Fore Questions from The Memorial Touranment
Jon Rahm came out victorious at The Memorial Tournament on Sunday, winning by three strokes over Ryan Palmer. Rahm broke through the crowded leaderboard on Saturday, taking a three-shot lead into Sunday where he built up a big lead, only to watch it dwindle down with the help of some bogeys and a two-shot penalty assessed after the round on the 16th hole. But even with all the tough moments down the stretch, he made a miraculous chip in birdie on 16 and held on to win and become the world’s best player. We take a look at some of the biggest questions in golf from the past week as well as some observations from Muirfield Village.
1. Who Said Winning Was Easy?
Jon Rahm built himself a massive 8-shot lead on the front 9 on Sunday and it appeared he was going to be smooth sailing on the back 9. But Rahm started leaking some oil with bad drives and missed putts while Ryan Palmer rebounded with a couple birdies. Before you knew it, the difference was 3 on the 15th tee. Then after one of the greatest short game shots on 16 when he chipped in to build his lead back up, word came out of a potential two-stroke penalty for moving his ball while grounding his club. He would be assessed the penalty after the round. In the end, Rahm still was able to hold on and win The Memorial on what turned out to be a very difficult course for the players.
The win gives Jon Rahm the No. 1 ranking in the world becoming only the second Spaniard to achieve such a feat; the other was Seve Ballesteros. Rahm is also the third youngest player to ever become world number 1 at just 25 years old. The next big goal on Rahm’s accomplishment list is to win a major championship. He’s gotten himself into contention a couple times but hasn’t been able to hold it together on Sunday. Even at the Players Championship a year ago, the next closest thing to a major, he squandered a three-shot lead on Sunday. He’s young, though, and a major seems to be coming much sooner rather than later. He will no doubt be one of the top favorites at the PGA Championship in three weeks.
2. What Grade Would You Give Tiger’s Performance?
In 2000, this would be an easy F-, but in 2020, it’s probably in the C-range especially considering the circumstances. He played B-golf on Thursday and Saturday but at best D-golf on Friday and Sunday. Tiger finished +6, good enough for a tie for 40th. I guess that’s how expectations have changed.
Listen, Tiger wasn’t at his best, especially physically. The back caused him big issues on Friday that led to a string of bogeys and he was clearly rusty from not playing tournament golf since February. He looked drained by the time he made the turn on Sunday. This is the way it is now. There were times he looked like the Tiger of 20 years ago, and then times where he looked like the Tiger of five years ago…you know, the Tiger that shot in the 80s and dropped to 1,000-something in the world rankings
The next big question is whether Tiger play a tune-up event before the PGA Championship on August 6. If he has any chance of winning the PGA, he needs to play the WGC St. Jude Championships in Memphis next week which will be a star-studded field. He cannot go in without any extra tournament reps. Thus far, word is he’s 50/50 for St. Jude. I get the back is a concern, but going into what is likely to be chilly weather in San Francisco with just one tournament under your belt since February is not going to produce a good result at the PGA.
3. Why Can’t Tony Finau Win More?
Not gonna lie, it’s one of the biggest head-scratching questions in golf. Tony Finau is ranked in the top-20 in the world and has the talent of a top-10 player. He finished in the top-5 at last year’s Open Championship and Masters and was tied for the lead going into the 2018 U.S. Open and 2019 Masters. So how does someone with so much skill and potential have just one win on the PGA Tour, a 2016 victory at the Puerto Rico Open? It seems to be a weekend thing with Tony. He gets himself into contention a lot but finds ways to make the big mistake to take him out of a tournament. He reminds me a lot, unfortunately, of Rickie Fowler. On Saturday, Finau had a three-shot lead and then gave it all away on the back 9. It only got worse on Sunday, shooting a final round 78. His putter has been his biggest achilles heel, and if he can’t correct it on Sundays, that one win won’t grow very much.
4. How could The Open have improved the “Open for the Ages”?
In case you missed it, the Open Championship took video clips from the past 50 years and aired what they called “The Open For the Ages”, putting Jack Nickalus, Tiger Woods, Seve Ballesteros, Gary Player, Nick Faldo, Louis Oosthuizen, and other past stars and Open champions into one championship at St. Andrew’s. Since the Open was cancelled this year due to the coronavirus, the Royal and Ancient took a creative approach to giving the fans some sort of alternative. If you ever saw the Dream Bowl that the NFL did back in the 90s trying to pair dynasties up against each other, it was very similar to that. They used science and fan polling to try and put together the final leaderboard. The first three days they just aired highlights but on the the final day they showed a full three-hour telecast.
The Open could have gotten more creative and used more coverage from other courses so it wasn’t all from St. Andrew’s. There wasn’t much they could use of Rory McIlroy since he only played two total rounds at St. Andrew’s in his career. Maybe they could have found ways to make it seem more real, but it still was a pretty neat concept to give fans at least something in spite of no Open being held.
Three Foods For Thought
1.The Memorial Felt Like a U.S. Open
Ask and you shall receive. After a run of 20-under (or close to it) winning scores, players struggled to score par at Muirfield Village this week. We finally saw something close to resembling a major championship-type course. Perhaps Jack Nicklaus had seen enough just like I had. Heavy winds on Thursday accompanied by long rough and fast greens led to difficulty on the course. Even Bryson DeChambeau couldn’t muscle his way towards birdies and even found a way to make a 10 on Friday. In the end, a total of just nine players finished under par.
We need more tournaments like this moving forward. The weather contributed, obviously, with a lack of rain and windy weather. That will equate to difficult conditions anywhere, but the choice to grow the rough is something more courses need to do. It should be more of a penalty like it was at The Memorial.
2. Bryson has some growing up to do
Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen a lot from Bryson DeChambeau, both the good and the bad. On the plus side, he brings a personality that is great for the game and it makes him entertaining to watch. Plus his talent and power is just, well, incredible. The man hit a 423-yard drive on Thursday! He’s truly one of the rising talents in the game.
However, there’s still a lot of immaturity there and his temper is clearly visible. In his last two tournaments, a silly argument with a cameraman over his brand and another one with a rules official have shed the young star in a more negative light. On Friday, his caddie had to block the camera to shield the audience from seeing a DeChambeau meltdown. There was also an incident a year ago where he took out part of a practice green in anger. Roid rage? Let’s hope not. This isn’t anything new with young stars. Tiger Woods exhibited his temper from time to time on the course when he was young and Jordan Spieth used to get under people’s skin with some of his on-course antics. Rory McIlroy threw a club into the water at Bay Hill several years back and Sergio Garcia spit in a cup. But all these men have matured with time. Let’s hope that Bryson can also grow up a bit as he becomes more of a star in golf. And Jon Rahm, this is for you, too. No need to be throwing temper tantrums with a big lead like you did on 11.
3. Koepka’s struggles continue
News came out during the Memorial Tournament that Brooks Koepka’s knee is continuing to give him problems and he had an MRI done. The MRI showed that his knee is not improving like it should post-surgery. And it’s evident in his play that something just isn’t right. On Saturday, Koepka displayed a painful grimace when hitting out of a fairway bunker on 17. Koepka was No. 1 in the world just last fall but has fallen out of the top-5 now. He has just one top-10 finish this season to go along with three missed cuts and a withdrawal. Koepka doesn’t plan on taking any time off. Rather, he wants to work his way through it and hope that with continued play, the knee will improve along with his game.
Two Picks for the 3M Open
A bit of a longshot pick here. In his last six tournaments, Hughes has three top-10s and two top-5s. He’s trending in the right direction and played well the first two rounds here last year before a rough weekend. More of a gut feeling that he will find his way into contention given there’s really not a lot of big names entered in the tournament.
Tough conditions got the best of Dustin Johnson at the Memorial, but a much easier course at the TPC Twin Cities should bring the birdies back in his game. He is far superior than most everyone in this weak field and that kind of confidence should help produce a good week here.
One Final Word
The PGA Championship is less than three weeks away.