by Aaron "1-iron" Garry - 05/31/2005
Justin Leonard crawls to victory after squandering an eight-shot lead in the final round of the Federal Express St. Jude Classic. What a difficult telecast to watch. I though Bill Macatee was going to swallow his microphone on 17 when Leonard had to make a clutch putt to preserve a two-shot lead heading to 18. On 18, Leonard needed only a bogey to win the tournament, but he gave us all heart failure with how he got it done. "1-iron" can only say one thing about this - I saw it coming. It becomes crystal clear every week that maintaining a large lead in the final round of a PGA Event is one of the hardest things in golf. Shame on Lanny Wadkins this week for expecting Leonard to come out and start firing at pins on his first few holes to set the pace. Why in the world would he not just try and shoot 69 or 70 and win the golf tournament going away? If Leonard would've followed Wadkins strategy and made a few aggressive bogeys and maybe a double on the first few holes, Wadkins would've been all over him about that too. I'm getting a little sick of Wadkins constant criticism of players. He has got to take it down a notch. Maybe it's good television to criticize Leonard's strategy over and over again, but it wore on me as the telecast dragged on. David Toms (My No. 1 pick last week) fired a final-round 63 to put the heat on Leonard and finish in second by himself, one shot behind the winner.
This Week at the Memorial Tournament:
We head to Dublin, Ohio for Jack Nicklaus's competition - The Memorial Tournament. This event is so big in Ohio that even our nation's worst newspaper, The Columbus Dispatch, gets geared up with a few extra pages this week. The Memorial Tournament is by invitation only, so if Jack don't like ya - ya don't get an invite. Kind of like the Feldman Bar Mitzvah in New Albany.
Last week, I ran down the highlights of why the Fed Ex St. Jude Classic is such a horrendous event. This week, let me run down the highlights of why Jack's tournament is such a great one:
- Golf Course: Muirfield Village is an absolutely superb test of golf and is always perfectly manicured. "1-iron" thinks 18 is one of the coolest holes in golf, and a great finisher.
- Field: Top Notch. Ernie, Tiger, Vijay, Furyk and, of course, Jack Nicklaus are in the field. Not to mention a stellar cast of the other "who's who" PGA Tour regulars. Mickelson was slated to play, but sits this one out in order to go through his normal preparation process for major tournaments, as the U.S. Open is in three weeks.
- Weather: Always interesting here, but the sun usually makes its way out by Sunday. The moody weather actually adds to the intrigue of the tournament, as Muirfield seems to toughen up a little bit when the rains come down.
- Purse: Jack's people put up big bucks for this one, as it goes for $5.2 million with almost a cool million to the winner.
- Columbus: The cow-town really gets up for this tournament. Some of the most knowledgeable fans in the game, and a city that absolutely loves Golf. Jack's home makes it all the more special.
- Jim Nantz: He sends Macatee back to the pine and the "A-Team" takes charge.
Picks for The Memorial Tournament
6 Who Will:
1. Vijay Singh (6/1): The No. 1 Player in the world and 1997 Memorial Champion and 1999 Runner-up will get it done. He's taken a few weeks off, practiced a little bit (wink), and should be ready to command attention this week. He'll be shaking Jackie's hand come Sunday.
2. Ernie Els: (8/1): The 2004 Memorial Tournament Champion and 2000 Runner Up should be there all the way. I've got my fingers crossed for a Sunday battle featuring Els, Singh, Woods and Nicklaus. Three of those might become a reality. Els is coming off a rough finish across the pond at the BMW Masters, but look for four rounds in the 60s from him this week.
3. Nick O'Hern (60/1): Solo third in the BMW Masters last week and eliminated Tiger Woods in the Accenture Match Play a few months ago. This lefty's got game. They love Australians at the Bogey Inn, and he may just dance his way to a surprise finish this week.
4. Tiger Woods (9/2): Won three Memorials in a row from 1999-2001, but hasn't played particularly well here since. Had a solo third last year behind Els and Couples, but with the MC at Colonial and this whole "new swing" stuff to sort out, I can't put him at No. 1 this week. I see a top 15, but not much more.
5. Jim Furyk (15/1): The 2002 Champion and 1997 Runner-Up loves this tournament. He met his wife Tabitha in Columbus a few years ago, and stays with his in-laws when he plays this week. six Top 25s this year and two second place finishes. He's ready to win.
6. Peter Lonard (60/1): T11 last year and won at MCI Heritage this year. This Aussie has shown he can compete with the big boys. Don't confuse him with Justin Leonard. He's Peter Lonard.
6 Who Can:
7. Bernhard Langer (Field 9/2): The 2004 Ryder Cup Captain who masterfully dismantled the U.S. brings a stellar 2005 resume to Jack's Clam Bake. Didn't play last year in prep for the Ryder Cup, but has two Top 10s this year including a T6 at Colonial two weeks ago. Slow play will not be tolerated.
8. Greg Owen (100/1): They should make a movie about Owen, as he is the International Man of Mystery. He made ZERO EUROS last week at the BMW Masters, as he MC'd, but his 2005 play in the US has been nothing short of surprising. Three Top 10s including a T7 at Wachovia should vault his confidence.
9. Stewart Cink (30/1): Finished 40th here last year, but the three years prior went sixth, T9, fourth. Plays VERY well here. May not win, but will be in contention.
10. David Toms (15/1): Ok, his 63 in the final round of the St. Jude was classic. The chip in on 17, had even "1-iron" out of his seat. But, it's still David Toms and as the record shows - he's no favorite of "1-iron." That said, he's one of the best, and he'll be in contention.
11. Trevor Immelman (100/1): The anti-Toms. A favorite of "1-iron" and his peers. T46 at Jack's Bash last year, but the fifth at the Masters and Stellar play at the Nelson have our eyebrows raised!
12. Shigeki Maruyama (60/1): Another T46 last year at the Memorial, but this guy is quietly getting it done. Two Top 10s this year, four Top 25s and hot play as of late with a T6 at the By-Nizzle. Tied for 4th in 2002 at the Memorial.
6 Who Won't:
13. Chris DiMarco (30/1): T24 at the Memorial Last year, and of course had the magic run of 2005 with his finishes at the Masters, Zurich, and Wachovia (2,3,and 4th respectively). But missed the cut at the Colonial and hasn't played since. Streaky game. Streaky game.
14. Paul Azinger (Field 9/2): Might head over to the CBS Booth for some tips instead of getting them at the driving range. As correctly predicted last week, MC at St. Jude with 70-77. Provided one of the most dramatic shots in Memorial History when he won in 1993 over Corey Pavin. That was back when he could play this game!
15. Davis Love III (25/1): Good finish last week at St. Jude (T4), but just doesn't seem to have the killer instinct anymore. He could've really put some pressure on Leonard, but he tanked with a bad double bogey on No. 9.
16. John Daly (100/1): Would you pick a guy that has 83 logos on his shirt and smokes cigarettes like it's his job? Didn't think so.
17. Kevin Na (Field 9/2): Has never played this tournament. This kid has some serious game (two runner up finishes in 2005), but he's never played a major or a big tournament like this, aside from the WGC. This isn't the week he makes his splash.
18. Jack Nicklaus (1,500/1): Those odds are for real. Here's the thing, every club has the snaky old guy that knows the course like the back of his hand. He ham and eggs his way to a bunch of rounds in the 60's and wins the annual Calcutta like it's his annual bonus at the office. This is Nicklaus. The old man won't stop crowing about his retirement, but we all know he's going to play a few more. He's got a big ego, but he's Jack Nicklaus, arguably the greatest of all time. He finished T63 here last year after making the cut. He won't win, but my money says he doesn't embarrass himself.