More questions than answers at Muirfield

The air of familiarity that most in the field have with Jack Nicklaus’ Muirfield Village Golf Club meant nothing as firm greens, thick rough and gusty conditions wreaked havoc during the recently completed Memorial Tournament.

Scores were buffeted during high winds in the third round and along with them, so too any thought of the upcoming US Open being a fight between a mere few.

Tiger Woods Tiger Woods (Credit: Anthony Powter)

Matt Kuchar’s stellar play to win his second marquee event of the season has thrust his name right into calculations but a question mark can been pencilled in next to others.

World number one Tiger Woods’ third round seven-over par 79 included a career-worst nine hole score of 44 and left him ahead of just three players heading into the final round.

The struggling world number two, Rory McIlroy, was hardly any better, two strokes ahead of Woods but at six-over par and in a tie for 64th. Level par 72s from each on Sunday did little to improve their positions in the field or their confidence levels.

At least they saw action at the weekend, something other stars and US Open hopefuls Dustin Johnson, Brandt Snedeker, Nick Watney, Kevin Streelman and defending Open champion Webb Simpson could not boast.

As the going got tough, it may be a forerunner to Merion to note who went ‘forward’ while others were falling away.

Some of the improvers included Masters champion Adam Scott, England’s Justin Rose and Luke Donald, past Open podium finishers Michael Thomson, Kevin Chappell and perennial US Open ‘grinder’ and past champion Jim Furyk.

Woods’ four-win season and the dominating form that he had displayed entitled him to outright favouritism for a 4th Open title at Merion, although one wonders if any doubts have crept into his psyche after his struggles at a venue he has dominated in the past with five victories.

Woods will not have the benefit of the same degree of local knowledge at a claustrophobic Merion should conditions deteriorate at some point, although on that front he won’t be on his own.

Only a handful of players have seen the historic venue set up in USGA conditions which is one of the intriguing elements in store for this year’s championship.

Picking a US Open champion on the form shown at the ‘dress rehearsal’ at The Memorial has just become even more perplexing.