitely doesn’t preclude him from being great again next week — or in three weeks at Shinnecock.