5 Players To Watch – 2013 Memorial Tournament

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Five To Watch - 2013 Memorial Edition

Eric P. Mull - USA Today Sports

A lot of times on the PGA Tour, it can get difficult not to look forward to a big event that’s just around the corner. As the tour inches closer to the year’s second major at the U.S. Open, this week brings us one of the most popular events of the year in the Memorial Tournament.

Held annually at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio, just north of Columbus, the Memorial generally boasts one of the strongest non-major fields in all of golf. Most of the elite players on Tour use Memorial as a final tune-up before the U.S. Open. Every player in the field, though, regardless of their level of stardom, knows this event is also special due to its connection to one of golf’s living legends, Jack Nicklaus.

The Muirfield Village Golf Club is one of Nicklaus’s signature designs. Opened on Memorial Day in 1974, the 7,221-yard track has played host to the Ryder Cup in 1987, the Solheim Cup in 1998 and will also hold the President’s Cup later on this year. Nicklaus will also personally appear at the tournament to present the trophy to the winner.

Adding to the legacy of the Memorial Tournament, several legends of the game have hoisted the championship trophy. Nicklaus himself won the event twice, in 1977 and 1984. Tom Watson was the champion on 1979 and again nearly two decades later in 1996. Hale Irwin (1983, 1985) and Greg Norman (1990, 1995) are other multiple winners. Raymond Floyd, Tom Azinger, and Fred Couples are just a few of the other names etched into Memorial history.

This week, the field at Memorial boasts seven of the top ten players in the Official World Golf Ranking, nine of the top ten in the FedEx Cup standings and nine of the Memorial’s past champions. Who will raise the trophy at week’s end? Here are five players you should watch.

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5) Graham DeLaet

Brian Spurlock - USA Today Sports

Graham DeLaet may not be a household name just yet, but the bold Canadian has three top-25 finishes in the last three weeks, and three top-10s this season. Ranked second on Tour in total driving and greens in regulation, a 74 on Sunday at Colonial is all that kept DeLaet out of serious contention. If he can get his putting in a groove, he could be in the hunt for another strong finish this week.

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4) Matt Kuchar

Debby Wong - USA Today Sports

Matt Kuchar is just one of the more consistent guys on Tour. After going into the weekend at Colonial at 10-under, he carded respectable rounds of 69 and 68, just narrowly losing to Boo Weekley. Still, the Georgia Tech alum is third in the FedEx Cup rankings and has made the top 10 his last four trips to Muirfield Village. He'll be hanging around the top part of the leaderboard throughout this week.

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3) Justin Rose

Michael Madrid - USA Today Sports

Justin Rose is one of the "trendy" picks this week, and for good reason. The world's No. 4 player, Rose had three consecutive top ten finishes in March to go with top-25s in three other events. The 2010 champion at Memorial, Rose has placed top-15 four other times at Muirfield. He'll be looking to recapture some of that past success this week.

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2) Rory McIlroy

Debby Wong - USA Today Sports

I wrote about this earlier this week, but now is the time for Rory McIlroy to get his 2013 season on a successful track. McIlroy had back-to-back top 10 finishes at Memorial before missing last year's cut. He's only played eight events on U.S. soil this year, but his lowest finish in his last four events was his tie for 25th at The Masters. Coming off a missed cut last week in Europe, this is the time for McIlroy to step up if he has any designs on the U.S. Open.

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1) Tiger Woods

Eric P. Mull - USA Today Sports

Is this pick taking the easy way out? You bet it is, but can you blame me? Not only is Tiger Woods the definition of the top "player to watch", he's dominated this event in the past, with a record five wins. Nobody can forget the way he chased down Rory Sabbatini last year to win at Memorial, and with the way he's playing this year, he shouldn't have to chase down much of anybody.

Tiger simply believes he can win every event he enters, and this year he's pretty much been right, with four wins in only seven tournaments. His putting has been lights-out this year, ranking first from 5-10 feet, second from 10-15 feet, and third from 15-20. If Tiger is on his A-game, there won't be anyone who can stand in his way.