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Jun 5, 2024 1:34 pm

Top players tee off in major tune-up at Memorial Tournament

Viktor Hovland Memorial

It is fitting that, to prepare for the U.S. Open, the best golfers in the world will play the invitational hosted by golf’s greatest major champion.

Nine of the top 10 players in the world rankings and the entire top 30 of the FedEx Cup standings will tee off Thursday in the Memorial Tournament, which has long been hosted by Jack Nicklaus at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. Missing from the group is Jon Rahm of Spain, who is ranked seventh in the world but as a LIV Golf member is ineligible for the Memorial.

Nicklaus would prefer his tournament be returned to the weekend that shares its name, Memorial Day weekend, but the PGA Tour designed the 2024 schedule to have signature events on either side of the U.S. Open for a three-week stretch of elite golf.

A field of just 73 players will compete for the $20 million purse, but as a “player-hosted” invitational, the Memorial still features a 36-hole cut to the top 50 players and ties.

Players’ opinions may differ over whether they want to play a tournament the week before a major, but what remains constant is the current generation’s reverence for Nicklaus, the 18-time major winner.

“I always dreamed of coming here and playing in this tournament and it’s a dream come true just to be here in the field,” said Scottie Scheffler, the No. 1 player in the world, who’s making his fourth start at the Memorial. “So I’m excited. It would mean a lot to me to be able to shake his hand and win this golf tournament with all the history here and what Mr. Nicklaus has meant to the game and, like I said, it’s just an honor to be in the field this week.”

Viktor Hovland of Norway shook Nicklaus’ hand last season after he defeated Denny McCarthy in a playoff. That propelled Hovland into a stellar summer that culminated with him winning the final two legs of the FedEx Cup playoffs. Since then, he was having a disappointing 2024 before a third-place finish at the PGA Championship.

Hovland reunited with his old swing coach, Joe Mayo, which seemed to coincide with his return to form at the last major.

“Yeah, it feels the same,” Hovland said of that relationship. “Talking about the same stuff and working along the same lines. We’re getting some good work done and I’m pretty pumped to play the rest of the summer.”

This will be the first tournament Xander Schauffele plays since winning the PGA Championship last month and rising to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. He had finished second at the Wells Fargo Championship the week prior, and statistically he has looked like the best golfer not named Scheffler this year.

“The type of golf I was playing those past two weeks is definitely the golf you need to play on a property like Muirfield, no doubt,” Schauffele said. “I think it’s just a really penalizing golf course if you’re slightly off, and there’s a chance that (in the past) I was either not in the right head space or I was maybe a little too aggressive at times around this property.”

The field also features stars such as two-time Memorial winner Patrick Cantlay, Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, Collin Morikawa and Max Homa. Robert MacIntyre of Scotland, last week’s winner at the RBC Canadian Open, chose to withdraw to rest before the U.S. Open.

–Field Level Media

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