Hearn dark horse to make Memorial run

PGATour.com has named Canadian David Hearn one of its five sleeper picks this week at the Memorial...

PGATour.com has named Canadian David Hearn one of its five sleeper picks this week at the Memorial Tournament. (REUTERS)

TIM MCKAY, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 5:16 PM ET

It's David Hearn's first time at the Memorial Tournament at Jack Nicklaus' Muirfield Village, so forgive him for ordering an Arnold Palmer iced tea.

"Realized after I ordered an Arnold Palmer here at The Memorial, prob shouldn't do that (stet)," Hearn wrote on Twitter Tuesday. "Oops."

You also may have to forgive the 32-year-old from Brantford, Ont., for giving the star-studded field a run for its money this week. PGATour.com named Hearn one of its five sleeper picks this week, although a strong showing last week at Colonial (tied for 13th) and solid play of late doesn't make him a bad bet.

"I think they do that stuff online for fantasy golf. I think it's kind of fun," Hearn said Wednesday from Dublin, Ohio, before a workout and a practice nine. "I had a good week last week and I feel like my game has been pretty steady over the last month and a bit. I feel like it's really close to doing something real nice."

Hearn's game has been solid recently but, after missing four consecutive cuts in April and May before making five in a row with three top-25 finishes, he says it wasn't like there was a flick of a switch that got him going.

"I didn't find any one thing in particular," Hearn said. "When you're kind of going through tough spells, I always feel like it's always pretty close. I don't tend to lose my game where I can't do anything. I feel like I can kind of grind around when I need to. That's what I did last week. On Friday at Colonial, I did not hit a lot of greens, the course was playing really tough, I made a lot of really really good up-and-downs and ended up making the cut on the number. I got out early Saturday and there wasn't a lot of wind and was able to put in a really good round.

"My coach, Ralph Bauer, and I work on fundamentals and try to keep a very consistent approach and focusing on a lot of those little details that benefit your game. And I feel like because of that approach, we're never far off."

Still, that Saturday 65 at Colonial, Hearn's low round of the year, had to feel good.

"Absolutely," he said. "It felt great ... that's what you put in all the time and effort for and it's nice to be rewarded like that."

Hearn said he can see why everyone makes a big deal about the Memorial at "Jack's place," with eight of the world's top 10 (Nos. 3 and 5, Lee Westwood and Matt Kuchar, the exceptions) in attendance.

"This is one of the best-kept golf courses we play on tour all year," he said. "It's going to be a lot of fun to play here this week."

And for the man himself? Hearn hadn't yet met Nicklaus, but he was hoping to.

"He was a little bit before my time growing up," Hearn said. "He won the Masters (in 1986) and I was only 7 years old but I remember my dad getting excited watching that back nine. It was certainly a tournament to remember.

"He's a player that I know a lot about his career and what he accomplished ... he's certainly a great champion and ambassador for the game."

MANIC MONDAY

While Hearn is hoping for a good showing at the Memorial, making the cut could turn into a long stretch of golf for him with a U.S. Open qualifier on Monday.

Hearn is entered into the Columbus qualifier and he jokes about his dream scenario.

"Hopefully I'm playing late on Sunday and I don't get much sleep after a celebration and I don't play very well in the Monday qualifier," Hearn said, making the point that his focus is on the PGA Tour event first.

"I think my priority is doing well in the tournaments I'm in and the rest will kind of take care of itself and down the road I'll be playing in lots of U.S. Opens," he said.

"The interesting thing about the qualifier is usually scores are pretty good. It's not exactly the same test as you're going to get in the Open, however, the courses we're playing on Monday (Ohio State University and Scioto) are both very difficult golf courses so I think it will a good test and you'll get a lot of people coming out of that site that will have the opportunity to do very well in the Open."

DELAET RESTS BACK

Graham DeLaet has pulled out of the Memorial with back pains.

"Had to WD from Memorial. Tweaked my back on the weekend and won't be ready to go for Thurs (stet)," DeLaet wrote on Twitter. "Really bummed because I was feeling good physically and feeling good about my game. Good news is it's not a re-injury (he had back surgery in Jan. of 2011). MRI showed no disc issues. Just need a few more days rest."

His buddy Hearn thinks it was a smart call.

"I've texted him back and forth a little bit. Obviously no one wants to withdraw from an event like this. I think in the big picture he has made the right decision," Hearn said.

GRACE OPENS TO U.S.

Branden Grace will make his second start on the PGA Tour this season this week at the Memorial (his first being at Doral).

The 24-year-old South African, who has three wins already in his European Tour campaign, also had been entered in Monday's U.S. Open qualifier but decided to forego the grueling 36-hole test because his recent play has allowed him to do so.

The top 60 in the world gain automatic entry into the U.S. Open field and with his fifth-place finish at the Euro Tour's BMW PGA Championship last week, Grace moved up to No. 55. With a couple weeks before the U.S. Open cutoff, Grace is confident he will stay inside that top-60 threshold.

"I think I should be good enough, I'm definitely not going to do the qualifier," Grace said Tuesday at Muirfield VIllage.

It's clear Grace covets a spot on the PGA Tour in the future.

"I definitely want to get out here more often and see how I can go and how I can compete with the bigger boys," said Grace, who sits fourth on the Euro Tour Race to Dubai behind Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy and Louis Oosthuizen, respectively.

 


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