Thursday, 31 May 2012

World's Best at the Nicklaus Memorial

Seven of the world's top 10 - including numbers one and two, Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy - go head to head at Muirfield Village this week for the Jack Nicklaus - hosted Memorial Tournament.

Lee Westwood, Jason Dufner and Matt Kuchar are the only members of the top 10 missing, which means Tiger Woods returns to try and erase the memory of three bad events in a row and Masters champion Bubba Watson is back in action for only the second time since his triumph at Augusta.

Donald, of course, arrives in Ohio full of confidence after his successful defence of the BMW PGA Championship on Sunday.

The fact that he had another tournament to head for did not stop him celebrating, after getting back to his home in Chicago he posted on Twitter: "Quick sweat in the gym to get the last of the Moet out! Then off to The Memorial to do it all over again."

McIlroy, on the other hand, will be looking to rediscover some form with his defence of the US Open now only a fortnight away.

The 23-year-old Northern Irishman lost top spot to Donald at the weekend after missing his second successive halfway cut by a worrying eight shots at Wentworth.

McIlroy, who has now entered next week's St Jude Classic in Memphis, admitted last week: "I think I might have taken my eye off the ball a little bit.

"Maybe it's just not practising as hard as I might have been. Pretty much everything went wrong, but I don't think it will be hard to fix.

"I just need to hit a lot of balls and get comfortable with my game again. I'm still confident in my abilities."

He could move back to number one, but that requires him winning and Donald finishing outside the top 13 at Muirfield Village.

Woods has already been at the Olympic Club in San Francisco this week preparing for the second major of the season.

His last three finishes have been 40th in the Masters, a missed cut at Quail Hollow and then 40th again at the Players Championship.
Woods happy with progress

However, in an online chat with fans - the second time this year he has done that rather than hold a press conference - Woods insisted he was happy with his progress under coach Sean Foley.

"We're excited about what we're working on. I hadn't played well in a couple of weeks, but we know what it is," he said.

"It's a matter of getting reps in and getting the trust in it."

Watson played in New Orleans three weeks after his first major success, but then announced he was having a month off to devote time to his wife and their newly-adopted baby son.

The left-hander, now fourth in the world, admits he is rusty, but feels ready to resume his career.

"I've probably really put in about three days of good, hard practice over the last month," he said.

"It's a different tired than we're used to, having a child. A lot of different things going on. My mind is racing any time you hear noise.

"But I got energised as soon as I got here Sunday afternoon and I'm looking forward to the challenge of being out here and beating some of the great players.

"I miss the game of golf, miss playing, miss competing, miss trying for championships."

Also keen to play is Dustin Johnson, out of action with a back injury since before the Masters.

"I really couldn't do anything for five or six weeks," he said.

There were rumours circulating about him failing a drugs test, but on that he said: "I just laughed. I mean, it doesn't bother me.

"People talk all the time, so people make stuff up, especially when I'm not out here I guess they use their imagination a little too much."

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