As the calendar flips to June, the PGA Tour may finally be gaining some momentum after an underwhleming first half of the year. Last Sunday was unquestionably the best day of the golf year so far. Rory McIlroy's come-from-behind win in England was quickly followed by Adam Scott winning his first event as the new No. 1 player in the world, and in a dramatic playoff over Jason Dufner at Colonial. The Tour needed one of its superstars to finally come through on the weekend, and two of the bigger names battled in extra holes.
The Memorial has a deeper field than last week's Colonial, and we're set up nicely for another good Sunday. For the biggest names in the game, this is often the last test before the U.S. Open. And the season's first major winner, Bubba Watson, will come to the course with the 54-hole lead and an opportunity to lock into the top spot in the FedExCup rankings for probably the rest of the summer. While Scott may have the No. 1 status, Bubba has probably played the best golf in the world since the start of the year. He's got that Masters win, but also ended the nearly two-year drought since his first major title by overwhelming Riviera on the west coast swing. And when he's not winning, he's almost always around the first page of the leaderboard, including two runner-up finishes at both Phoenix and Doral.
So the fact that Bubba is once again in the final pairing on Sunday does not come as much of a surprise, even if it's on a course where he's never placed inside the top 20 in eight career appearances. Bubba gets most of his publicity for being the longest hitter on Tour, and he's once again No. 1 in driving distance this year. But he's also rolling in putts from all over the place, and leads the Tour in putts from 15 to 25 feet. Muirfield is reputed to favor the bombers, and Rory McIlroy said at the start of the week that it's a bit generous if you go long and wayward. That's all perfect for Bubba, but in addition to those length and putting stats, he's also hitting greens in regulation this week. On Saturday, he hit 14 of 18 GIR and is T5 in that category for the week.
While the scoring average has gone down every round this week, things should, in theory, be firmer, faster, and more difficult on Sunday. That could present a problem for Bubba if he does get wild off the tee. But even with stars like Scott, Jordan Spieth, and even Rory within striking distance, the two-time Masters champ is the heavy favorite to secure his third win of the year. A back-and-forth featuring Bubba and one of those big names would be another much-needed boost for the Tour at one of their marquee events. McIlroy is six shots back, but like Augusta, which Muirfield Village is modeled after, a mid-to-low 60s round is possible so sizable chasedowns from anyone near the first page of the leaderboard are realistic. Rory posted a 9-under round just this week.
And that deeper field, along with the imprimatur of Jack Nicklaus, means that we'll get enhanced coverage for this stronger tournament. CBS will be on the air a half-hour earlier than normal. They don't have the rights to the U.S. Open or Open Championship, so this is their biggest broadcast until August and the WGC at Firestone. Golf Channel will start things off with their typical coverage, and they should be able to show the final pairing's first hole, which starts at 1:45 p.m. ET. Unfortunately, Golf Channel can't hand things off seamlessly like they do to their Comcast sister NBC, so we'll get that annoying half-hour blackout period just as the leaders are beginning their round. CBS will be live by 2:30 p.m.
In addition to the TV coverage, both CBS (through the PGA Tour) and Golf Channel will have their simulcast streams up and running. PGATour.com will have a featured groups stream going for both an AM and PM group. On a relatively quiet sports Sunday, the Memorial should get a decent run and set things up for the U.S. Open in two weeks. Here are all your media options for the final round.
Sunday's final round coverage
Noon to 2 p.m. -- Golf Channel
2:30 to 6 p.m. -- CBS
9 a.m. to 6 p.m. -- PGATour.com featured groups stream for both AM and PM group
Noon to 2 p.m. -- Golf Channel LiveExtra simulcast stream
2:30 to 6 p.m. -- PGATour/CBSSports simulcast stream
Noon to 6 p.m. -- PGA Tour Radio on Sirius-XM (Ch. 93/208)