With Nicklaus founding and hosting the event at Muirfield Village, most of the world’s top players usually make the trip to Ohio to effectively pay tribute to the 18-time major winner.
Masters champion Jordan Spieth, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are all in the field, while Players Championship winner Rickie Fowler is also competing.
McIlroy missed his second consecutive halfway cut at Royal County Down, despite saying he felt “refreshed” following a similarly early exit from the BMW PGA Championship, but Nicklaus has no issues with the 26-year-old sticking to his schedule after playing five weeks in succession.
“Most of the guys who aren’t here this week have come to me and said ‘Jack I’ve got this problem,’ Nicklaus said yesterday.
“I said ’Hey wait a minute, don’t worry about us, you’ve got to do what’s right for you’. I ended up having to make those choices at times, what was right for me. I respect what the guys have to do and how they are pulled from so many directions, and for the most part the guys have been here.”
McIlroy has played in the Memorial every year since making his debut in 2010, achieving a best finish of joint fifth in 2011, a fortnight before winning his first major title in the US Open.
He wrote to Nicklaus to explain his decision, only to bump into the man himself at the Bears Club near his home in Florida.
“He came to me and talked to me and said he was in a pickle,” Nicklaus added. “I said ‘Rory, don’t worry about it. You and I are very close, we have no issues. If you have stuff you gotta do in Ireland, you got to do what’s right for you. You gotta get yourself ready for the US Open’.
“And that’s fine with me. And from the way I handled it, I don’t think you will see Rory miss here very often.”
Speaking before winning the Wells Fargo Championship by seven shots last month, McIlroy said: “The first thing he said to me was that he’d received my letter and I said to him that I wanted to write to you rather than phone or just advise the (PGA) Tour, so he seemed pretty taken back to get my letter and that made me also feel good.
“I have played the Memorial every year since coming over here so he was happy and I told him I’m already looking forward to the event next year.”