Jack Nicklaus won more major titles than any player in the history of golf. The current crop of elite players on the PGA Tour knows him as not just a legendary golfer but also the elder statesman of the sport.
The Memorial Tournament, also known as "Jack's tournament," will tee off Thursday at Muirfield Village Golf Club, the course founded and designed by Nicklaus in Dublin, Ohio.
"It's one of the iconic events on the PGA Tour," Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy said. "I haven't won it yet. I would love to be able to put my name on the trophy and walk up that hill and get that handshake from Jack."
Multiple generations of golfers grew up looking up to the 18-time major winner, now 83, as a role model. Some recent winners of the Memorial, like Patrick Cantlay (2019, 2021) and Spaniard Jon Rahm (2020), got to speak with Nicklaus early on in their careers when they won the Jack Nicklaus Award, recognizing the top players in college golf.
"He's a very kind man," Cantlay said. "He is always open to sharing advice if you ask him. He's always been very approachable. He's been great to me over the years."
In keeping with tradition, the field at Jack's tournament has invited several young up-and-comers who don't otherwise have PGA Tour status. This year's field will include Sam Bennett, the 2022 U.S. Amateur champion who tied for 16th at the Masters in April, and Chris Gotterup, who was last year's Division I Jack Nicklaus Award recipient.
The Memorial also is the latest designated event on the tour's schedule, so a $20 million purse is on offer and seven of the top eight players in the Official World Golf Ranking are in the field. World No. 6 Max Homa is taking the week off to attend his sister's wedding.
World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler has top-five finishes in three straight events, including a T2 at the PGA Championship and a T3 at last week's Charles Schwab Challenge. He has made 17 consecutive cuts and hasn't finished worse than T12 since October.
The big names coming to Muirfield Village also include Rahm, McIlroy, Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Norway's Viktor Hovland and Jordan Spieth. Schauffele leads the PGA Tour with 25 straight made cuts.
The defending champion is Billy Horschel, who fired a third-round 65 last year before finishing at 13-under-par 275, four clear of Aaron Wise in second.
But Horschel hasn't loved his play of late, with his results including four missed cuts over his past eight starts.
"The season's been pretty bad, pretty abysmal, to tell you the truth," Horschel said. "I haven't driven the ball very well. It's always been my strength. The iron play hasn't been great. ... But I'm starting to see some life, starting to see some more quality golf shots. My bad golf shorts aren't nearly as bad anymore. So, yeah, it's getting closer, it's still not where I want it to be, but there's life in the game finally."
--Field Level Media