by Jeff Skinner
This is a wonderful week on the PGA Tour. The Memorial Tournament, while not a major, is still a step above any other regular tour stop. The course, the field, the history and the man behind it all make this week special. This is Jack’s place, this is Jack’s course, and this is more than a standard weekly tour experience. Jack Nicklaus had dreamed of bringing a “Masters like” tournament to his home town. When Nicklaus first started playing in the Masters he was so taken with the way the tournament was run he used it as his model for a tournament of his own. He was able, despite much difficulty, to build his own course and then start a tournament which in many ways mirrors the Masters. Few golfers respect the history of the game as Jack Nicklaus does. As Nicklaus grew up one of his role models was Bobby Jones and he named his own course, Muirfield Village, after his first British Open win at Muirfield.
The Memorial has evolved into a special event. It is the tour’s “Living Masters.” Many players will tell you that playing the in The Masters when Bobby Jones was there was one of their biggest thrills. Today, the same can be said for playing in The Memorial. Nicklaus goes to great lengths to make The Memorial a little different from a regular tour week. The Memorial honors people each year for their contribution to the game. This years honorees are JoAnne Carner and Jackie Burke Jr. Having the greatest player of all time standing at the eighteenth green, as Jack does, waiting to shake your hand as you finish your round is an experience the players relish.
Nicklaus is aware of every aspect of this tournament and is as active and involved as a host can be. When the tournament first started he considered not playing and only acting as host. He feared it would appear as an unfair advantage over the rest of the field. Can you imagine Nicklaus not playing in his own tournament? Thankfully he was convinced to play and it is because of his actions on and off the course that this tournament has grown into a significant event. Jack was actually relieved he did not win the first Memorial, but was thrilled to win the second in 1977. Nicklaus would probably dismiss any comments to suggest that the Memorial is as significant or historic as the Masters, but I believe it is. The Masters is one of the best tournaments ever, but Mr. Bobby Jones is gone and lives on only through stories and memories. At the Memorial, Mr. Jack Nicklaus is there. He is our living, breathing, historic icon of the game of golf. He is there to make sure his tournament reflects his respect for the history of the game. His presence and his touch make this tournament “The Living Masters.”