I’m on location this week near Columbus, OH to watch The Memorial Tournament, a tournament Jack Nicklaus has attempted to craft into his very own Masters tournament. There’s the course, a 7300-yard test with small greens, a meandering stream, hills left and right (and fore and back), and a 165-yard 12th hole over water to a diagonal, peanut-shaped green. There are the caddies, who all wear white overalls. There are the trash bags, all tents, and the course conditions – green, green, and green. There’s even the name of the club at which the tournament is played – “town name” Golf Club (I guess Jack forgot the word ‘National’). Nicklaus, winner of six Masters, has created a tournament that draws big fields, I’ll give him that. But The Memorial is no Masters.
Heck, it may not even be a PGA Tour stop after this year… but more on that tomorrow.
The gates from public parking dump spectators near the sixth tee. I watched Bill Haas, son of Jay (who competed last week at the Senior PGA Championship and has followed me to Columbus to play this week, too) finish the fifth hole and tee off on the sixth with James Driscoll and Kevin Na.
As I made my way to the twelfth green, I saw Vaughn Taylor practicing bunker shots on the 13th green. I stopped, chit-chatted with him about his year, wished him well, and continued on. Vaughn, one of the more promising young rookies on the PGA Tour, is hoping to play a bit better and has been working on overcoming a bit of a sophomore slump.
The twelfth, Jack’s not-so-subtle tribute to Amen Corner’s apex, has a large hillside beyond the green that makes for perfect viewing. Tuesday at Augus, errrr, Muirfield Village brings a special Pro-Am. Eighteen pros tee off on holes 1-12 in a shotgun start. Starting at the twelfth, Davis Love III birdied, as did Adam Scott behind him.
Todd Hamilton, third to the tee, birdied as well, making the pros three for three. When Tiger Woods stepped to the tee, why, nobody doubted that he’d make it four for four.
Tiger didn’t disappoint, hitting his tee shot to within three feet after nearly flying his ball in the hole on the fly. Upon reaching the green, Tiger joked with his playing partners and, eventually, made the putt.
Chris DiMarco, second at the Masters to Tiger, followed Tiger to the twelfth and managed to two-putt from 15 feet, breaking the string of birdies. Luck, as at Augusta, does not seem to be with The Claw here at Muirfield Village.
Mark O’Meara came through, and then Jerry Kelly came by. As I was leaving the course, Kelly teed off on the sixth hole and then hopped the fence. Apparently, he knows the owners of the course near the fifth green and sixth tee, or at least had an opinion about the pool they were building. His pro-am partners teed off without the assistance – or eye – of their pro. I can only hope that Kelly returned to the golf without taking a swim…
Stephen Ames came through, and so did Jay Haas, who couldn’t best the shots of his two amateur partners. Then Stewart Cink put a shot to 15 feet and, after watching his playing partner just miss, drilled the birdie. The guy may look silly putting with that belly doohickey, but he sure holes ’em!
After Mike Weir came through, Stuart Appleby followed Stewart Cink. One of the caddies was a very attractive woman, and I’ve included Stuart’s picture for no other reason. Later, Ernie Els would play in a foursome with a woman amateur (she dunked her tee shot).
Brad Faxon holed a birdie putt, and then Vijay Singh stepped to the tee. After Tiger put his ball to three feet, well, what was the #1 Player in the World to do but get inside that? He did, putting his ball to two feet.
The next tee shot, from one of Singh’s amateur partners, got inside Singh’s ball and came to rest about a foot from the hole. A career shot if ever there was one, the amateur would go on to win the closest to the pin competition by a good five feet.
Ernie Els, the third-ranked player in the world, came to the tee looking to better the tee shots of Tiger Woods (3′) and Vijay Singh (2′). He could not, and in fact wouldn’t even birdie the hole after putting his ball on the back left edge of the green.
After Jim Furyk came through, it was time for the main pairing. Tournament host Bobby Jon, errrrr, Jack Nicklaus, came to the tee. Jack went at the ball with his characteristic swing, but the ball was headed for the front edge. The ball, as if guided by one of those Angels in the Outfield, took a member’s bounce through the rough short of the putting surface and rolled to two feet. After walking to the green, Jack checked the closest-to-the-pin sheet and asked the crowd if he had, indeed, been outdone by an amateur.
Tomorrow, well, I’ve got absolutely no plan at all. Stay tuned, though, as I’ll get to the bottom of one story, one way or another. Oh, and sunscreen. I must remember the sunscreen.
Photo Credits: © 2005 Erik J. Barzeski/The Sand Trap .com. All rights reserved.