Memorial Tournament

Jack Nicklaus did 'favor' to PGA Tour in moving Memorial date, but doesn't seem sold on longterm change

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Andy Lyons

DUBLIN, Ohio — Jack Nicklaus was instrumental in the creation of the PGA Tour in 1968, so he has always been inclined to do whatever he could to support the organization. That’s essentially why he agreed to move back his Memorial Tournament one week later this year after nearly two decades positioned on the tour schedule two weeks before the U.S. Open.

It might just be a one-year experiment.

This week’s Memorial, one of the tour’s eight signature events offering a purse of $20 million, kicks off a three-week run of significant events. The 124th U.S. Open at Pinehurst comes on the heels of the Memorial, while another signature event, the Travelers Championship, follows the year’s third major championship.

"It's an interesting stretch," said new PGA champion Xander Schauffele.

The tour asked Nicklaus for the date change as part of its plan to regulate the rhythm of the season, stringing together a group of majors and signature events and then “swing” events that provide a path for exemptions into the signature tournaments, which offer bigger purses. Indications are that the tournament date will be revisited.

“That discussion is in process,” Nicklaus, 84, said Tuesday at Muirfield Village Golf Club, which celebrated its 50th anniversary of its grand opening last week. “We would prefer the other week; however, we are here this week because the tour asked us to help them out. They said they had a thing they wanted to do and that the players had asked for and that would we help it out, and we said yes, that we would do that this week. But we said we would review it after this tournament, and we'll figure out how we're going to settle the schedule after that.”

Nicklaus had a very sound reason why he preferred the old date. It conformed to how he built his schedule during a playing career that included a record 18 major championships and 73 PGA Tour titles overall.

“When I played,” he said, “I would rarely play a week before any major championship. So I'm asked to … be part of putting on a golf tournament in a week that I would never play. That, to me, is the essential part from my standpoint.”

Being the week before the U.S. Open hasn’t hurt turnout. This week’s field features nine of the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking (the lone exception being 2020 Memorial winner and current LIV player Jon Rahm) and all of the top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings. Fifty-nine of the 73 players in the field have won a tour title.

“We're going to have a good tournament this week either way, in spite of all the different things,” Nicklaus said. “As I say, we did that [date change] as a favor and the tour. … We've always been a supporter of the tour. We want to try to continue to support what is best for the tour, but we also want to support what's best for the Memorial Tournament. So that is to be determined.”