News & Opinion

There's a definite buzz at Memorial this week

Patrick Reed at 2021 Charles Schwab Challenge
Patrick Reed might be the only person in Ohio who is pleased to see the arrival of the cicadas this week at the Memorial Tournament.

Our intrepid correspondent has a few things, other than billions of cicadas, bugging him as he visits Muirfield Village for ‘Mudmorial’

DUBLIN, Ohio – These are musings from the Memorial Tournament. Just remember, you get what you pay for …

No, I’m not cranky because it started raining as I drove here from Pittsburgh on Wednesday morning. The Memorial Tournament is known as one of the world’s best rainmakers. There have been 45 weather delays in 44 Memorials. So, this is merely business as usual. The Memorial – Mudmorial, as it is sometimes known – is why you own a Gore-Tex jacket and rain pants, much to the chagrin of tournament host Jack Nicklaus.

Here’s what I don’t get: The late Arnold Palmer was Nicklaus’ long-time rival, but his place, Bay Hill Club in Orlando and the site of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, has a famous multi-colored umbrella as its logo. If one course or tournament should be represented by an umbrella, it ought to be the Memorial. Maybe we could broker a trade: the Bay Hill umbrella logo for the Memorial’s Claret Jug likeness and a beer stein to be named later …

Bulldozers already were at work tearing up the Muirfield Village Golf Club course last year, even while the final round was in progress, preparations that led to serious cosmetic surgery performed once again by Dr. Nicklaus. All of the greens were redone, rendering most Memorial regulars’ local knowledge obsolete.

One of the big changes was a re-do of the par-3 16th green, which Nicklaus had re-done years earlier to transform it from a nondescript hole to his version of Augusta National’s 16th hole. The green was smallish and angular, sloped from front to back, and due to firmness, even tour players had trouble making their shots hold the green. So those problems have been resolved.

Here’s what I don’t get: Why is our man Nicklaus such a notorious tinkerer with his courses? Why not just get it right the first time? ...

Do not adjust your television this week. That annoying buzz you’ll hear isn’t a bad feed from your inept cable company. It’s a real, live, annoying buzz.

Let’s hear it for the return of cicadas, the ugly bugs who are back by the billions after 17 years underground. That buzzing is the sound of male bugs trying to locate, attract and pick up female bugs. It’s a Midwestern thing – the cicadas, not the part about trying to pick up female bugs – and Ohio is in the vicinity of Cicada Central.

“Today at the seventh hole, they were rocking, really loud,” former Masters champion Patrick Reed said after his round. “It’s a steady noise, like white noise. It’s not that bad. Yesterday, I wore white pants and two or three came and latched onto the pants. I looked down and was like, What is this on my leg? They’re not that bad. The noise kind of drowns out people talking and carts in the distance. If anything, it’s helping, so bring ’em on.”

Here’s what I don’t get: Maybe CBS should try piping in recorded cicada buzzing at the Masters instead of the fake bird chirping. I’m still waiting to talk to someone who’s seen a bird on the grounds during the tournament …

Nobody wants to hear about your golf round, your fantasy team or your golf bets, but there’s a point to this. I made a few legal wagers online during the PGA Championship two weeks ago and, as the week went on and my Jordan Spieth bet smelled worse and worse, I added other bets on the weekend, potentially to cover my butt. Yeah, that’s a lot of butt to cover. I ended up with wagers on every possible Sunday afternoon contender except one. Can you guess who? I’m pretty sure that defending Memorial champion Jon Rahm can.

“I love Phil [Mickelson]. He’s been a great mentor to me, but I’m not going to lie,” Rahm said after his pro-am round Wednesday. “I would tell you that Phil would be one of the last persons I would have put money on to win that week, just because of how long the course was and how many drivers you needed to hit and how windy it was. Towards the end, all I could say was, ‘I cannot believe he’s going to pull this off.’

“At the same time, I played with him on that Monday and he had a new driver he was hitting real well, much more under control. After that, I could believe him putting on a good performance. But he hadn’t been playing great golf. That shows you the greatness of a champion. When he got himself into position after 36 holes, it was the good old Phil.”

Here's what I don’t get: Why does Mickelson remind me of the cicadas only on an every two- or three-year cycle instead of 17 years? ...

My preferred method of payment is still writing a check, if only to annoy the digital-currency-age folks who can’t believe anyone wouldn’t use PayPal, Venmo or GreedBag (I made that one up). I use PayPal and Venmo; I just don’t trust them yet.

So, Justin Thomas is a man to whom I can relate and admire. Remember that heavyset journeyman golfer who Monday qualified for the Valspar Championship and broke down when he called his dad to tell him the good news? That video of Mike “Big Mike” Visacki went viral. Now, Visacki is going viral again after a video surfaced from last week’s Charles Schwab Championship at Colonial. Thomas is seen giving Visacki an envelope with a check for an undisclosed (but presumably large) sum so that Visacki, a 27-year-old who’s been chasing the mini-tours and has 170,000 miles on his Honda Accord, can keep on chasing.

Visacki missed the cut at Valspar and missed the cut at Colonial after scoring an exemption from that tournament. The gesture by Thomas left Visacki speechless once again. Thomas was mildly annoyed that the video got out. He wanted the gift to remain just between the two of them and said he was inspired by Visacki’s reaction in that Monday qualifying video.

“I just felt it was so refreshing and great to see how genuine his excitement was,” Thomas said. “I don’t know Mike. I went up to him at Valspar and said, ‘Congrats on getting in’ and ‘Play well this week.’ For some reason, it hit home to me that this is a dude who’s been grinding a long time. I wanted to help in a little way. It [the check] wasn’t anything crazy.

“I heard someone on the board of Charles Schwab heard about what I did and then wanted to sponsor him and take care of his expenses through the rest of the year. I’m happy that he is now able to take advantage of more opportunities because of something little that I did.”

Here’s what I don’t get: Hey, J.T., there’s some low-paid guys who have been grinding in the golf media rooms for years driving 2005 Camrys with 210,000 miles and … yeah, never mind … 

Memorial Tournament landscaping in form of tournament trophy
Landscaping at Muirfield Village Golf Club takes the shape of the Memorial Tournament's trophy.

Raise your hand if you remember that winning last year’s Memorial Tournament lifted Jon Rahm to No. 1 in the world ranking. It’s hard to remember, possibly because Rahm spent only two weeks in the top spot and because most of the world was preoccupied with that stupid fatal virus thing.

Also, you may not remember the victory because the scene on the 18th green when Rahm won wasn’t the usual amphitheater of roars, because no fans were allowed at the 2020 Memorial.

“There was no applause and no cheers,” Rahm said. “Everything we heard last year was crickets.”

Here’s what I don’t get: Crickets last year? Cicadas this year? I humbly suggest the Memorial Tournament get Orkin as a presenting sponsor in 2022.

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