2018 Memorial Boasts Loaded Field

By Jeff Rapp, May 29th, 2018

The 2018 Memorial Tournament festivities began the way the PGA Tour event ended in 2017 – with champion Jason Dufner in the spotlight.

The northeast Ohio native overcame a rough third round last year and put his game back together on Sunday to join the prestigious group of medalists at Muirfield Village Golf Club, which has served as the setting for The Memorial since 1976.

At Tuesday’s interviews Dufner’s dry sense of humor and humility again were on display, and he even showed his Buckeye roots by wearing a SAVE THE CREW ballcap.

Of course, the tournament’s founder and host – golf legend Jack Nicklaus – also is an Ohio native. He grew up in nearby Upper Arlington, attended The Ohio State University while he was an amateur standout and went on to become the sport’s all-time leader for major victories on the professional level with 18.

Nicklaus once honored the great Arnold Palmer here; this time the honoree is Hale Irwin.

This is Jack’s House, and when the greatest golfer of all-time sets up a premier course and produces a first-rate tournament, PGA royalty feels compelled to participate.

Still, Dufner will try to defend his title against what is arguably the most star-studded field in the tournament’s 43-year history.

In the weeks leading up to the event, commitments from top-ranked players began to flood in to Memorial headquarters. Rory McIlroy said he was in. Ditto for Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson, Adam Scott, Justin Rose and some guy named Eldrick “Tiger” Woods, who has won The Memorial a record five times and is, well, Tiger Woods.

Tiger’s incredible run of success has included five Memorial victory circles.

Phil Mickelson is in town. So is Jason Day, who has a home in central Ohio. Masters champ Patrick Reed is here. Same for Rickie Fowler, who always draws a big gallery, especially when it comes to younger patrons.

In fact, the opening rounds on Thursday and Friday will feature four marquee pairings.

One of the groups includes the trio of Day (major champion and two-time winner this season, Johnson (ranked No. 2 in the world) and McIlroy (2016 FedExCup champion). Another has Spieth (reigning British Open champion) alongside Watson (two-time Masters champion) and Mickelson (owner of five major championship titles)

Woods will make his rounds with fellow former Memorial champions Dufner and Rose, the latter the reigning Olympic gold medalist. Reed and Fowler are paired with Justin Thomas, the current top-ranked player in the world and FedExCup rankings as well as the reigning FedExCup champion.

In addition to Thomas, the list of top-10 players on hand includes No. 2 Johnson, No. 3 Spieth, No. 5 Rose, No. 6 Fowler, No. 7 Day, No. 8 McIlroy and No. 9 Hideki Matsuyama, the 2014 Memorial winner. The 2018 field also boasts the top five in the FedExCup standings: Thomas, No. 2 Day, No. 3 Mickelson, No. 4 Patton Kizzire and No. 5 Reed.

“We’re looking forward to a special week,” Nicklaus said. “The Memorial Tournament has virtually every great player in the game today in this year’s field. Plus, we’re looking forward to hosting 13 of our past winners, including defending winner Jason Dufner. And we are delighted to welcome back five-time winner Tiger Woods and three-time winner Kenny Perry.”

Added tournament executive director Dan Sullivan, “We are gratified to see so many of the game’s top players coming to Muirfield Village Golf Club and supporting not only a special Tournament but also our charitable endeavors. This year’s field, one of our best, is a testament to the vision and commitment to excellence of our Tournament Founder and Host Jack Nicklaus, whose mission has been to put on the best golf event in the world.

The list of past Memorial winners includes not only Dufner, Woods, Perry, Rose and Matsuyama, but also K.J. Choi, Ernie Els, Jim Furyk (who is serving as U.S. Ryder Cup captain this fall in Paris), Matt Kuchar, David Lingmerth, William McGirt, Carl Pettersson and Vijay Singh.

Kuchar was a crowd favorite while winning Jack’s tournament in 2013.

Many of the headliners will play in the pro-am on Wednesday, a day that also includes a golf clinic and Honoree Ceremony, which has been moved up from 3 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. Eastern due to the threat of rain. Hale Irwin if this year’s player honoree.

Players who make the cut will continue to compete in rounds three and four over the weekend.

The Golf Channel will broadcast the Honoree Ceremony and plans to air first- and second-round coverage from 2:30-6:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday. CBS will air the third round live on Saturday from 3-6 p.m. Eastern and the final round on Sunday from 2:30 to 6 or whenever the tournament concludes.