The Memorial Tournament: The Jack Nicklaus test produces boom or bust results from the world’s best

A strong field has headed to Muirfield Village but not all of them have good records there.

The Memorial Tournament was a funny business last year.

Jack Nicklaus had given his Muirfield Village course a significant renovation so it might have been supposed that the result would differ from recent history.

Yet, after 54 holes, Jon Rahm - the defending champion - led by six shots.

And when he was forced to withdraw, following a positive Covid test, who contested the final round and the playoff that followed?

The two men who had won on the course in 2020 - the eventual winner Patrick Cantlay and Collin Morikawa.

Some things change, others stay the same.

That's also long been a trend with form at this Nicklaus-designed venue in Dublin, Ohio.

Some players get the hang of it quickly and rack up the quality results, others just never seem to crack the code.

That's a regular occurrence anywhere, of course, but less so for the world's elite.

Somehow the Nicklaus combination of length, width, thick rough and lightning-fast greens sends the wheat one way and the chaff the other.

Let's take a closer look at this boom or bust pattern (remember that the course also hosted the Workday Charity Open in 2020).

THE MEMORIAL GOOD.

Patrick Cantlay

The American made a solid debut (T35th in 2017) which nicely set him up for what reads as a brilliant set of results. He returned n 2018 to finish fourth, claimed a superb win in 2019, added seventh in the 2020 WC Open, was top 10 all week in that year's Memorial before toppling to T32nd, and then pounced when Rahm dropped out last year.

Six starts, never missed a cut, two wins.

Collin Morikawa

His course debut came in the 2020 WC Open and he promptly recorded a win. A week later Nicklaus returned the greens to their traditional swift speeds and it caught Morikawa out. He made the cut (T48th) but lost over eight strokes on the field with his Putting. A year later he was better prepared and lost in that playoff to Cantlay.

Three starts, one win, one playoff defeat, never outside the top seven for SG Approach or outside the top four for Tee to Green.

Hideki Matsuyama

At first glance, the Japanese golfer's Muirfield Village record is going backwards. He won the Memorial on debut in 2013, was fifth on defence, and has added just two top 20s in seven visits since. But, in all, he has been tied eighth or better after 54 holes in five of his nine visits.

He also likes a fast start. He shared the first round lead in 2015 with a 64, repeated that with a 65 in 2018 and was tied third after a 67 in the 2020 WC Open.

Matt Kuchar

In his first two, and also his last three, visits Kuchar failed to make the top 30, but in-between? 11 starts, all of them top 30 including seven top 10s, the best of them a victory in 2013 (he was also second in his previous start there).

In his four appearances from 2009 to 2013 he was never outside the top 13 for hitting Greens in Regulation and always ranked top 18 for Scrambling. A neat combo.

THE MEMORIAL BAD

Abraham Ancer

The Mexican thrashed a brilliant 65 to grab a share of the first round lead in 2018 but since then has never got the hang of Muirfield Village. He's played another 11 rounds, never broken 71 and only ended two of those laps sitting in the top 40.

Three starts, three cuts made but no top 50, never ranked in the top 50 for Around the Green or Tee to Green.

Sungjae Im

The Korean is hoping for fifth time lucky because he's yet to finish in the top 50 and, if anything, his returns are getting worse with every visit: T57th in 2019, T63rd in the 2020 WC Open, missed cuts in the last two Memorial Tournaments.

Four starts, lost strokes with Approaches every time, and also done so in three of his four Putting displays.

Cameron Smith

There must be something that draws the Aussie back to the Memorial, but his record does not exactly shout it. He's made 16 circuits of the course, is yet to break 70, has broken par once and equalled it just twice. He lost strokes on the field in the first five of his six visits from Tee to Green and has lost them in each of the last five on the greens.

Six starts, one cut made, no top 60 finish.

Cameron Smith
Cameron Smith

Also:

Daniel Berger has played three times, made the cut just once and that reaped only T67th. Cameron Champ has played four times, completed only nine laps, made one cut, never gone sub-70 and needed at least 75 blows six times.

THE MEMORIAL IN-BETWEEN

Rory McIlroy has made 10 starts and landed four top 10s, but has only once been top 10 with 18 holes to play and even then he was five shots back of the lead.

Jordan Spieth has also played 10 times. He has six top 10s, but turned them into only one top five when tied third in 2015.

Xander Schauffele missed the cut on his Muirfield Village debut in 2018 but has added four top 20s since then. However, he's never ended a weekend round inside the top 10.

READ MORE: Insight and laughs: Rick Reilly on Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and the world's best in his new book

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