DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — Not far from the 18th green at Muirfield Village Golf Club are a dozen or so flags snapping in the breeze. They represent the home nations of the players participating in the Memorial Tournament.
A year after a Swede (Carl Pettersson) won the Memorial, the 2007 title was taken by South Korean K.J. Choi. Choi closed with a 7-under 65 on Sunday to beat Ryan Moore by a stroke. Six of the top 10 finishers were not from the United States.
Jack Nicklaus, the Memorial founder, said golf fans should get used to hearing about such successes. He said the balance of power in the game is tilting, perhaps necessitating a change in how teams are formed for the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, which pit a U.S. team against another gleaned from several countries.
“We keep playing the United States against the rest of the world,” said Nicklaus, the captain of the U.S. team in the Presidents Cup, which takes on an international team in September. “Maybe we ought to play East versus West.”
Nicklaus said the game is spreading across the planet, with some areas producing players which never have before.
“We ought to divide this up a little differently, maybe the Americas (North and South) as a team because it’s going to continue to go that way as the game grows internationally,” he said. “That’s not to say we’re not going to have good golfers in the United States, but we’re going to have good golfers everywhere else in the world and that’s great for the game. I think you’re going to continue to see that trend in the game.”
2008 HONOREES: Each year the Memorial Tournament commemorates those who have made significant contributions to the game.
The tournament announced on Sunday that next year’s honoree will be two-time major champion Tony Jacklin and posthumous honorees Ralph Guldahl, Charles Blair MacDonald and Craig Wood.
Jacklin won the 1969 British Open at Royal Lytham and then became the first British golfer in 50 years to win the U.S. Open in 1970. He played in seven Ryder Cups and was captain of the victorious European team in 1985 and 1987.
Guldahl was a star of the 1930s, taking U.S. Opens in 1937 and ’38 along with the Masters in ’39. The Canadian-born MacDonald won the first U.S. Amateur championship in 1895. Wood won 21 times on the PGA Tour, the highlight coming when he went wire-to-wire in the 1941 Masters.
The 2006 honorees were Mae Louise Suggs and Dow Finsterwald Sr.
PARENTHOOD: Tiger Woods is looking forward to being a father.
It seemed that every time he turned around during the Memorial Tournament, someone was asking him about his wife Elin’s pregnancy. She’s due in early July.
“Yeah, it’s coming up quickly,” Woods said after shooting a closing 5-under 67 on Sunday to finish eight shots behind winner K.J. Choi. “It’s just amazing how fast it’s coming along. You figure that, oh, it’ll get here eventually and then all of a sudden it’s coming up quickly. We’re very excited. Elin is at home chilling out, and I can’t wait to get back there and hang out and start relaxing as well.”
Someone asked if the baby was a boy.
“I don’t know anything,” Woods said with a laugh. “You know more than I do then.”
CLOSE … SORT OF: Two-time Memorial winner Kenny Perry came out of nowhere to charge to a share of the lead. Perry, who likes to collect muscle cars, shot the best round on Sunday – a 9-under 63 – but didn’t have enough fuel left in the tank to overtake K.J. Choi’s closing 65.
“I was so far behind all day, trying to play catch-up,” said Perry, who won the Memorial in 1991 and again in 2003. “So, you know, I had the gas pedal down all day. I was just pushing hard. I knew I just had to try to make birdie every hole.”
The highlight of his day came at the 447-yard, par-4 sixth hole when he holed a wedge from 131 yards for eagle.
Perry has lost 25 pounds and recovered from surgery on his right knee to right himself after some of the darkest moments of his career.
“It was just a great day for me, being from where I was two months ago to where I am today,” he said. “It’s been very uplifting.”
NICKLAUS AWARD: Southern California freshman Jamie Lovemark was presented the Jack Nicklaus Award by its namesake on Sunday during the Memorial Tournament. The award is given annually to the national collegiate player of the year.
“There’s quite a few pretty good names on that trophy, Jamie,” Nicklaus said during the presentation. “If you want to stay around this afternoon, you’ll see probably about 20 of those guys out her playing.”
Lovemark was the medalist at this year’s NCAA championship at the Golden Horseshoe Golf Course in Williamsburg, Va. He also was medalist of the Pac-10, Big Ten/Pac-10 Challenge and the Oregon Duck Invitational. He made two cuts on the PGA Tour at the Western Open and Buick Invitational.
Asked by his USC coach, Chris Zambri, if he planned on getting his degree, Lovemark smiled and said, “I sure do. All three years of being stuck with you.”
DIVOTS: Charles Howell III, after rounds of 69, 73 and 80, withdrew due to an undisclosed illness before the final 18 holes. … Ryan Moore strung together five birdies in a row in a back-nine 31 to shoot 66 and take second place by himself, a shot back of Choi. … Choi had 24 putts in the final round, and totaled 109 for the tournament.