There is one common theme for the tournaments in the States and Europe this week and that is the need for finding fairways and greens. The Memorial Tournament and Nordea Masters are both played on courses that put a premium on accuracy over distance. Penal rough on both tracks means missing the short grass can be costly so the players to focus on are those that don’t have an advantage from long hitting.
Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson are class acts in their respective fields. Scott must take on four players from the top 6 in the world rankings in the Memorial while Stenson is the highest world ranked player in the field for the Nordea Masters. Both players are major champions who have found some form ahead of the second major of the season, the US Open, which takes place in two weeks.
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The Memorial Tournament was first played in 1976. The event is hosted by Jack Nicklaus at the Muirfield Village course in Ohio that he conceived and built. It is one of the most prestigious non-major events on the PGA Tour and its status is enhanced by a limited field of about 120 players. The winner gets a brief meeting with Nicklaus and his reputation as the best player in the history of the game adds more lustre.
Nicklaus continues to modify his design to test modern players. Over the years it has been lengthened and various fairways remodelled. He also aims to penalise players who miss the fairways. The severity of the rough depends on weather conditions before the tournament. In any year the rough is demanding while bunkers are regularly moved or reshaped to be genuine hazards. The course is a good fit for Scott who is a proven links player.
Nicklaus won the first of his three British Opens at Muirfield in 1966 so the course will have certain features taken from that links course in Scotland. The Open requires a variety of skills to excel and something similar is needed for good scoring at Muirfield Village. Scott all but won the Open at 2012 at Lytham and won the Masters Tournament the following April. He has also won two WGC events which bring together the best players in the world.
So the Aussie is proven at the very highest level and won’t be intimidated by Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Spieth and Jon Rahm who play this week and are above the 10th placed Scott in the world rankings. He has made 48 cuts in 64 majors and made the top 10 in the four events that matter most on 16 occasions. Scott is currently 33rd for greens in regulation on the PGA Tour and about average for driving accuracy so his profile makes him a leading contender this week.
That comment also applies to Stenson who is playing in the country of his birth this week. The Nordea Masters is being played at Barseback Golf Club at Malmo in Sweden. This is a tough, long course with average-width fairways that are narrow in places, making accuracy off the tee important. The greens are large, flat and bent grass. Barseback is a mixed parkland course as some holes are by the sea and others are tree-lined. That means Stenson should feel at home in more ways than one.
At number five in the world Stenson is three places above his compatriot, Alex Noren. That player is at a career high now after blitzing through the field in the final round of the BMW PGA Championship last week. His playing partner said the tournament winning 18 holes in 62 strokes was the best round of golf he had ever seen. Noren would be a popular winner in Sweden but Stenson is a much bigger hero in the country in which both players were born.
Stenson’s game is all about hitting fairways and greens so that gives him a great chance this week. He is the current Open champion so any links type holes will not give him a problem. Stenson comes into the event after a top 5 at Wentworth last week and is playing on a course that suits his game. Most of the galleries will want him to win and Stenson can deliver in the Nordea Masters before Scott wins the Memorial Tournament.
Back next Thursday.
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