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Rory McIlroy needs to win the Memorial to prove something to himself

Rory McIlroy

DUBLIN, Ohio — Rory McIlroy has 26 PGA Tour wins, more than any golfer in this week’s Memorial Tournament. The 35-year-old also has won four major championships, again more than anyone in the 73-player field.

But he has never won at Jack’s Place. Is that significant? Let’s ask Jack.

“I think it’s a pretty good tournament to win to fill out a resume,” Nicklaus said. “I don’t think there’s any question about that.”

“Tiger won five times here,” he continued. “I mean, a tournament’s resume is not too bad if they have Tiger winning it five times.”

But what of a player’s resume if he has never won one of the Tour’s signature events?

Before answering that, it’s worth noting that leaving Dublin with a Memorial crystal trophy in hand does not guarantee a Hall of Fame career. No offense to David Lingmerth or William McGirt, who won here in 2015 and 2016, but no one will mistake either for Ernie Els or Hale Irwin. Lingmerth and McGirt each own one tour victory. Els (19, including four majors) and Irwin (20 and 3) combined for 39. Els won the Memorial in 2004, Irwin in 1983 and 1985.

Actually, like most Tour events, the Memorial champions list is sprinkled with names that even serious golf fans do not recognize. David Edwards? Carl Pettersson? Bart Bryant? That’s more of a Who’s That? than a Who’s Who.

But elite tournaments are not judged so much by their lowest common denominators but by their dominators. And on that score, the Memorial looks impressive.

A quick rundown of big-name winners in addition to Els and Irwin includes Nicklaus (73 tour wins and 18 majors), Woods (82 and 15), Tom Watson (39 and 8), Ray Floyd (22 and 4), Greg Norman (20 and 2), Curtis Strange (19 and 2), Jim Furyk (17 and 1) and Fred Couples (15 and 1).

McIlroy has come relatively close to getting the coveted Nicklaus winner’s handshake, with five top-10s in 12 appearances, but has yet to break through.

And boy does he want to break through, telling media “It would mean a ton to me to win this tournament.”

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy takes the course donning a yellow polo during the final round of the 2023 Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club.

Nicklaus thinks McIlroy will win it one of these days, and there remains plenty of time to get the job done – Kenny Perry won the Memorial at age 47 in 2008, Watson won it at 46 in 1996 and Nicklaus and Steve Stricker won it at 44 in 1984 and 2011 – but no player in his 40s…


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