(Reuters) - Golf fans can expect a week to savor at the Memorial tournament in Dublin, Ohio, where the game’s Big Three’ of Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy will each be bringing winning form to the leafy Muirfield Village layout.
World number one Day clinched his third PGA Tour victory of the season at the Players Championship last month, second-ranked Spieth triumphed at the Colonial tournament on Sunday and third-ranked McIlroy won the European Tour’s Irish Open 10 days ago.
The heavyweight trio heads a typically powerful field in the prestigious event hosted by Jack Nicklaus, where seven of the world’s top 10 will be competing this week, but McIlroy is wary of too much emphasis being placed on the so-called ‘Big Three’.
“We’re at the top of the rankings and we’ve won a few majors between us, but I think it’s just unfair to focus on us,” the Northern Irishman told reporters on Wednesday while preparing for Thursday’s opening round.
”You’ve got the likes of Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed, Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Thomas, who we’re playing with tomorrow, Brooks Koepka ... there’s so many great young players out there.
“Obviously, we’re working to keep it that way and try to be No. 1, but at the same time, there’s a lot of guys just behind us. If we slip, they want to take that place.”
McIlroy has been paired with Americans Spieth and Thomas in a ‘young gun’ grouping for the first two rounds.
Spieth has always relished playing at Muirfield Village where the heavily tree-lined layout is in immaculate shape for a PGA Tour event that enjoys major-like status.
”Mr. Nicklaus does a great job in creating just a great environment for us, on and off the golf course,“ the 22-year-old said. ”Arguably the best greens of the year, fastest and purest.
“It’s also just such a challenging course ... if you strike the ball well, shoot something in the mid-60s, (you can) make up a lot of ground. But if you’re off, I have shot in the 80s here before, so I’ve seen it all at this track in three short years.”
Ohio-based Day, refreshed after a two-week break following his Players victory, hopes to finally produce good form at a venue he regards as his ‘home’ course.
”This has been a tough tournament for me,“ said the Australian. ”My best finish is tied for 27th or something like that, which is horrific.
“But I‘m looking to change that this week. I feel good about my game, and I feel good about the preparation going into this week ... coming in with a little bit of confidence, which is nice.”
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Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Andrew Both