The 40th playing of the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide approaches June 1-7, 2015, and there have been quite a few highlights along the way in the prestigious Tournament that Jack Nicklaus created not long after Muirfield Village Golf Club opened in 1974.
In fact, it was exactly two years to the day that the first Memorial Tournament kicked off on May 27, 1976, and it's a wonderful exercise to look back on all of the great winners, great finishes -- and great exchanges of handshakes, of course -- through the ages.
This edition of our review looks at the years 1981-85, and what stands out from that period, of course, were the events that unfolded May 24-27, 1984, when the first two-time winner of the Memorial emerged. Appropriately, it was Jack Nicklaus.
But the victory didn’t come easily, as he defeated Andy Bean in a sudden-death playoff. Both men completed 72 holes at 8-under 280 to tie the tournament record. Nicklaus won on the third extra hole when Bean missed a three-foot par putt on the par-4 17th hole.
But the real drama actually occurred near the end of regulation. With seven birdies in 11 holes, Bean caught Nicklaus at 9 under par, and he looked to be poised for the victory when the Golden Bear hit his drive on 17 out of bounds. “I couldn’t believe I made that shot,” Nicklaus said later.
No one had trouble believing what he did next, making three on his second ball for a key bogey that kept him within a shot. And when Bean powered a par putt left of the hole on 18, it set up the Tournament’s second playoff.
Nicklaus, with a closing 70, won his 70th PGA TOUR title. Bean had a final-round 67, while Payne Stewart, Chip Beck and 1976 winner Roger Maltbie were third at 283.
“The Memorial means more to me than any other tournament, including the majors – but in a different way,” Nicklaus said after pocketing a check for $100,000.
Nicklaus’ victory interrupted the stellar play of Hale Irwin in 1983 and ’85. A playoff loser to Maltbie in the inaugural Tournament, Irwin found satisfaction in the year before and after Jack’s second win by shooting identical 281 totals, each good for a one-stroke victory.
In 1983 he closed with a 3-under 69 and beat Ben Crenshaw and 1980 winner David Graham by a stroke. In ’85, a steady 72 was good enough to nip Lanny Wadkins. That victory enabled Irwin to join the Tournament host as a two-time winner.
“I think experience as much as anything won for me, and patience comes from experience,” Irwin explained.
While Irwin and Nicklaus were doubling up, another accomplished player won the 1982 title. Raymond Floyd, a three-time major winner at the time, shot a final-round 71 and 281 total (a familiar number, it seems) to beat Maltbie, Peter Jacobsen, Wayne Levi and Gil Morgan by two strokes.
After his first top-10 at the Memorial in 1980, Floyd had missed the ’81 edition captured by Keith Fergus, who beat Jack Renner by a shot for his first PGA TOUR title. Floyd came back in 1982, and after an opening 74 was a study in proficiency to register what he said was one of the more satisfying victories of his career.
“It’s very rewarding to win on a course that is probably the most difficult in the world to play – and the best conditioned,” said Floyd, who became a winner again at the Memorial in 2013, when he was chosen as the Tournament Honoree.