Power Rankings: The Memorial Tournament

May 28, 2012
PGA TOUR staff

Muirfield Village Golf Club hosts the 37th edition of the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance this week.

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If there's a generalized axiom about Jack Nicklaus-designed courses, it's that the challenge increases as you near each hole. There may not exist a better example of this principle than at the par-72 Muirfield Village.

Consider that of the four times in PGA TOUR history that a golfer has completed 72 holes without missing a fairway, three occurred at this week's host course. Calvin Peete, a/k/a "Mr. Accuracy," went 56-for-56 at the Memorial in 1986 and 1987. Brian Claar matched him in 1992. However, success off the tee didn't translate into a memorable finish for either straight shooter. Peete placed T57 and T46, respectively, while Claar tied for 26th place. (David Frost is the third member of the club. He parlayed his achievement into a victory at the 1988 Northern Telecom Tucson Open.)

In 2011, Muirfield Village surrendered a fairways-hit clip of 66.47 percent, ranking T35 on TOUR for the year, but that may have been an anomaly, as the field has averaged north of 71 percent in four of the last six years.

While keeping it in the short grass would seem overrated, of the 12 that finished inside the top 10 on the leaderboard last year, six ranked inside the top 10 in driving accuracy. Meanwhile, only four wound up inside the top 10 in greens in regulation, none of whom cracked the top five.

That fact deviates from the test Nicklaus created. Last year's field averaged 62 percent in greens hit, good for 16th-lowest all season. Yet, the birdie average checked in at 3.94, which ranked 12th-highest. That apparent disconnect is due to the fact that Muirfield Village posted a putting average of 1.735 (sixth-easiest on TOUR) and a par-5 scoring average of 4.67.

Yet, putting inside 10 feet specifically ranked eighth-most challenging. It was the fourth consecutive year that the course has finished inside the top 10 in that range. Indeed, there is no letup.

Muirfield Village plays 7,352 yards from the tips, but the par 5s are gettable. The overall scoring average was 72.129, its easiest since 2007 (71.491). Expect contenders to mix a healthy number of greens in regulation with consistently strong putting and a low scoring average on the quartet of par 5s.

The only changes on the property are at the practice facility, which has been modernized for the current generation of bombers. In conjunction with an additional 45 yards of landing area, seven greens were added as targets.

Along with the annual migration north, the temperatures throughout the week will allow for a comfortable experience. After a seasonable reading in the low 70s on Thursday, the highs will top out in the 60s on Friday and Saturday before climbing back into the mid-70s on Sunday.

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Power Rankings: the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance
Rank Player   Comment
Recorded the first of his four PGA TOUR victories here in 2010. He's also placed fourth (2004) and T2 (2008) at the Memorial. Shared second place at last week's BMW PGA Championship, his sixth top 10 of the year. Fourth on TOUR in greens in regulation.
Fresh off a four-stroke romp and title defense of the BMW PGA Championship, his sixth victory worldwide in 15 months. Top 15s in his last three trips to Muirfield Village, including a T7 last year. Ranks sixth on the PGA TOUR in birdies or better on par 5s.
Since his victory at the 2002 edition of the Memorial, he's 7-for-8 at the event with three top 10s. Only golfer at Colonial last week to card four rounds in the 60s en route to a solo fourth; also led the field in greens in regulation. Three top 10s in his last seven starts.
All kinds of positives flowing with no signs of them coming to an end. Four straight top 10s, the last three of which were top fives. Sixteen consecutive rounds of par or better running. Ranks 16th on TOUR in greens in regulation. Runner-up here in 2009.
Took a week off following a share of seventh place at the Byron Nelson where he shot par or better in every round and ranked T7 in greens hit. Six top 20s in his last seven appearances at the Memorial. Sits third on TOUR in birdies or better on par 5s.
Hadn't posted a top 10 at Muirfield Village until his one-stroke victory last year. In a seven-hole stretch spanning his second and third round, he carded a hole-in-one, an eagle 2 and an eagle 3. Currently ninth on the PGA TOUR in greens in regulation.
Since returning to the winner's circle at Bay Hill, he's sputtered, with a pair of T40s and a missed cut at Quail Hollow (where he's had mixed success). Four-time winner of the Memorial. Worst finish in his last 10 trips was a T22 in 2002.
Currently on the receiving end of a healthy reminder that one cannot get too complacent in this sport. He's missed two straight cuts and has vowed to put more time into his practice sessions. In two starts at the Memorial, he's placed T10 (2010) and T5 (2011).
He's rested following a missed cut at THE PLAYERS, his first of the year. Four top 10s in 12 starts this season. Ranks 18th on TOUR in both greens in regulation and Strokes Gained-Putting; third in birdie average. Tied for seventh at last year's Memorial.
Enjoying a "third wind" in his career this year with five top 10s worldwide, including a T7 at Wentworth. He's logged six top 10s at Muirfield Village, including a victory in 2004 and, most recently, a T8 in 2009. Ranks 26th on the PGA TOUR in greens hit.

In 2012, our expert will be publishing his list of players who didn't quite make the top 10 for that particular week. Here are five other players Rob Bolton likes at Muirfield Village:

11. Bo Van Pelt ... Shook off an injury to his left wrist to post consecutive top 20s, including a T19 at Colonial where he faded on Sunday with a 5-over 75 but ranked T4 in greens hit for the week. Shared third place at the Memorial in 2010 and finished T13 last year.

12. Jonathan Byrd ... Arrives with three straight top-12 finishes in tow, including a T10 at Colonial. It's his first such streak in a single season of his career. Shared third place at Muirfield Village in 2009 and tied for seventh last year. Ranks 42nd in Strokes Gained-Putting.

13. Jason Day ... Case of current form over track record. In his last three starts, he's sandwiched a missed cut at THE PLAYERS with T9s at the Wells Fargo and Byron Nelson. The Aussie is a member at Muirfield Village and lives locally, but he's yet to post a top 25 in three starts.

14. Ben Curtis ... The Ohio native, resident and Kent State product cooled at Wentworth, settling for a T68, but he posted four straight top 15s in the U.S. prior to that. Ranks eighth on TOUR in greens hit and first in Strokes Gained-Putting. Placed T13 at last year's Memorial.

15. Nicolas Colsaerts ... The first-timer at Muirfield Village won the Volvo World Match Play Championship two weeks ago for his seventh top 10 worldwide this year. Ranks 11th on the European Tour in greens in regulation, 46th in putting and sixth in scoring average.