The Memorial Preview, presented by The TriStatePGA.com.
Dublin, OH— Breathing exercises, an angry driving range session and a putt for the ages on the 72nd hole allowed Jason Dufner to win the 2017 Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide.
Dufner has defended several of championships before but the 41-year-old Cleveland, OH native who wore a Save the Crew hat into his Tuesday media availability session, clearly took pride in last year’s victory.
“There’s 120 guys this week that are looking to be a champion, so I get to say that I did that last year and come back, defend and be part of the history of the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide,” Dufner said. “Obviously with Jack Nicklaus hosting, that adds a little bit of a special part to it, to be tied in with him and have that type of relationship. It just always feels like you’re part of this event as the history of golf continues and past my playing days, I’ll always remember this week that I had last year.”
The Memorial Tournament field may be one of it not the deepest in the event’s 43-year history with eight of the top 10 in the field and many of the top-50 mainstays also committed.
At the event’s media day earlier in May, tournament director Dan Sullivan promoted the field stating “if you can think of a top player, he will more than likely be playing here”.
“Usually this event draws a pretty good field,” said Dufner. “I think it’s a good challenge and it’s great for the event. It’s great for what Mr. Nicklaus is doing for his event to have a strong field and get the best players in the world. I’m excited to be part of it and the people of Columbus will have something to be pretty excited about this week.”
Recalling last year’s win, Dufner remembered his first two rounds which he stated were probably two of the best in his career.
Dufner’s third-round 77 led him to an angry driving range session which included swings approaching 116 miles-per-hour which the right-hander stated was fast for him. After the 30-minute session ended, Dufner tuned the round out, overcame two weather delays and settled in for a back-nine where he pulled away from his competitors.
The defending champion will be paired with Justin Rose and Tiger Woods and tee off the 10th hole at 8:26 a.m. Thursday.
“I don’t take much for granted out here,” Dufner said. “I know things can change very quickly. I’m looking forward to playing his week and trying to play my best golf. I’m going to do the things from now until Thursday to get me ready to play and then we’ll see how it goes.”
The Memorial Tournament has been known for having rain play a role, in fact of the 42 previous times the event has been held, it has rained 25 times.
Based on Tuesday’s PGA TOUR weather forecast, there is an 80% chance of rain Wednesday, 60% Thursday and 50% Friday with thunderstorms also possible all three days. The average rain accumulation is expected to be .5-.75 inches.
It should be noted that there is U.S. Open sectional qualifying is set to be playing Monday at Brookside Golf & Country Club and Lakes Golf & Country Club, both in Columbus, OH and it is common for several players in the Memorial Tournament field to make the quick drive in that direction. If the tournament is not completed Sunday night then it may affect some of those attempting to qualify for the U.S. Open.
Already a press release was issued Tuesday, which moved Wednesday’s pro-am tee times up half an hour beginning at 7 a.m. and the last tee time taking place at 9:04 a.m.
The Memorial Honoree Ceremony is now two hours earlier at 12:30 p.m. with the Jack Nicklaus Golf Clinic immediately following pending weather conditions.
1. Matt Kuchar– “Kuch” always seems to find himself in the thick of things on Memorial Tournament Sunday and it seems like a safe bet again here.
2. Justin Rose– The way Rose won last week coupled with his past success having won at Muirfield Village and losing a playoff to David Lingmerth is reason enough to make this selection.
3. Hideki Matsuyama– Another “safe bet” who always seems to have success here. After a couple of disappointing weeks, Matsuyama finished an encouraging T16 at the AT&T Byron Nelson. Matsuyama always draws a nice gallery and he should give them plenty of thrills all week long.
4. David Lingmerth– It almost feels like cheating going with another former champion, but Lingmerth was tied for first place after last year’s first round and clearly likes this course. Lingmerth is not in the best of form having missed his last four cuts, but coming to a course you have won at already brings good memories.
5. Anirban Lahiri– Lahiri tied for second last year and comes into the week having shot six of his last eight rounds in the 60’s. It is a bit of a sleeper pick, but one which could be good if he puts at least three solid rounds together.
6. Kevin Na– Na should be a very popular pick given the momentum he will carry from his last two starts. Na fired four sub-70 rounds at the AT&T Byron Nelson, good for a T6 and then this past week at the Fort Worth Invitational fired a first-round 62 and tied the Colonial Golf Course record with a 61. His two middle rounds held him back and resulted in a fourth place finish. Additionally, Na was in a playoff at Muirfield Village, ultimately falling to Matsuyama.
Others to watch: Rickie Fowler, Tony Finau, Emiliano Grillo, Kevin Kisner and Marc Leishman
1. Dustin Johnson– He always seems to hit his stride around the beginning of June and has a past history of success at Muirfield Village.
2. Bryson DeChambeau– He has won on the PGA TOUR and this could be the week for his second career victory if he can put it together on a course which punishes you for your mistakes.
3. Justin Rose– He was impressive last week at the Fort Worth Invitational and is a past Memorial Tournament champions. Can he join Kenny Perry as the only player to win the Memorial Tournament after winning on tour a week earlier?
4. Jason Day– It is nice to see Day returning to form and it would be a popular win were Day to shake Jack Nicklaus’s hand Sunday.
5. Tiger Woods– I consider this pick a long shot but given his past success, this may be his best chance to win this year.
Others to watch: Jim Furyk, Rickie Fowler, Sean O’Hair, Charl Schwartzel and Jordan Spieth
1. Bryson DeChambeau
2. Emiliano Grillo
3. Justin Thomas
4. Matt Kuchar
5. Jim Furyk
Others to watch: Si Woo Kim and Marc Leishman
Monday, the Memorial Tournament announced the following four marquee pairings:
Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy 1:05 p.m. 1 Tee
Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson 1:16 p.m. 1 Tee
Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Jason Dufner 8:26 a.m. 10 Tee
Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Rickie Fowler 8:15 a.m. 10 Tee
Additionally here are some other groups which may interest some fans
Patton Kizzire, Hideki Matsuyama, Russell Knox 12:54 p.m. 1 Tee
Xander Schauffele, Jonas Blixt, Charl Schwartzel 12:54 p.m 10 Tee
Kevin Kisner, Si Woo Kim, Tony Finau 1:05 p.m 10 Tee
Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott, Jim Furyk 7:53 a.m. 1 Tee
Marc Leishman, Matt Kuchar, Louis Oosthuizen 8:37 a.m. 10 Tee
The 19th hole
When Dufner was asked to pick the most challenging hole at Muirfield Village Golf Club, he referenced the par-3 12th hole. The narrow green favors a fade line and has many penalties in and around the green.
During Sunday’s final round last year, two groups held up the hole due to tee shots into the bunker and then the respective second shots rolling into the water. The drop zone if the ball hits the hazard is a ways back, a good three minute walk, and then an additional three minutes after the shot just to get back to the green.
Earlier in the press conference, Dufner was asked about TPC Sawgrass’s signature 17th hole, also a par-3 and called the aforementioned 12th hole much tougher, though some of that may be biased based on Dufner’s 36 consecutive tee shots on 17 without hitting the water hazard.
“You get some wind on that hole and it can play extremely difficult,” Dufner said. “You have water hazards there, the bunkers aren’t any picnic and it’s hard to get on that green. Last year that right pin position was giving guys problems.”