Ryan Armour has never been shy about showing his Buckeye pride when the PGA Tour makes its yearly trip to Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, and this week will be no different.
At last year’s Memorial Tournament, Armour wore golf shoes that featured the Ohio State logo – which is also displayed prominently on his golf bag – and had his residence listed in the tournament’s official program as “THE Ohio State University.” At this week’s Workday Charity Open, Armour is taking it a step further, playing with a brand new set of wedges featuring Block O stamps.
“Aaron Dill, who works for Bob Vokey here at Titleist and does all my wedges, I actually had said to him a couple weeks ago, I’m like, ‘Hey, I’d love some new wedges for Columbus, mine are getting pretty worn out,’ and he’s like, ‘OK, what stamp do you want?’ I’m like, ‘I don’t know, pick something Buckeye-related,’” Armour told Eleven Warriors on Wednesday. “And I had no idea what he was going to come up with because he’s so creative on the stamping, and they just turned out phenomenal with the half of the Block O.”
Armour, a former Ohio State golfer who played for the Buckeyes from 1995-98, enters this week’s Workday Charity Open – a one-time event created by the PGA Tour to replace the John Deere Classic, an annual tournament in Illinois canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic – with momentum on his side. After tying for sixth at the Travelers Championship in Connecticut two weeks ago, Armour tied for fourth at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit last weekend, marking the first time in his PGA Tour career that he has finished in the top 10 in back-to-back tournaments.
He’ll look to keep that momentum going this week at Muirfield Village, a course owned by fellow Ohio State alumnus and golf legend Jack Nicklaus just northwest of Columbus, where Armour has decades of playing history.
“Everyone says it’s going to be a different golf course (for the Workday instead of the Memorial) … it’s still Muirfield Village,” Armour said. “I’ve played here as a junior golfer, as a high school golfer, as a college golfer, as a professional golfer, and you still get the Mr. Nicklaus aura and the vibes and the Buckeye love when you’re in Columbus. And I don’t think I can ever approach it any different than I have in the past, and for me, that’s hit it in the middle of the fairway and then try and give myself some opportunities to make some birdies.”
A native of Akron, Armour finished in the top 25 at the Memorial in each of the past two years, so he has reason to be confident about his ability to contend at his home-state course once again this week. However, there will be one key difference this week from Armour’s previous trips to Muirfield Village: no fans in attendance, which means Armour won’t get to hear the cheers from Ohio State fans that he typically receives in Dublin.
“You draw so much energy, ‘cause you play in so many different towns, and to play in a town that I considered home for a while, five years, you draw positive energy instead of almost negative energy from other places you go to,” Armour said. “And to not hear the O-H’s and the ‘Go Bucks’ and ‘Hey, thanks for coming, we love having you,’ stuff like that, you’re gonna miss it. And it just makes you think, we gotta get through this as a society and as a country as a whole, so we can get back to kind of normal sports participation.”
Nonetheless, Armour is excited about the opportunity to play at Muirfield Village once again, and appreciative of everyone who allowed this week’s Workday Charity Open to come together, including the PGA Tour and the Nicklaus family to Muirfield Village members like Urban Meyer.
“A lot of credit has to go to Mr. Nicklaus, Mrs. Nicklaus for having us. To Workday, stepping up and sponsoring it. And then to the membership here at Muirfield for allowing us to kind of take over for two weeks,” Armour said. “It’s a big undertaking, especially in the summer. Me growing up in Northeast Ohio, I know how vital these summer days are to play golf, and for them to give up their course for two weeks, we’re very grateful for it.”
Armour came up just short of qualifying for next week’s Memorial, an invitational tournament that features a smaller field of just 120 players, so the Workday will be his only opportunity to play at Muirfield Village this year. This will be his fourth straight week playing in a tournament after a three-plus-month layoff due to the pandemic, so he’ll be ready for a week off anyway, though he likely wouldn’t turn it down if a spot in the field opened up for him.
“Playing five in a row would be a lot on my body. I’m old,” said Armour, who turned 44 in February. “But if Mr. (Memorial Tournament executive director Dan) Sullivan and Mr. Nicklaus wanted me to play, I’d probably play.”
Because he isn’t slated to play in the Memorial as of now, though, the pressure for Armour to perform well in Ohio State territory will come this week. He’s embracing that.
“There is a little extra pressure playing at home but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve accepted it better,” Armour said. “I’ve accepted it as more as it’s fun instead of a burden. As I’ve gotten into my 40s, I’m relishing these opportunities to be here and represent where I came from and who I am today, and I think if I can carry that attitude forward, I think only good things can happen.”
Armour, who is set to tee off at 1:21 p.m. in Thursday’s first round of the Workday Charity Open, isn’t the only Buckeye in this week’s field. Bo Hoag, who played for Ohio State from 2008-11 and is currently in his first full season on the PGA Tour, is set to play in both the Workday and Memorial tournaments over the next two weeks.
“It's definitely a dream come true,” Hoag, who tees off at 9:13 a.m. in Thursday’s first round, told reporters at the Memorial on Tuesday. “One of the things that I first thought about when I earned my card was, ‘Man, I'm going to be able to come back to Columbus and play at Muirfield as a PGA Tour member.’ Yeah, it's pretty cool.”
Hoag, whose grandfather was a founding member of Muirfield Village Golf Club, has support from his fellow Buckeye on the Tour in Armour, who said he finally had the opportunity to grab lunch with Hoag on Wednesday after their recent plans to play practice rounds together fell through.
“It’s good to see him out here,” Armour said. “He’ll know his way around this golf course two weeks in a row, that’s for sure, and he’s a good player, and I expect good things from him.”
Television coverage of the Workday Charity Open will air from 3-6 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 1-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on Golf Channel and from 3-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on CBS.