Jack Nicklaus is the greatest golfer in the history of the sport and a player with potential to match his achievements is playing in the Memorial Tournament this week. The event is very much Nicklaus’s baby as it always played at Muirfield Village, the course that Jack conceived and built. The founder would be delighted if Jordan Spieth won a tournament that has a record of being won by existing and future major champions.
Six players have won the Memorial more than once and three of those are considered to be amongst the greats. Nicklaus himself, Tiger Woods and Tom Watson are multiple champions and Hale Irwin and Greg Norman have won more than one Memorial and they are also multiple major winners. Kenny Perry is also on the list of regular winners at Muirfield and although he has not won a major on the PGA Tour he has won three senior major championships.
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Among his record 18 majors Nicklaus won the British Open three times, twice at St Andrews and once at the original Muirfield in Scotland. In 1966 Nicklaus won his first Open on the course that his complex in Ohio is named after and he has tried to replicate. He won that Open under difficult weather conditions and used his driver sparingly. This was the only major he had not won at the time and thus he became just the fourth player to complete the career Grand Slam.
Career Grand Slam
At the time Nicklaus was the youngest player to have won all four majors but at aged 24 Woods was two years younger in 2000 when he completed the set. Nicklaus and Woods are the only players to have won each major three times. The former won the last of his majors and sixth US Masters at the age of 46 in 1986. Woods is not yet 40 so in theory he has several years to add to his tally of 14 and get closer to Nicklaus in the all time list of multiple major champions.
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Tiger has now dropped out of the top 100 in the world rankings for the first time since 1996. He has not won a major since the 2008 US Open and in recent years his form on the golf course has been affected by a serious of injuries and his lifestyle away from the game. Woods showed signs of getting back to his best in the Masters but was never a factor in the Players Championship. The status of the Memorial brings out the best in Woods but there is little evidence to suggest he can win for the sixth time at Muirfield Village.
Spieth is not in the top 50 for driving distance and greens hit though his excellent putting can get him in the mix this weekend. A more viable alternative to Woods is Justin Rose, a former champion at Muirfield. He won the Zurich Classic in April thus winning at least once in the States over the last six years. He would probably swap ten Memorials for a second US Open but would still be honoured to win Jack’s tournament.
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