DUBLIN, Ohio – Each year the Memorial Tournament singles out players or contributors for their achievements in and gifts to the game.
In 2010 it will honor one of the most colorful and beloved international stars, Seve Ballesteros.
Ballesteros, fighting a cancerous brain tumor, won a record 50 times on the European Tour, including three British Open championships. The first European to win the Masters, in 1980, the Spaniard twice won the green jacket and was the youngest winner at Augusta until Tiger Woods’ first victory in 1997.
His 1988 British Open victory featured his usual wizardry around the greens, capped by a chip from behind the 18th green that finished inches from the cup.
“I knew at the time I won the Open in 1988 that I had reached some sort of peak, that it was a round of golf that I would think fondly about for the rest of my life,” he said.
He will be invited to come to Muirfield Village the week of the Memorial. If his health allows him to make the trip, it will be his first time at the course since he won four points for the winning European side in the 1987 Ryder Cup matches.
This year’s honorees were JoAnne Carner and Jackie Burke Jr.
DEJA VU (AGAIN): One highlight that gets shown more than others at the Memorial is Tiger Woods’ chip-in for par from behind the 14th green in 1999, his first of four wins at Muirfield Village. Maybe some have seen it too much.
He was in deep rough behind the 11th green Sunday, facing a slick green that ran away from him.
A Memorial Tournament official walked by a TV screen as Woods stood over the chip and said, “Oh, is this the one he chips in?”
Woods took a chop at it, with a one-handed follow-through and the ball dropped for eagle.
“Yep,” the gentleman said as he walked away.
CATCHING A PLANE: Scott McCarron, playing as a single and the first player off the tee, raced around Muirfield Village in 2 hours, 9 minutes – what his caddie Bradley Whittle was told was an unofficial Memorial speed record.
Know how the contenders say it takes time to look over putts on the fast greens at Muirfield Village? McCarron, who shot a 71, said he had his best putting day of the week and barely glanced at them.
“I took absolutely no time” on the greens, he said. “The only time I actually took some time was on 8 and I four-putted.”
He wished he had concentrated a bit more on holes 8, 9 and 12, where he was a combined 15 over for the week; on the other 60 holes he was 2 under.
McCarron needed to step on the gas. He had a 12:15 p.m. flight to Memphis where he was scheduled for two quick practice rounds later Sunday on the courses where he’ll play in Monday’s U.S. Open sectional qualifier.
“I’ll play 54 holes today in two states – and fly commercial,” he said, laughing.
BEAR’S BIGGEST SHOT: Each of the medalists at the national collegiate tournaments are annually presented Nicklaus awards by their namesake on the final day of the Memorial Tournament.
Nicklaus did the honors on Sunday, handing over the trophies to Matt Hill of North Carolina State in Division I, Valdosta State’s Brent Witcher (Division II), Mitchell Fedorka of La Verne (Division III) and Sam Cyr of Point Loma Nazarene (NAIA).
The NCAA Division I tournament used a new format this year, starting with three stroke-play rounds to determine the individual medalist and top eight teams, and then two days of team match play to decide the national champion.
Nicklaus had advocated introducing match play at the college level because he said it would “toughen up” players who needed to make shots under pressure down the stretch, in major championships but particularly in international team competitions such as the Ryder and Presidents cups.
Then he gave an example of what it would mean from his own illustrious career.
He played the nation’s top amateur at the time, Charles Coe, in the 1959 U.S. Amateur final of match play.
“I ended up at the last hole having to make a birdie to win. I holed that 8-footer,” Nicklaus said. “That was probably the most important putt I ever made in my career, because it gave me the confidence to know that head-to-head at the finish of a tournament … that I knew I could do it. It wasn’t I thought I could do; it was something I did. It was a big, big factor in my career.”
DIVOTS: A spectator crashed Woods’ post-tournament news conference to ask for an autograph. Nicklaus, impressed with the fan’s guts, asked for his patron’s badge and signed it. So did Woods – but only after police had escorted the man away. … It was the first time Woods won on the PGA Tour when not playing in the final group since the 2007 Buick Invitational. … In his 400th career start on tour, Jim Furyk finished second for the 21st time. … The victory was Woods’ 10th win in Ohio, trailing only California (13) and Florida (12). … Dustin Johnson’s drive on the par-4 17th was measured at 382 yards. … The tournament has not had a playoff since 1992, when David Edwards defeated Rick Fehr with a par on the second playoff hole – the longest span without extra holes of any stop on tour. … Reinier Saxton, the 2008 British Amateur champion, finished tied for 53rd. … Furyk led the tournament in driving accuracy (50 of 56, 89 percent) with Woods second (49 of 56, 88 percent). … The par-4 18th hole played the toughest all week, yielding a 4.343 average. The par-5 seventh hole played the easiest at 4.698.