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For PGA Tour players, time is running out.

With this week’s Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio, it’s an all-out sprint to the finish line as there are just five events (six counting an alternate field tournament) before the FedEx Cup playoffs start.

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And within those events are three monster paydays, starting this week with the Memorial’s $9.3 million purse, $1.6 million going to the winner. You’ve also got the WGC Championship in Memphis, Tenn., that features a $10.5 million purse coming up in two weeks. And the week after that will see the first major of the year, the PGA Championship in San Francisco, with an $11 million purse.

That means there’s a lot of money and a lot of FedEx Cup points on the line.

Obviously, there’s no better time than right now to be at the top of your game. If you’re not playing well, and don’t reach the top 125 in the FedEx rankings in the next few weeks, sit back in your recliner like the rest of us, grab a beer or two and get ready to enjoy the three-week playoff run.

But right now, we’ll look at this week’s Memorial as one of those make-or- break events for players jockeying for positioning.

The PGA Tour is definitely making sure that Jack Nicklaus’ designed Muirfield Village course will be one of the toughest tests the field of 133 players will face down the stretch. Long rough? Try right around four inches, or more in some spots. Tough greens to putt? At 13-plus on the Stimpmeter, imagine putting on your kitchen floor and getting the ball to stop before it reaches the dining room table. A tough field? How about the top 12 in the FedEx Cup points race.

Have we got your attention?

Last week’s Workday Charity Open gave players a sneak peek at what to expect. But with the longer rough and closer-mown greens, it’s not going to be the same course. Add in a couple of hundred extra yards in distance and you’ve got quite the challenge.

There will also be some big names who were missing last week like Rory McIlroy, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson and Tiger Woods to name a few.

Last week’s event showed you’ve got to get off to a good start to compete or even make it to the weekend. Some of the best players, like Brooks Koepka, Justin Rose and Bubba Watson, got off to troubling starts and wound up missing the cut. Fighting from behind on a course like Muirfield Village is tough under regular conditions. This week there won’t be regular conditions so it will ramp up the urgency to strike early.

We’re going to stick with defending champ Patrick Cantlay as our main pick for the second straight week. At 16-1 Cantlay, who wound up T-7 at last week’s Workday event, had three so-so rounds and was fighting to not be one of the MC’s before a blistering 7-under-par 65 in the final round put him in the top 10.

In winning the Memorial in 2019, Cantlay also had a tremendous final round to race up the leaderboard. We’re hoping his final round last week carries over to this week and he gets off to a better start in the first three rounds. The last round proves he’s got that in his bag of tricks.

Oh, and we haven’t forgotten about Woods being back in action. But before you start reaching for your wallet, here are a couple of items you may want to mull over. At 25-1 he’s a good value if he’s in top form. But he likely won’t be anywhere near his best simply because he’s been MIA since mid-February.

Sure, he played in the made-for-TV match. But even though he has won this event five times, he’s missing full-blown, pressure-packed tournament action. By the way, his last tournament outing was a 68th place finish in the Genesis Invitational in that mid-February outing. His three final rounds were 73, 76 and 77.

Practice rounds at home, hitting golf shot after golf shot on the range and putting in his backyard just aren’t the same as tournament play.

About the Author

Bill Bowman

Bill Bowman is a Las Vegas-based writer who has more than 40 years in the sports-writing business. He's spent the past 18-plus years covering the golf scene in Vegas including 10 years as a writer/editor with VegasGolfer Magazine. He also contributes to the GolfNow Network of websites and Las Vegas Golf Insider.

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