Fri. Jun 21st, 2024

Rory McIlroy needs to win Memorial to add bullet point to his career resume

By admin Jun8,2024


Jun 4, 2024; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Rory McIlroy wipes his face as he walks across the 14th green during a practice round for the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club.

Jun 4, 2024; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Rory McIlroy wipes his face as he walks across the 14th green during a practice round for the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club.

Rory McIlroy has 26 PGA Tour wins, more than any golfer in this week’s Memorial Tournament. The 35-year-old also has won four major championships, again more than anyone in the 73-player field.

But he has never won at Jack’s place. Is that significant? Let’s ask Jack.

“I think it’s a pretty good tournament to win to fill out a resume,” Nicklaus said. “I don’t think there’s any question about that.”

“Tiger won five times here,” he continued. “I mean, a tournament’s resume is not too bad if they have Tiger winning it five times.”

But what of a player’s resume if he has never won one of the tour’s signature events?

Before answering that, it’s worth noting that leaving Dublin with a Memorial crystal trophy in hand does not guarantee a Hall of Fame career. No offense to David Lingmerth or William McGirt, who won here in 2015 and 2016, but no one will mistake either for Ernie Els or Hale Irwin. Lingmerth and McGirt each own one tour victory. Els (19, including four majors) and Irwin (20 and 3) combined for 39. Els won the Memorial in 2004, Irwin in 1983 and 1985.

Jun 4, 2024; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Rory McIlroy signs autographs during a practice round for the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club.Jun 4, 2024; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Rory McIlroy signs autographs during a practice round for the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club.

Jun 4, 2024; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Rory McIlroy signs autographs during a practice round for the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club.

Actually, like most tour events, the Memorial champions list is sprinkled with names that even serious golf fans do not recognize. David Edwards? Carl Pettersson? Bart Bryant? That’s more of a Who’s That? than a Who’s Who.

But elite tournaments are not judged so much by their lowest common denominators but by their dominators. And on that score the Memorial looks impressive.

NCL MEMORIAL 5/29 S : DUBLIN.OH.,29MAY00 - Tiger Woodes, left, and Jack Nicklaus chat during the awards presentation on the 18th tee during the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club, May 29, 2000. ncl/Photo by Neal C. LauronNCL MEMORIAL 5/29 S : DUBLIN.OH.,29MAY00 - Tiger Woodes, left, and Jack Nicklaus chat during the awards presentation on the 18th tee during the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club, May 29, 2000. ncl/Photo by Neal C. Lauron

NCL MEMORIAL 5/29 S : DUBLIN.OH.,29MAY00 – Tiger Woodes, left, and Jack Nicklaus chat during the awards presentation on the 18th tee during the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club, May 29, 2000. ncl/Photo by Neal C. Lauron

A quick rundown of big-name winners in addition to Els and Irwin includes Nicklaus (73 tour wins and 18 majors), Woods (82 and 15), Tom Watson (39 and 8), Ray Floyd (22 and 4), Greg Norman (20 and 2), Curtis Strange (19 and 2), Jim Furyk (17 and 1) and Fred Couples (15 and 1).

McIlroy has come relatively close to getting the coveted Nicklaus winner’s handshake, with five top-10s in 12 appearances, but has yet to break through.

And boy does he want to break through, telling media “It would mean a ton to me to win this tournament.”

Kenny Perry became a repeat victor when he held off Lee Janzen for the win in 2003. (Dispatch photo by Chris Russell)Kenny Perry became a repeat victor when he held off Lee Janzen for the win in 2003. (Dispatch photo by Chris Russell)

Kenny Perry became a repeat victor when he held off Lee Janzen for the win in 2003. (Dispatch photo by Chris Russell)

Nicklaus thinks McIlroy will win it one of these days, and there remains plenty of time to get the job done – Kenny Perry won the Memorial at age 47 in 2008, Watson won it at 46 in 1996 and Nicklaus and Steve Stricker won it at 44 in 1984 and 2011 – but no player in his 40s has won at Muirfield since Jason Dufner in 2017. Golf is not the ultimate young man’s game, but it is trending younger.

Nicklaus designed his tour-level courses to challenge the best players, knowing tougher courses often separate legends from the next-level down.

“I like greens … where you have to send the ball up in the air and bring it down like, as they say, a butterfly with sore feet,” he said. “But you know why I enjoyed it? Because I could do it. When you could do something that somebody else couldn’t do, then you enjoy competing in that type of situation.”

McIlroy does things other pros cannot, mostly off the tee, where his 318.1-yard driving distance ranks second on tour behind Cameron Champ (318.3).

Phil Mickelson hits his second shot on 17 during the second round of the Workday Charity Open at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio on Friday, July 10, 2020. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch]Phil Mickelson hits his second shot on 17 during the second round of the Workday Charity Open at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio on Friday, July 10, 2020. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch]

Phil Mickelson hits his second shot on 17 during the second round of the Workday Charity Open at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio on Friday, July 10, 2020. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch]

I asked Nicklaus if it surprised him that McIlroy has yet to win the tournament the Upper Arlington native founded and has hosted since 1976. I also tossed out other notables who have come up empty at Muirfield, including Phil Mickelson (45 tour wins), Dustin Johnson (29), Lee Trevino (29), Gary Player (24) and Johnny Miller (25).

The Bear didn’t take the bait. But he sniffed it.

“Do I think (McIlroy) will win here? Yeah, he should,” Nicklaus said. “He’s certainly good enough. But I thought I was good enough to win in Canada and I finished second seven times there. Never won. Barbara (Nicklaus) kept sending me back. She says, ‘I’m going to send you back until you do it right.’ Never could do it right.”

Is Nicklaus considered a failure for his goose eggs north of the border? Of course not. And history will not judge McIlroy’s career by whether he won the Memorial. But he might judge himself.

Nicklaus recalled a conversation he had with Mickelson, who skipped the Memorial six times from 1996 to 2006.

“I said, ‘Phil, your resume is not  going to be complete until you win at Muirfield,’” Nicklaus recalled. “And he said, ‘I know it and I want to win here.’”

Lefty never did. Not everyone knows that. But Nicklaus does. And you can bet Tiger does, too.

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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Rory McIlroy needs to win Memorial to prove something to himself

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