DUBLIN, OHIO: Save us, Adam Scott.
Otherwise the Memorial Tournament, thus far devoid of buzz, a signature shot or even a Tiger-Sergio spat, looks on the verge of another Bart Bryant or Carl Pettersson funk.
Unless the highest nine-hole score of Tiger Woods’ career is considered buzz.
With some of the field’s biggest names struggling, 2013 Masters Tournament champion Scott is the most compelling and charismatic figure on the leaderboard. Triumphs by third-round leader Matt Kuchar, Justin Rose or 2011 Masters winner Charl Schwartzel might do little to move the needle, but at least they stand in the top 15 of the World Golf Rankings.
Either of those four would be a notch above Kevin Chappell, Kyle Stanley, Matt Jones, Bill Haas, J.J. Henry or Scott Piercy, who fill out the rest of the top 10.
That’s not to say someone from the latter group wouldn’t be a deserving winner, especially considering the outrageous wind they’ve battled over the past two days. Saturday’s 30 mph gusts led television analysts to suggest that conditions were perhaps the toughest on the PGA Tour this year.
Asked how it’s possible to enjoy such a battering, Chappell said: “I guess it’s like a prize fighter. He enjoys winning, but I don’t know if he enjoys getting hit that much.”
But if Chappell or one of his unknown peers takes the $1.116 million first prize in today’s final round at Muirfield Village Golf Club, it will prompt the same ho-hum reaction as victories by Bryant in 2005 and Pettersson in 2006. Actually, that was the start of a string only a golf purist could love, with Pettersson followed by K.J. Choi and a third Memorial triumph by Kenny Perry.
All I recall of Choi’s championship was that he’d been inspired by a Jack Nicklaus book he read when he was 16. Kentuckians and admirers of God-fearing good guys celebrated Perry’s triple crown.
This Memorial needs a Paul Azinger hole-out from the bunker at No. 18. It needs a miraculous flop shot from Woods at No. 16 that tournament founder Nicklaus called one of the gutsiest he’s seen. It needs a 12-foot birdie putt by Tom Watson on the 72nd hole for his first victory in nearly nine years.
It needs drama in the worst way.
Otherwise, it is going to be remembered for Woods’ struggles, which included tying his third-highest scoring round at Muirfield Village with a 74 on Friday, only to see that surpassed by his highest-scoring round here, a 79, on Saturday. Woods’ 44 on the back nine, his front, was his highest nine-hole score as a professional by a shot. And the five-time Memorial champion, a winner of four of seven events this year, did it without a penalty stroke.
For two days, that’s been the talk of the town and the golfing world, especially with the U.S. Open at Merion in two weeks.
Woods, however, shared no thoughts with the media afterward, although playing partner Jim Furyk thought that was excusable.
“He wasn’t going to tell you anything you didn’t already see,” Furyk said. “We had a full camera crew with us the entire 18 holes and every shot he hit I’m sure was shown somewhere. It’s so rare for a guy who’s not playing well. If I go out and shoot 79 off the back nine on Saturday, no one sees a shot. For him it’s a different story.”
Henry, whose biggest claim to fame was earning a spot on the 1998 U.S. Ryder Cup team, also started at No. 10 and beat Woods by 12 strokes on that nine.
Henry sloughed that off by offering: “That just shows how difficult it is. Tiger’s the No. 1 world player in the world by far and I’m just trying to make a living.”
A victory by Kuchar, Rose or Schwartzel might satisfy the gallery, especially over-imbibers who love to yell “Kooch.” Kuchar counts the 2012 Players Championship among his five tour victories. Rose won the 2010 Memorial, his first of four tour triumphs. Schwartzel has nine more world-wide wins to go with his green jacket.
Kuchar is on a roll, earning more than $3 million in 2013 after totaling $13 million the previous three years. But the most interesting thing about him at the moment is his recent growth of beard. He said even if he wins today, coming on the heels of a second-place finish last week at Colonial, he will shave it off.
That will be over the objections of his wife, Sybi, whom he said loves the stubble that makes him look older than his 34 years.
“I never, ever thought I’d have a beard,” Kuchar said. “Most of the women in my family – my mother and my grandmother – dislike it. However it plays out [today], when I get back home I’ll shave it.”
Scott, who captured his first major at the Masters, could spare us a reprise of an old Victor Kiam Remington commercial. Scott’s opening-round 73 included a double-bogey 7 at the par-5 fifth hole. But since then, he’s quietly carded rounds of 70 and 69 to climb into a tie for seventh, 4 shots behind Kuchar.
A victory by Scott might add to his emotional breakthrough this season. It would also be savored by his caddie, Steve Williams, who used to work for Woods, although a news conference on the 18th green like Williams held after Scott claimed the 2011 Bridgestone Invitational was probably a once-in-a-lifetime, sock-it-to-him exhibition.
At this point, I’ll take a weeping Scott and a gloating Stevie, even if Williams keeps his “best week of my life” thoughts to himself. Drama comes in many forms — a touching tale, a scintillating shot, a record round. Any or all would be welcome to enliven this boring Memorial.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the her blog at http://www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.