Tuesday at The Memorial is mainly about two things: the induction ceremony for the year’s honorees and the clinic Jack Nicklaus and selected PGA Tour golfers put on for the benefit of a small crowd. This year, Bubba Watson pounded drives out of (Jack’s) sight and José Maria Olazabal demonstrated his tremendous wedge game.
Of course, neither of those events are particularly newsworth, so I ventured onto the course to take a slew of pictures. A few gigabytes heavier, I returned with a helpful dose. I’ve hand selected a few for you here. Yes, this version will be light on the commentary and heavy on the imagery, so click through and wait just a bit for the images to load. I hope you find the wait worthwhile…
I’m not a certified equipment ho, so I had little interest in trying to peek inside the bags of the PGA Tour pros to see what new, modified, or interesting clubs they were putting into play at Jack’s tournament. The Memorial is one of the few PGA Tour stops that does not allow equipment vans to line the range, making the work of club reps difficult to say the least. The reps are still here… but they’re limited in the services they can provide their players (and the speed at which they can provide them).
Nearly every bag has a Bushnell laser range finder attached. Caddies verify yardages in the standard-issue yardage books or measure distances unique to their player’s game. Obviously, come Thursday, the range finder comes off.
José Maria Olazabal is currently carrying a Titleist 905R under his MacGregor MacTec NVG2 headcover. MacGregor representatives, armed with seven or eight MacTec drivers, spent an hour on the range with Olazabal after his practice round today trying to find one he liked. All went lower and hooked a good bit more than his 905R. In the end, Olazabal kept the Titleist driver in his bag.
Tom Pernice, Jr., in addition to packing a strong prototype 3-wood in Titleist’s 906F line, is also playing the forthcoming Titleist Forged 755 irons. Titleist has really refined the look of their clubs (and headcovers) this year, adding a dashing splash of red.
It’s Jack Nicklaus’ tournament, but this year marks the first in which he will not compete. Though he may play next year (and reserves the right of all former champions to play as long as they wish, just like The Masters), his press conference this year focused on a few things: the changes made to the course, technology, and most importantly, the furrowed bunkers.
Jack held his annual press chat at The Memorial on Tuesday morning. He looks forward to “sitting around, eating a lot, and getting fat.”
By Tuesday, most of the players have arrived and are eager to get in a practice round. The Pro-Am is Wednesday this year, meaning players not playing in the pro-am must get in a final practice round by 11:30am and players in the pro-am will spend the day coddling rich hackers. So, for many, Tuesday is the last serious day they have to play.
It’s always interesting to see who pairs up and plays a practice round together – sometimes the foursome, threesome, and twosome line themselves up along company lines – Titleist and Cobra players go off together or TaylorMade guys stick together – and sometimes the threesomes are puzzling in their makeup – like Retief Goosen, Shigeki Maruyama, and Rod Pampling.
Despite a “no autographs on the course” policy, practice rounds are for autograph seekers, who set themselves up along the walkways from green to tee and hopefully call out the right name. All too often, unfortunately, people request autographs from any golfer they see, only to ask the people around them who just signed their flag, hat, etc.
Adam Scott, seen here playing the slight dogleg left second hole, tees off with one of Titleist’s prototype fairway woods. He split the middle of the fairway. Scott was joined by Geoff Ogilvy, Ian Poulter, and Charlie Hoffman.
A recent winner on Tour, Brett Wetterich played alone on Monday, seen here driving on the reachable par-5 15th hole. Brett has decided to use a 3-wood off the tee this week after putting several balls well left of the fairway with his driver.
Edoardo Molinari, seen here playing to the par-5 fifth green from the bail-out area on Monday, is “playing well right now.” He “looks forward to seeing how [his] game holds up at Winged Foot” when he plays the U.S. Open in two weeks.
Ian Poulter and Charlie Hoffman practice putting on the second green. This is the green on which I watched Jesper Parnevik four-putt from 30 feet last year in the opening round.
Jason Gore must have gotten some good news at his MRI last Tuesday, as he is playing in this week’s tournament. Seen here on the practice range prior to his round with John Daly, an arm band is evident. José Maria Olazabal warmed up by hitting many, many wedges. Seen here just prior to impact, the thing that struck me the most about all of Olazabal’s wedges is that they all have roughtly the same trajectory – low, hard, and drawing just a touch.
The Swedes stick together. I can only wonder if Jesper Parnevik, seen here on the second green, warned playing partner Richard Johnson of the dangers that await him on the green.
John Cook autographs a card for a fan, who then asked me “who was that guy?” Cook is coming off his best finish (T3 at the FedEx St. Jude Classic) since a T2 at the 2002 Memorial. Jim Furyk (right) followed Jack Nicklaus into the media room, and after being repeatedly told what Jack said, quipped “This is a lot of pressure. I follow Jack and then – it’s like God himself put the stamp down. I can’t really argue too much.”
Zach Johnson paces around the green while Scott Verplank asks playing partner Ryan Palmer if his prototype Scotty Cameron C5 putter is loose. The two conclude that the weight is slightly loose, resulting in a clanky sound at impact.
John Daly, always a fan favorite, actually tempted this pushy gentleman to duck under the rope line and walk right up to his idol.
Deaf since the age of two, former OSU player Kevin Hall is making a go of it this week in The Memorial on a sponsor’s exemption. He’s a local favorite, and said “On paper, the goal is to make the cut. When I’m out there, the goal is to play solid and stay in the present and let the outcome take care of itself.”
Mark O’Meara is teeing it up with the big boys this week. Though O’Meara has little shot to win, one thing is for certain: he doesn’t have to worry about the bunkers that have been pushed back to 300+ yards off the tee!
Chain-smoking Pat Perez sucks a few down on the practice range while Rocco Mediate, a storyline for two days at Augusta a few months ago, practice putts to likely hole locations on the 18th green.
Retief Goosen: striding confidently towards a victory at the 2006 Memorial? We shall wait and see. The Goose has seen his game slip this year, but looks to regain his form at Muirfield Village in an attempt to capture a third U.S. Open soon.
Robert Allenby, seen here on the putting green with his caddie, seems to be picking at something…
Rod Pampling walks down the first fairway with Shigeki Maruyama veering off to the left to retrieve the balls he put down that side of the fairway. This threesome, with Retief Goosen, earned points for the most diverse of the day.
Vijay Singh and practice buddy Tom Pernice, Jr. chat amiably as they walk off the back of the 18th green. A thunderstorm in the area suspended play as this threesome (with Sean O’Hair) reached their balls in the 18th fairway.
Sean O’Hair, playing alone early, joined up with Vijay Singh and Tom Pernice, Jr. later on. And the picture on the right, well, pardon me, but there’s more to see at a tournament than golfers.
Photo Credits: © 2006, Erik J. Barzeski, The Sand Trap .com. All rights reserved.