Tiger Woods will not be making another flop shot for the ages this week at Muirfield Village. His Nike compadre and Memorial Tournament favorite, Rory McIlroy, however, may pitch some “Tigeresque” magic around Jack’s place when he takes his spot alongside world No. 1 Adam Scott in the first two rounds of an event Woods has won five times.
McIlroy overcame personal turmoil and a seven-shot final-round deficit to win the European Tour’s PGA Championship on Sunday. He will tee it up with Scott, who secured his hold on the top ranking with his own W at Colonial. Muirfield Village member Jason Day, who is returning from a thumb injury and will make his first tour start since finishing in a tie for 20th at the Masters in April, will round out the marquee trio, which will tee off at 1:16 p.m. ET on Thursday.
In one of the more memorable jousts between the lad from Northern Ireland and the 2013 Masters champion, McIlroy shocked Scott on home turf at the Australian Open in December.
The winner of two majors, McIlroy has been compared with the absent 14-time grand slam winner in the past, most memorably when Graeme McDowell called him the “next Tiger Woods” as the Ulsterman was tearing up Congressional Country Club on the way to his 2011 U.S. Open win. More recently, European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley said he believes the guy he reckons will be his star player at Gleneagles in September has shown Tiger-like qualities of late.
“Having watched him the last six months in particular and how he has been able to churn out a top-10 finish from relatively poor first two rounds, like he did in the [Players Championship] -- I think he birdied two of the last three holes to make the cut on the mark and then careered through the field to finish in the top 10 -- we are seeing a different Rory now,” McGinley told Brian Keogh after McIlroy’s one-shot win at Wentworth over another potential Ryder Cupper, Shane Lowry.
“He calls them backing into top-10s. I think they are wonderful performances, terrific performances when you don’t seem to be on your game and you make some mistakes and finish in the top 10,” McGinley observed. “And then when you do hit top form like last week, you go on to win. I think we are seeing a more mature Rory ... and maybe a little into the Tigeresque way of consistency week after week after week, because he has done it this year.”
And there you have it -- your Rory-McIlroy-as-Tiger-Woods comparison of the week.
Rory displaying the wealth of his potential to act like Tiger, Photo credit: Lintao Zhang
In addition to the Scott-McIlroy-Day threesome, here are some of the other stacked groups that will compete at the Memorial (click here for all tee times):
- Phil Mickelson/Jordan Spieth/Bill Haas -- Lefty will lug his three missed cuts and two withdrawals in 2014 to the course for a 1:05 p.m. Thursday tee time on the first hole (8:15 a.m. Friday off No. 10). His last start at Muirfield Village, in 2012, resulted in a WD after an opening 79. Spieth’s T63 finish last year came after he carded an 82 in the third round and a 68 in the finale.
- Bubba Watson/Keegan Bradley/Jim Furyk (8:15 a.m., 10th tee/1:05 p.m., first tee) -- The two-time Masters champ’s best results in eight Memorial starts were T23 in 2009 and 2007. Bradley, winless in 2014, hopes to better last year’s T50 finish, while Furyk shook host Jack Nicklaus’ hand after he won the event in 2002.
- Matt Kuchar/Justin Rose/Steve Stricker -- (8:26 a.m., No. 10/1:16 p.m. No. 1) -- Defending champion Kuchar has top-10 finishes in all five Memorial starts. Reigning U.S. Open champion Rose captured his first tour victory in the 2010 Memorial, while Stricker won the competition in 2011.