World-number-three Jason Day is amongst an impressive field at the Memorial Tournament this week as he looks to go one better than two weeks ago amidst a return to form.
Without a win in over a year and slipping from first to fourth in the world rankings, the Australian came up shy of Billy Horschel in a play-off at the AT&T Byron Nelson to follow up a solid week defending his title at THE PLAYERS Championship where he was let down by a final-round 80.
Day will hope to put an end to his victory drought this week but is up against a stern test with all of Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm and Adam Scott entering from inside the world’s top 10 and further Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Matt Kuchar and Charl Schwartzel from inside the top 20.
The strength of that field includes all 10 of the FedExCup leaders and would have been further strengthened by Rory McIlroy, who committed but for a late withdrawal due to back injury.
The biggest threat to Day comes from the unrelenting Johnson and increasingly-impressive Rahm. Johnson has three (consecutive) wins, five top fives and seven top 15s in his last seven starts whilst, since his maiden win at the Farmers Insurance Open, Rahm has six top fives in 10 starts and has rocketed from 137th to ninth in the world.
Furthermore, Spieth seemed to have made a steady return to form with a tied second at the Dean & Deluca Invitational last week to bounce back from three missed cuts in four starts. The winner at Colonial CC, Kevin Kisner, also enters this week.
Eight previous winners of this event – William McGirt (2016), David Lingmerth (2015), Matsuyama (2014), Kuchar (2013), Steve Stricker (2011), K.J. Choi (2007), Carl Petterson (2006) and Jim Furyk (2002) – will return whilst Tiger Woods, the tournament’s most successful player with five wins, misses out through continued injury trouble.
A reason, perhaps, for the quality of field at this event, founded by Jack Nicklaus, is that it’s one of only five on the PGA Tour with invitational status. Similarly, each year the Memorial Tournament hosts an honouree, including legends such as Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan, Nicklaus himself, Seve Ballesteros and Sir Nick Faldo, which this year is taken by two-time major winner Greg Norman.
The tournament has been hosted on Nicklaus’ Muirfield Village Golf Club since its inception in 1976 and now measures a hefty 7392 yards at a par of 72. The course has also played host to big events such as the Ryder Cup, Solheim Cup and Presidents Cup as well as the US Amatuer.
Over the years, Nicklaus has made alterations every Autumn to increase the course’s quality, difficulty and accommodation to make it the test it is now that expects to see winning scores in the mid-teens.
The prize-fund is at an all-time high of $8.7million with the winner’s share over $1.5million for the second year running. There’s also 500 FedExCup points on offer for the player who takes the title.
Day’s record at the Memorial Tournament may not be great, with no top-25s, but with his performance two weeks ago to fall back on, now is as good a time as any to make a winning comeback.