10 Players to Watch: The Memorial

1. Justin Rose, England — Coming back to the PGA Tour after a week off following his disappointing tie for 38th in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth outside London, Rose will be one of the favorites in the Memorial. He is enjoying a strong season with a victory in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and a tie for second in the Masters, and he has a very good record at Muirfield Village. Rose has five top-10 finishes in 10 starts in the Memorial, including a three-stroke victory over Rickie Fowler in 2010, when he opened with a 65 and closed with a 66. He also tied for second in 2008, two strokes behind Kenny Perry, but missed the cut last year.

2. Dustin Johnson, United States — One brutal hole cost Johnson a chance to claim his second victory of the year last week in the AT&T Byron Nelson, and he hopes to bounce back in the Memorial. He was tied for the lead Sunday when he hit his drive on the sixth hole out of bounds left, reloaded and hit his next into high weeds on the right en route to a quadruple-bogey 8 and an eventual tie for eighth. Johnson is making his seventh start at Muirfield Village, and his only top-10 finish was solo fourth in 2011, when he closed with a 65 and wound up four strokes behind winner Steve Stricker.

3. Jordan Spieth, United States — Following three consecutive runner-up finishes in the Texas events, Spieth was carrying the weight of his hometown friends and family when he tied for 30th last week in the AT&T Byron Nelson, where he was at his best only when he shot 64 in round two. The Masters champion will try to put the Lone Star State behind him this week when he tees it up in the Memorial for the third time. Spieth tied for 63rd at Muirfield Village as a rookie two years ago before he improved to a tie for 19th last year, when he was fifth heading to the final round before closing with a 75.

4. Matt Kuchar, United States — Continuing what so far has been an un-Kuchar-like year, he played well only when he shot 64 in round three while finishing in a tie for 39th last week in the AT&T Byron Nelson. After being a top-10 machine with 61 such finishes since 2008, he has only three this year and hopes a return to Memorial will get him going. Kuchar closed with a 68 two years ago at Muirfield Village to win by two strokes over Kevin Chappell, recording his fifth consecutive top-10 result in the tournament. He broke that streak last year, when, after opening with a 74, he bounced back with 69-69-70 to tie for 15th.

5. Rickie Fowler, United States — Back in the United States after tying for 30th last week in the breezy Irish Open, Fowler will be trying to regain the form that took him to a playoff victory in the Players Championship last month. He was in the hunt at Royal County Down after chipping in for an eagle on the 16th hole before finishing round two with 8-8 and fading with scores of 76-73. This will be his sixth appearance in the Memorial, and his best result came in his first, when he led most of the way with 65-66-69 but closed with a 73 and wound up three strokes behind Justin Rose in solo second.

6. Hideki Matsuyama, Japan — The 23-year-old will defend his first PGA Tour title, and even though he has not been able to back it up with another, he has played very well this season with seven results in the top 10, including a tie for second in the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Last year in his first appearance in the Memorial, Matsuyama went double bogey-bogey on the 16th and 17th holes before sinking a 10-foot birdie putt on the final hole of regulation to get into a playoff with Kevin Na. Then he holed a 5-foot par putt on the first extra hole after escaping a fairway bunker and claimed the victory over Na, who hit his drive into the water.

7. Jason Day, Australia — After being forced to withdraw before the start of the AT&T Byron Nelson last week because of a dizzy spell, Day hopes to be able to play in what is a home game for him since he lives nearby in Westerville, Ohio. The Aussie, ranked eighth in the World Golf Rankings, has yet to play especially well in six starts in the Memorial, with his best finish a tie for 27th in 2009. He also has missed the cut twice at Muirfield Village. Day needs to get back to the form he displayed early in the year, when he won the Farmers Insurance Open in a playoff, one of his four top-10 finishes.

8. Jim Furyk, United States — Trying to bounce back from a missed cut in the Wells Fargo Championship two weeks ago, Furyk will make his 20th start in the Memorial, which he won in 2002. He played the weekend in 65-62 that year and finished two strokes ahead of John Cook and David Peoples. That was one of his six top-10 finishes at Muirfield Village, as he also was one shot behind Tiger Woods in solo second in 2009, and he finished two strokes behind Vijay Singh in a tie for second in 1997. Furyk is fifth in the World Golf Rankings after his playoff victory in the RBC Heritage in March and a solo fourth result in the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship in April.

9. Phil Mickelson, United States — Lefty posted some promising results recently as he approaches the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay and his second chance to complete the career Grand Slam. He tied for second behind Jordan Spieth in the Masters and tied for fourth in the Wells Fargo Championship, sandwiched around a missed cut in the Players Championship. Those were his first top-10 finishes since he tied for second in the PGA Championship last year. Mickelson is making his 15th start in the Memorial. He has never won it, and he owns only three results in the top 10. His best result at Muirfield Village was a tie for fourth in 2006.

10. Tiger Woods, United States — Returning to the Memorial after missing the tournament last year following back surgery, Woods hopes that his game comes back with him. He has won the tournament a record five times, the last in 2012, and has eight top-10 finishes in his 14 starts at Muirfield Village. However, he has not been the same player since winning five times in 2013, and he has played only four times this year, not counting a first-round withdrawal in the Farmers Insurance Open because of back spasms. His best result was a tie for 17th in the Masters. Woods made a reconnaissance trip last week to Chambers Bay, where the U.S. Open will be played in two weeks.

–Courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom LaMarre


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