Five Things: Unfamiliar No. 1 at Memorial
Thursday, June 2, 2011
1) World No. 1: Luke Donald arrives at Memorial as the newly minted top player in the Official World Golf Ranking. It’s the first time someone other than Tiger Woods held that spot at the Memorial since Vijay Singh in 2005, during the Fijian’s three-week reign as No. 1.
David Duval was No. 1 at the 1999 Memorial, but Woods would quickly retake the position and hold it for the next five Memorials, through 2004.
Woods missed the 2006 and ’08 Memorials because of injuries and would have to play considerably better to make it back to the top spot.
2) Little success for Donald: Six appearances and only one top 10; that’s Luke Donald’s record at the Memorial. For a course that doesn’t require a lot of length, according to designer Jack Nicklaus, Donald, a relatively short driver of the ball will have to depend on all his moxie to maneuver around Muirfield Village.
For Donald, that might not be such a tall order. He ranks third on Tour in scrambling. Eliminate the sand-save category, in which he ranks 16th, and the Englishman would be No. 1.
It seems inconceivable that Donald won’t show his best at Memorial this week, considering he has not finished outside the top 10 since missing the cut at the Northern Trust Open at Riviera in February.
“I wasn’t very happy the way I played in that third round at Wentworth,” Donald said Wednesday, referring to last week’s BMW PGA Championship, in which he defeated then-No. 1 Lee Westwood in a playoff. “My swing got a little bit off kilter, and that’s just a product of playing a lot. It’s very hard to keep practicing and working on the right things when you’re playing a lot of tournaments. I have to work on that.”
The rest of the Memorial field shouldn’t take solace in Donald’s comments. He also said he didn’t have his best game last week and still found a way to win.
3) U.S. Open preparations: Outside of the fact that U.S. Open qualifying is Monday in Columbus, some players have to make the trip to other destinations. Todd Hamilton signed up for the qualifier in Dallas because he didn’t think he would get a sponsor exemption into Memorial.
On the other extreme is Phil Mickelson. Lefty, already exempt for the U.S. Open, plans to visit Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., site of the Open, next week to work specifically on three clubs he hopes to use off the tee: driver, 3-wood and 2-iron.
Expect to see Luke Donald in D.C., as well.
4) Aussie Open, here I come: Fred Couples has a lot of time before he has to make his two captain’s picks in September for the Presidents Cup, but it seems clear that one of the requirements of excepting the pick will.
“I’m going to lay that out for them,” Couples said of requiring the picks to play in the Australian Open. “The two that I pick will be playing in the same tournament I’m playing in the week before the Presidents Cup.”
“Well, if he wants to play,” Couples said of Woods. “If I pick two people and the other guy is there, he should be there.”
Couples was on the 1998 U.S. team that got hammered at Royal Melbourne and doesn’t want to repeat the experience, so he believes being in country playing the week before is a good thing.
5) Avoid the water hazards: Kenny Perry is playing in his fifth consecutive event this week at Memorial, yet at 6 p.m. he was on the range, hitting balls and chipping to one of the practice greens.
Perry’s reasoning: He was here by himself and just killing time. Usually, his wife Sandy would accompany the former Memorial winner, but she is home this week in Franklin, Ky., dealing with a flood when a water heater broke while the couple were at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville last week for the Senior PGA Championship.
Thankfully, Perry said his son-in-law stopped by the house and found the beginnings of a mess. With water rising shin-high, the son-in-law reported that the second floor of the Perrys’ house could have been in great peril. However, the intervention limited damage to a couple of rooms.
So Sandy is working with contractors to make repairs while Kenny is at Memorial, trying to win his first Tour title since the 2009 Travelers Championship.