DUBLIN, Ohio — In the summer of 2020, the PGA TOUR was looking for an additional tournament to mark its return to play after the John Deere Classic was cancelled due to a high volume of COVID-19 cases.
That is when Muirfield Village Golf Club and Memorial Tournament director Dan Sullivan put their heads together.
Workday was brought on for the Workday Charity Open, creating a two-week bubble for the course, given the Memorial Tournament was being contested in the next week.
Though there were no fans present, the event allowed for Sullivan and other decision-makers the ability to get to know Workday.
Fast-forward to this year, where Workday is now the presenting sponsor of the Memorial Tournament after Nationwide’s 11 years on the top of the marquee came to an end with the 2021 event.
“In an odd way, COVID brought us together,” Sullivan said. “We got to know Workday in 2020 and they got to know us. When the opportunity became available later in the year, we were able to instantly have a conversation, and there was a connection already.
“We didn’t have to work too hard to introduce each other. That led to great conversations and agreeing to a long-term relationship. We’re in a great position moving forward.”
This year’s 120-player field includes seven of the top 10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking and seven of the top 10 in the FedExCup points standings, with the U.S. Open just a couple of weeks away.
Additionally, Bryson DeChambeau, a previous Memorial Tournament winner, will be making his return following wrist surgery in his first start since the Masters.
The event also is celebrating its first full-capacity crowd, with demand reaching an all-time high, to the point that there will be new spectator builds throughout the back nine, beginning with the 11th hole.
This will be a lot of fans first times at Muirfield Village since tournament founder Jack Nicklaus made his most recent changes to the course, which will keep things fresh for them.
“Spectators will find parts of the golf course they haven’t seen before, because they weren’t here last year and it’s been renovated,” said Sullivan. “The perfect example is 15, where the course has completely changed. There are better sightlines now, different holes are more interesting to play now. You have to think a little harder and that’s exciting for us to see people are out there maybe seeing something for the first time.”
Prior to tournament play, both Ben Crenshaw and Charlie Sifford Sr. will be honored. Crenshaw is a past Masters champion, course designer and one of the great putters in golf’s rich history. Sifford, was the first African-American to play on the PGA Tour and his honor comes posthumously, on the week where he would have turned 100 years old.
From a Pittsburgh perspective, the drive is a fairly simple 3.5-hour trek, which Sullivan believes will be worthwhile as Dublin, Columbus and the surrounding area have become more of a family-friendly destination.
The infamous Bogey Inn, which closed down after its owner passed away earlier this year, will reopen for the tournament and offer concerts and entertainment following each respective tournament day’s final putt dropping.
“You think of professional golf in the region and we are the closest consistent stop at this level,” Sullivan said. “Luckily for us, Jack has created a tournament that is a destination for people and they enjoying coming this way.
“Columbus and Dublin have grown, so if people from Pittsburgh have not been to the tournament in a number of years, or been through the city, what Dublin is offering now is completely different from five years ago. Hotels, restaurants and bars, just getting out and doing things.
“We try to partner with the city to create events outside of the actual golf tournament to keep them entertained. We want people to have a great time at the tournament and then if they are coming from out of town, to stay and enjoy parts of Columbus and Dublin you may not consider if you were a family coming over.”
For tickets, children aged 17 and under are free with a ticketed adult, and there will also be a military outpost on the par–3 16th hole for active military, veterans and support.
Additional information can be found at TheMemorialTournament.com.
Jon Rahm – A win here would be an easy story where he flips the script from being a surefire winner at this event, to out because of a positive COVID-19 test. Muirfield Village has gone from one of his least to now most favorite courses and the shots fit his game. Sure, golf can be a results-driven business, but sometimes the course and time of year mesh well and that is the case for Rahm.
Shane Lowry – Lowry has played well at Muirfield Village and has played consistently well in this recent stretch. Lowry has matured both on and off the golf course and is a very popular choice to win this week, as he should be.
Cameron Young – Young has made the proverbial podium quite a bit recently but has yet to finish the job. Muirfield Village is a second-shot golf course and I believe can play to his strengths. Young has become easy to root for as he continues to thrust himself into contention.
Matt Fitzpatrick – While the weekend forecast projects a sunny finish, Fitzpatrick has started to become consistently comfortable on the PGA Tour and for a course that often plays like a major and sees many of the big names in contention, this would be a popular win. Fitzpatrick is likable, and more importantly has the game that could lead to success in the Buckeye state.
Patrick Cantlay – I’m sure Jon Rahm’s believes he’s the two-time defending champion here, but he’s just not playing championship golf lately. I think Cantlay gets his putter going strong again, shakes hands with his idol on Sunday afternoon
Lowry – Well rested, playing good this year and it feels like a big win is coming his way.
Max Homa – He’s playing pretty good golf right now, has all the tools to make this happen, including a T6 last year.
Mito Pereira – Feels like redemption coming his way, and everyone, including Jack, will be rooting for him.