The Memorial preview with Skeeter McGillicuddy
Just weeks after the club Jack’s venue is named after voted to maintain the ban on women members we head to his annual tournament. It will be interesting if the issue rears its head and the views of players, if canvassed. Rory’s had his say and to a man expect anyone who’s asked to toe the politically correct line. Is Fuzzy teeing it up?
Coming just two weeks before Oakmont and with the lesser-rated Fed Ex St Jude coming between them this is the last prep event for many of the leading contenders.
Incredibly Rory, Jason and Jordan all tee it up here on the back of wins. Who’s win was the best? Arguably Day’s at the Players given the lack of depth at the Irish Open and at the Colonial. That being said both events had a home element for Rory and Jordan and the added pressure that comes with that. Bearing this in mind both performed amazingly. Rory’s approach play on 16,17 and 18 was truly awesome but was Jordan’s putting at Colonial any less? The 40 footer he made on 8 for par and Palmer’s subsequent bogey from a relatively innocuous bunker was the turning point. Nine putts on the back nine later, throw in a chip in from deadsville, sealed it for Jordan and once more pin-pointed his greatest strength – his short game.
I’ve often wondered why the players turn up for Jack’s event given it hardly seems representative of a US Open venue – I suppose what does? Then again its Jack and argue all you like, Fat Jack as he was called when had the temerity to challenge Arnie in the 60’s, stands head and shoulders above them all, Tiger included. The 41st running of The Memorial will be laden with memories and melancholy music from the host US broadcaster and ole Jack himself will be there in his chair on the 18th and in the commentary box with his musings. Not that he gives much away.
Back to Tiger though and his record around here with 5 wins and no missed cuts. Why? Because his record is instructive when trying to understand what it takes around here. The place is made for him being forgiving off the tee but has small fast greens so a good short game is called for.
Tiger won’t be teeing it up though.
The role call of past winners includes Kuchar, Matsuyama, Lingmerth (seen last week on the European Tour at Wentworth), KJ, Ernie, Rose and Carl Pettersson.
A mixed bag of bombers and much shorter hitters perhaps indicating that it’s the 2nd shots and in and around the green that really count around Muirfield.
A par 72 nigh on 7,400 yards Muirfield ranks highly on the tours “birdies made from greens hit in regulation”. With small greens naturally if you’re on them you’ve got a chance.
Given the broad base of past winners, the nature of the course, and the strength and depth of the field this week, finding the winner has to be focused on anyone outside the big three. Sure they win – like Speith last week – and it’s obvious, but no good to us.
On that basis, as usual, we will dig a little deeper.
Come in Spenny! The fast as a whippet swinging Levin has had his issues over the past year or so but he finally showed a return to form at the Byron Nelson. While he’s not played here for three years he posted a best finish 4th from three events. Why he wasn’t invited back or elected not to play is a mystery but 52 events over the last 2 seasons suggest Levin is just going to keep on playing until he finds something. Last year he posted one miserable top 10 from 31 starts. So far this season he’s got 2 top 10’s from 21 starts. Littered amongst these events are missed cuts and down the field finishes. Come the Byron Nelson he put all that behind him to post four sub 70 rounds, including 67 / 66 over the weekend. The keys to this were a mix of hitting the fairways (72.22%), hitting the greens (75%) – all of which he has managed to do in parts this year – but the real key was he found a putting stroke with a seasons second best 0.906 strokes gained putting. This figure is in stark contrast to his seasonal figure of -0.146.
Since joining the Tour full time in 2009 Levin has posted a 2nd and two thirds plus 16 top 10’s from 185 starts. He lead this event the last time he played in 2012 going into the final round only to post a disappointing 75 to lose by 4. He clearly has the game to win and at 200/1 we’ll take a chance that it’s this week.
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He looks like a failure when set against his mate and contemporary Jordan but this lad can play.
Look at his career record. Played 57, one win, three 3rds and 12 top 10’s.
So why is he going to contend this week? For very much the same reason as Levin – a radical improvement in putting. Thomas’s strokes gained putting average this season is abysmal at -0.116 and until the Players he hadn’t posted a single positive figure this season.
Come the Players and with a change in grip to a more conventional right hand below left he gained 1.151 strokes against the field – a staggering figure when set against his season average of -0.116 which ranks him as the 131st best (worst?) putter on tour.
There is a lovely irony to the change to a more traditional grip since what is a traditional grip anymore? Yes Speith is the freak and no less than Rory switched but it just wasn’t working for Justin and he’s made the switch before so if it feels good then it IS good and if he putts anything like at the Players he’ll be in contention.
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