In the spring of 1976, one of professional golf’s most legendary players fulfilled his lifelong dream. At his signature course, the Muirfield Village Golf Club, Jack Nicklaus secured his tournament, the Memorial Tournament, a place on the PGA Tour.
It All Began with a Dramatic Playoff
One of the more memorable moments at The Memorial was at the inaugural tournament in 1976. Four days was not enough to determine a champion. Former US Open champion Hal Irwin and Roger Maltbie exchanged pleasantries at the 16th tee, before a three-hole, aggregate playoff to decide the first Memorial champion.
The pair traded a birdie and a par at 15 and 16 respectfully, and headed to the 17th tee still tied and essentially playing under a sudden death format. Good fortune would come to the 1975 rookie of the year twice on the 17th hole.
First, an errant approach shot looked horribly off the mark, but it bounced off a course marker to land harmlessly on the green. Maltbie would two-putt to save par, but Irwin had only a makeable 10-foot opportunity to end the match.
Obviously taken aback by Maltbie’s stroke of good luck, Irwin missed his birdie putt and the two golfers marched on towards the 18th hole. Irwin’s frustration festered, and after a fourth stroke heading to the green, he broke his 5-iron in half out of disgust. Maltbie would birdie the hole and secure victory at the first Memorial.
Woods Ties the Golden Bear
Nicklaus’s historic career earned him the nickname the Golden Bear, namely from his blonde hair and his unrivaled prep career for the Upper Arlington Golden Bear golf team. In 2012, Tiger Woods would complete an improbable comeback, in the most dramatic fashion to tie Nicklaus`s second all-time total of 73 career wins.
From 50 feet behind the 16th green, Woods would hole an unbelievable chip shot that triggered his famous fist pump. This remarkable shot would be one of three birdies over the last four holes that propelled Woods to his 5th Memorial title and 73rd career PGA win, tying the great Nicklaus.
These are just two of the most memorable moments that have happened at the Memorial Golf Tournament. Each year, there have been lost opportunities and players who seized the moment to overtake the field but everyone honors the memory of golf legends at the Muirfield Village Golf Club in Ohio.