10 Players to Watch: The Memorial Tournament

  1. Jordan Spieth, United States — In danger of missing his third consecutive cut, Spieth rallied with some of his best golf of the year to tie for second last week in his title defense at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational. He was 3-over-par after five holes of the second round, but played his last 31 holes in 12-under, closing with a bogey-free 5-under 65 to finish one stroke behind winner Kevin Kisner. Spieth recorded his sixth top-10 finish of the season, including a victory in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and climbed to fifth in the FedExCup point standings. He is making his fifth start in the Memorial, with his best result a tie for third in 2015, when he closed with a 7-under-par 65 to finish two strokes out of the playoff in which David Lingmerth of Sweden defeated Justin Rose of England. That came a year after he was in contention until shooting 75 in the final round and slid to a tie for 19th.
  1. Dustin Johnson, United States — DJ, the top-ranked player in the world and the FedExCup points leader, has played well enough but not the way he did earlier this season since returning from a back injury that knocked him out of the Masters early in April. He tied for second in the Wells Fargo Championship in his first event back, tied for 12th in the Players Championship and tied for 13th in the AT&T Byron Nelson, but his last three starts before the injury were victories in the Genesis Open, the WGC-Mexico Championship and the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. Johnson is making his 10th appearance at Muirfield Village and has recorded two top-10 finishes, the best solo third last year when he took the first-round lead with an 8-under-par 64 and eventually finished one shot out of the playoff in which William McGirt beat Jon Curran. DJ also closed with a 65 in 2011 and climbed to solo fourth, four strokes behind winner Steve Stricker.
  1. Jon Rahm, Spain — Continuing to play like a veteran in his rookie season, Rahm was in the chase all the way to the end before tying for second in the Dean & DeLuca Invitational, finishing one stroke behind champion Kevin Kisner by closing with a 4-under-par 66. The 22-year-old Spaniard posted his seventh top-10 finish of the season, including a victory in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in February, and climbed to fourth in the FedExCup standings and ninth in the Official World Golf Ranking, the first time he has broken into the top 10. Rahm, only a year out of Arizona State, has not missed the cut in 14 starts and with a little more luck could have more than that one victory because he has five finishes in the top five. He will be making his first start in the Memorial, but could be in the mix again at Jack Nicklaus’ Muirfield Village course, because he is seeing almost every layout on the PGA Tour for the first time and obviously has a very short learning curve.
  1. Jason Day, Australia — The Aussie finally played like the third-ranked player in the world even though he lost in a playoff to Billy Horschel at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his last start. His only other top-10 finish of the season was a tie for fifth in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am as he returned from a back injury that cost him the last three months of the 2016 season, and he also has been dealing with his mother’s battle with cancer. Day will get a virtual home game this week because he lives not far from Muirfield Village in Westerville, Ohio. However, he has never finished in the top 25 in his previous eight starts in the Memorial Tournament. Last year, Day opened with a 6-under-par 66 and had a 68 in the third round to sit in 11th place, but stumbled to a 74 in the final round that left him in a tie for 27th to equal his best previous result in the event in 2009. He also has missed the cut three times.
  1. Justin Rose, England — After slipping two spots and falling out of the top 10 to No. 11 in the Official World Golf Ranking this week, Rose needs a strong performance to climb back in and Muirfield Village might be just the place for him to get it. He has recorded six top-10 finishes in the Memorial, including a victory in 2010, when he finished with a 6-under-par 66 to win by three strokes over Rickie Fowler. Rosy also took the lead into the final round two years ago, but closed with a 72 and eventually lost in a playoff to David Lingmerth of Sweden. The Englishman also tied for second in 2008, finished fourth in 2004, was eighth in 2012 and tied for eighth the following year. Rose has finished in the top 10 on four occasions on the PGA Tour this season, coming close to his eighth victory on the circuit when he finished second in the Masters behind Sergio Garcia and runner-up behind Justin Thomas at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
  1. Rickie Fowler, United States — Another player who slipped two spots and out of the top 10 in the Official World Ranking Golf Ranking this week, to No. 12, Fowler would like to get right back in with a high finish in the Memorial Tournament. He showed he could play Muirfield Village the first time he saw the place in 2010, when he held the lead most of the way with scores of 65-66-69, but closed with a 73 and dropped to second, three strokes behind Justin Rose of England. Rickie hasn’t played nearly as well in six ensuing starts at Jack’s place, with a tie for 22nd in 2011 his next-best result, and he has missed the cut the last three years. Fowler has four top-10 finishes this season, including his fourth PGA Tour victory in the Honda Classic, a tie for third in the Shell Houston Open and a tie for fourth in the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He also was in the hunt in the Masters before a final-round 76 dropped him to a tie for 11th.
  1. Adam Scott, Australia — Yet another player who has slipped in the Official World Golf Rankings, although he still is at No. 10, Scott played his best golf of the season in two of the biggest events of the year recently. He was in the chase in the Masters early in April before closing with a 73 to tie for ninth, and he finished in a tie for sixth last month in the Players Championship. Those were his first top-10 results on the PGA Tour since he tied for 10th in the CIMB Classic in Malaysia to open his season last October. Scott will be making his 10th appearance in the Memorial Tournament and in 2014 he equaled his best result at Muirfield Village, a tie for fourth, missing by three strokes the playoff in which Hideki Matsuyama beat Kevin Na. The Aussie also tied for fourth in 2006, and shot 10-under-par 62 in the second round a year later en route to solo fifth, three shots behind winner K.J. Choi.
  1. Hideki Matsuyma, Japan — After winning twice early this season and finishing second on two other occasions, Matsuyama climbed into the top 10 in the world rankings and remains in a solid No. 4. However, he has not played quite as well since that start, which included victories in the WGC-HSBC Champions and the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Matsuyama does not have a top-10 finish on the PGA Tour since his last victory, but has been playing better lately with a tie for 11th in the Masters and a tie for 22nd in the Players Championship. It figured he would cool off a bit, since he won five times around the world between October and February. Matsuyama is making his fourth start in the Memorial and he claimed his first victory on the U.S. circuit at Muirfield Village in 2014, when he beat Kevin Na with a par on the first playoff hole. He tied for fifth in his title defense after shooting 8-under-par 64 in round one, but shot 74-73 — 147 last year to miss the cut by five strokes.
  1. Webb Simpson, United States — Even though he faltered down the stretch after leading much of the way and finished fifth in the Dean & DeLuca Invitational by closing with a 71, Simpson is starting to play like the guy who captured the 2012 U.S. Open. He has struggled since the ban of the anchored putter at the beginning last year, but he went to a playoff with Hideki Matsuyama before losing to a birdie on the fourth extra hole in the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February. More recently, he tied for 11th in the RBC Heritage when he finished with a 74, and tied for 16th in the Players Championship when a 77 in round three proved costly. Simpson is making his seventh start in the Memorial Championship where his best result was a tie for seventh in 2011, and he posted a tie for 11th last year. However, he also has missed the cut three times at Muirfield Village, but seem to be closer to the form that gave him his fourth PGA Tour victory in the 2013 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
  1. Kevin Kisner, United States — Showing tremendous grit by holding off defending champion Jordan Spieth and several others in the Dean & DeLuca Invitational, Kisner could be right back in the mix this week in the Memorial Tournament if he can make a quick turnaround and come down off that emotional high. He finished second six times on the PGA Tour before gaining his second PGA Tour victory last week, including runner-up results this year in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, where he and partner Scott Brown lost in a playoff to Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith. Kisner also tied for fourth in the Sony Open in Hawaii and tied for 10th in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am early this year before finally winning for the first time since the 2014 RSM Classic. He is playing for the fourth time in the Memorial Tournament and was near the top of the leaderboard all the way before posting a tie for eighth in 2015 after opening with a 5-under-par 67, but shot 72-74 — 146 to miss the cut by four strokes last year.

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

Tom LaMarre

Tom LaMarre has been a sportswriter and copy editor for more than 50 years, including 15 years with the Oakland Tribune and 22 with the Los Angeles Times. He was the Tribune’s beat writer for the Oakland Raiders for seven seasons in the 1970s, highlighted by their 32-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, and collaborated on a book, Winning Offensive Football, with quarterback Ken Stabler. He also covered the Oakland Athletics when they won three consecutive World Series during the 1970s and the Golden State Warriors when they won the NBA championship in the 1974-75 season. With the Times, he wrote columns on golf, football and skiing. These days, he is the Golf Editor for The Sports Xchange. LaMarre graduated from Skyline High in Oakland and attended the University of San Francisco.

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