DUBLIN, OH - JUNE 03: Rory McIlroy of Nothern Ireland hits his tee shot on the par 5 5th hole during the second round of the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance at Muirfield Village Golf Club on June 3, 2011 in Dublin, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
For Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy, the Memorial Tournament marks the beginning of a hectic few weeks on the PGA Tour.
As the 2012 the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance tees off this week from beautiful Muirfield Village, two players in the field have a lot to prove heading into the U.S. Open in a couple weeks. Masters champion Bubba Watson and defending U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy are back in action, but neither man has been playing up-to-par with their heightened expectations.
In the case of Watson, golf has seemingly played second-fiddle to other areas of focus for the newly-crowned Masters victor. After taking more than a month off of professional golf to be with his growing family -- and seven weeks since becoming an overnight sensation after donning the Green Jacket -- Watson returns to action at an event that he has already deemed "practice" for the U.S. Open in June. When play begins on Thursday, he will certainly have a challenging opportunity to knock any rust off his game in preparation for the season's second major.
Rory McIlroy has an entirely different approach and goal this week at Muirfield: to make a cut. The former (and probably future) World No. 1 has struggled his last two tournaments, missing the cut-line at each due to poor play. His performance at last week's BMW Championship in Europe was downright abysmal, punctuated by McIlroy losing his cool for a brief second in the process. With the U.S. Open just around the corner, McIlory is undoubtedly looking to show the world that his record-breaking finish last year was anything but a one-time fluke.
While the careers of both Watson and McIlroy are on the rise, the next few weeks will include a heavy dose of added pressure to their respective schedules. Both men have much to prove during that time, and all we can do is just sit back and take in all of the action as it unfolds.