Lowry, McIlroy and Power return to action in Muirfield’s Memorial

With FedEx Cup playoffs looming, next few weeks and months set to define many players’ seasons

It’s a case of fastening of seat belts for the coming few weeks on the PGA Tour as big money events come fast and furious: Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry and Séamus Power all return to action at this week’s Memorial tournament at Muirfield Village, the event at Jack Nicklaus’s course being the first of a four-week-long stretch for the trio.

With the FedEx Cup’s playoffs primed for an August slugfest, it means that the next few weeks and months will effectively define many players’ seasons and, certainly, McIlroy and Lowry — yet to win on the PGA Tour this season — will be aiming to build on their performances at the US PGA in looking to get over the winning line.

The run of Memorial, Canadian Open, US Open — the third men’s Major of the year — and The Travelers, which is a designated tournament with its $20 million (€19 million) purse, means a hectic schedule through the month of June as players look to consolidate their positions on the FedEx Cup standings (McIlroy is 13th, Power 16th) or make inroads, especially in Lowry’s case as he is 93rd and outside the top 70 who advance to the playoffs.

“I have to throw in a few good finishes,” admitted Lowry of making an impact in the run of four successive events, with the US Open coming in the third of the four weeks, identifying the strength of his iron play as the weapon in his armoury to achieve those desired finishes: “It’s one of the strengths of my game. People talk about my short game and this, that and the other, but I believe my iron play is probably the strength of my game.”


Lowry’s belief is backed up by the stats, where he is ranked 19th in strokes gained approach-to-green on the PGA Tour this season while he is fourth on approaches (225-250 yards) and also fourth on approaches (100-125 yards).

For McIlroy, the Memorial tournament has been on his hit list for a long time but without yet savouring success at the Nicklaus course. Indeed, this will be McIlroy’s 12th time to play in the event hosted by the Golden Bear.

As he has admitted, “Muirfield and I have had a bit of a complicated relationship. It seemed to fit me quite well earlier in my career and, then, the last few years, I’ve struggled with the strategy of how to play it. I feel like a lot of the fairways pinch in around 310 [yards], so it allows the average hitters to hit driver … it just seems the length advantage has been nullified over the last few years, so it’s just finding a different way to play the golf course, a lot more 3-woods.”

Power, for his part, will be looking to bounce back from a missed cut in the PGA at Oak Hill. The Waterford man missed the cut at Muirfield Village last year.

Maguire down one

Leona Maguire’s tied-third place finish in the Bank of Hope LPGA Matchplay meant she slipped one spot to 20th, from 19th, in the updated Rolex world rankings. Maguire is playing this week’s Mizuho Americas Open at Liberty National and then has a week off before resuming tournament play at the Meijer Classic ahead of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Baltusrol.

Meanwhile, Pablo Larrazabal’s victory in the KLM Open — his second win of the season, having won the Korea Championship — has moved the Spaniard up to ninth, a jump of 19 places, on the European points list for the Ryder Cup. The Spaniard has moved to a career-best 53rd on the updated world rankings.

Larrazabal’s move into the world’s top 60, however, came too late to earn an exemption into the US Open as it was past the cut-off date although he has another route if he can have another good week at the Porsche European Open in Hamburg this week, which is the final tournament of the mini-order of merit (which started at the Italian Open) with the top two not already exempt earning tickets to Los Angeles. Romain Langasque and Simon Forrstrom are the two men set to claim those spots, although Larrazabal is just behind Forrstrom.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times