Will Tiger roar at the Memorial Tournament?
For the first time since February, 15-time major winner Tiger Woods will join the PGA Tour as a contender in this weekend’s Memorial Tournament, hosted in Dublin, Ohio.
Woods, 44, had been absent from the Tour since the PGA resumed play in mid-June, and chose the Muirfield course as the site of his much-anticipated return.
The golf legend has won the Memorial a record five times, the last occurring in 2012, and is listed as a +2500 choice to top the leaderboard on Sunday.
The Memorial Tournament 2020 - Winner
Thu, July 16 2020, 11:00 AM
Woods will compete against a field of 133 (expanded from 120 players), including the top five in the World Golf Ranking: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, and Webb Simpson.
Sungjae Im and frontrunner Bryson DeChambeau, who are both in the top five of the FedEx Cup standings, are also in the mix at Muirfield.
Last year, Woods tied for ninth at the Memorial, 10 strokes off the champion, Patrick Cantlay (+1400).
Cantlay just recently rejoined the Tour, as well. He finished 11th at the Travelers Championship and seventh in last week’s Workday Charity Open, also held at Muirfield.
While we haven’t seen Tiger in action since he landed 68th at the Genesis Invitational in February, he appeared in top form earlier this season, with a win at the ZOZO Championship in October, a fourth-place finish at the Hero World Challenge in December, and a ninth-place finish at the Farmers Insurance Open in January.
Woods also played well in the Match: Champions for Charity, in which he and Peyton Manning teamed up to beat Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady in a made-for-TV event in May.
While a lengthy layoff would impact some golfers, Woods should be fine this weekend. In 2018, he finished ninth out of 18 of the best golfers at the time at the Hero World Challenge, after a 10-month hiatus from Tour competition. Not to mention, he was also seven months removed from spinal fusion surgery.
The Muirfield course, designed by Jack Nicklaus, should suit Woods’ excellent iron game. In last week’s Workday Charity Open at Muirfield, Collin Morikawa’s iron play helped him set a record for the most strokes gained on approach shots (+5.87) in a final round by a winner since the stat was first recorded in 2004.
While Morikawa, and the rest of the field who competed last week, may seem to hold an advantage by playing Muirfield twice in a row, the course will look somewhat different for the Memorial.
Players will start from different tee boxes, play through thicker rough, and the greens should be faster.
Over the past decade at the Memorial, the winner typically ranked in the top 60 in par-5 scoring, strokes gained tee-to-green, and birdie average.
DeChambeau, who won the Memorial in 2018, should see his name high on the leaderboard Sunday. He has finished no worse than eighth in seven straight PGA Tour matches, and he won the Rocket Mortgage Classic at the beginning of July.
Johnson is another solid contender who is statistically sound for this course. He won the Travelers in late June and finished eighth at the Memorial in 2018.
Last week’s Workday Charity Open produced a blockbuster ending, as Morikawa and Thomas duked it out in a playoff, where Thomas sank a 50-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole.
Don’t bank on Woods winning, though. While he should make the cut and hog plenty of screen time during the tournament broadcast, it’s far more likely someone else will collect the Memorial trophy, plus the 500 FedEx Cup points on the line.
Either way, a tournament featuring Tiger is good for golf. And with how great the golf has been since the PGA Tour resumed play, you can expect an electrifying display this weekend at Muirfield.