When the Memorial Tournament begins today at Muirfield Village Golf Club, all eyes will be on Luke Donald, the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world.
Donald ascended to the No. 1 spot in the rankings last weekend when he defeated then-No. 1 Lee Westwood in a one-hole playoff at the European Tour BMW PGA Championship.
Now, Donald is bringing his talents – and his No. 1 ranking – to Dublin, Ohio, for his seventh career start at the Memorial. It will be his first since 2009.
“It’s something I’ve never really thought about too much,” Donald said of his top ranking. “As a kid, you dream about winning majors and winning tournaments, but for me, you know, I always kept an eye out on the world rankings and had an interest in it. … I suppose for the bulk of my career Tiger (Woods) was so far ahead that it never really crept into my mind.”
Donald said parity in the world’s golf rankings in recent years allowed him to grab the top spot.
“In the last year or so, I guess there’s been more of an upheaval in the rankings,” he said. “There’s been a lot more movement, so I knew the opportunity was there.”
Jack Nicklaus, Memorial Tournament host and the record holder for the most major tournament wins in PGA history, said Donald is deserving of the top ranking.
“I’m very happy for Luke,” Nicklaus said. “But I think it’s a testament to the amount of work that he’s done and the amount of effort that he’s put into the game that he’s being rewarded for it, and I’m very happy for him. He’s a heck of a player.”
Defending Memorial champion Justin Rose agreed with Nicklaus, saying, “(Donald’s) level of consistency is incredible.”
“Every time I do see him over the ball, at least it looks like it’s going to go in,” Rose said. “He’s obviously on a huge sort of high with confidence right now, and that’s very good.”
Charl Schwartzel, the defending Masters winner and No. 10-ranked player in the world, said Donald’s victory against Westwood in a one-hole playoff was the most impressive part of his rise to the top.
“He actually went and beat the best player in the world at that stage,” Schwartzel said. “Just by beating (Westwood), he deserves it.”
Nicklaus noted during a Wednesday press conference that Donald has been known to “wear out the greens” at the Bear’s Club in Jupiter, Fla. — a testament to Donald’s work ethic.
“There are several greens you can practice on,” Nicklaus said. “He wears them out. And I think that the effort he has put into it has been rewarded. Donald should do very well on this golf course.”
Memorial Tournament play begins at 7:20 a.m. Donald, Schwartzel and Phil Mickelson, the No. 4-ranked player in the world, are set to tee off from hole 10 at 8:04 a.m.
Thomas Bradley contributed to this story.