DUBLIN, Ohio – Rory McIlroy deadpanned the best line of the day. And the most honest.
The world's No. 2 golfer was asked why Tiger Woods has won five times at the Memorial Tournament.
"The same reason he's done so well everywhere, I guess," McIlroy said, prompting loud laughter.
Woods' dominance isn't necessarily a laughing matter for the rest of the field at Muirfield Village this week. In 13 trips to Jack Nicklaus' tournament, Woods has wins in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2009 and last year. He's cashed more than $5 million, also finishing third twice and fourth once.
So when the Memorial tees off on Thursday morning, there's no question who everyone will be watching.
"For some reason, I just feel comfortable on (Nicklaus-designed) golf courses, the way he sets it up," said Woods, who has won four times this year in only seven starts to climb back to No. 1 in the world rankings. "There is ample room off the tees. The greens are really severe. If you miss the greens, it tests your short game. Those are the things that I think I do well."
For his part, Nicklaus referred to the eye of the Tiger.
"Obviously, (the course) fits his eye," he said. "I'm delighted that this is one of the golf courses that he likes."
Woods' strong start has perhaps gotten lost in the flurry of news, both good and bad, surrounding the sport these days. Two of the game's sanctioning bodies have banned the anchored putting stroke that has helped four of the last six major-championship winners. Vijay Singh has sued the PGA Tour for its investigation into his use of deer-antler spray. Sergio Garcia made an off-hand comment with racial overtones that was directed at Woods, with whom he squabbled after they were paired at The Players Championship.
Adam Scott, who won the Masters in April with an anchored putter, has hired a lawyer to stay informed on the ongoing legal battle.
"My intention is just to get all the information possible from the PGA Tour," said Scott, who is in the Memorial field along with Woods and Singh but not Garcia. "I just want to get that information and make sure that my views are expressed to the Tour and that's that. There's no intention of filing suit or making problems."
Singh has filed suit after saying he suffered "public humiliation and ridicule" during the investigation of his usage of the spray.
Garcia was jokingly asked at a European Tour dinner last week if he would have Woods over for dinner to mend fences during the U.S. Open. He said he would serve fried chicken.
He apologized that night and against the next day. Woods said Wednesday that Garcia had yet to apologize to him personally.
"Move on," Woods said.
Asked to comment on all the controversies swirling around the tour, its players and particularly the Garcia-Woods verbal skirmish, Nicklaus said times have changed.
"For the most part, today you're in a fish bowl," the Memorial's founder and host said. "There's a lot of mountains made of mole hills. It's a different day. Everybody is there and everything is public."
Getting back to the golf, the Memorial features an elite field that includes the world's top six golfers and 17 of the top 25. Past winners Ernie Els, Justin Rose, Jim Furyk, Fred Couples, K.J. Choi and Carl Petersson fill out the grid, in addition to Singh and Woods.
Sunny and warm temperatures, for the most part, are predicted for the tournament, which is often buffeted by monsoon-like rain and winds.
It remains to be seen, however, if anything — a strong field, perfect weather, all the controversies — can stand in Woods' way.
Davis Love III said Woods' overpowering season has been overshadowed because he lost out to Scott in the Masters and because of all the noise coming from elsewhere in the golf world.
"It's too bad there's so many great stories in golf right now," Love said. "People say, 'What's the matter with Tiger?' Nothing's the matter with him. As long as he plays, he wins."
That doesn't mean anyone is conceding the crystal trophy to him.
McIlroy, who has finished tied for 10th, fifth and missed the cut in appearances the last three years at the tournament, was willing to bank any bit of good mojo he could.
He sported a scarlet and gray shirt — colors that are bound to excite any Ohio State fans in his gallery.
"I didn't even think about it when I took it out of the wardrobe today," he said with a grin. "But I might have to get it cleaned every night and wear it every day."
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