Muirfield Village a great golf course on a spectacular siteMay 30, 2012
Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
DUBLIN, Ohio -- "I imagine we could fit some sort of golf course on that land."
I laugh to myself every time I think of that quote from Jack Nicklaus when describing the property that comprises Muirfield Village Golf Club.
Fit some sort of golf course onto that land?
In my opinion, Muirfield Village sits on the best property of any inland golf course in the country.
And yes, that includes Augusta National and Pine Valley.
It's said when Bobby Jones first saw Fruitland's Nursery and the property that would become Augusta National, he is reported to have said, "imagine this land sitting here all these years just waiting for someone to build a golf course on it."
Nicklaus had to think the same thing when scouting locations for Muirfield Village. He hunted rabbits with his father on the property in his youth and knew every fold of the land.
A great inland golf course requires three elements: Natural changes in elevation, water features and trees.
Muirfield Village has all three in abundance.
Looking at a golf course is like looking at a painting. Some people admire Henri Matisse and some are fans of Jackson Pollock.
To my thinking, Muirfield Village is a Top 10 golf course. Not Top 10 in the United States, Top 10 in the world.
The land flows so naturally from the clubhouse, with abundant hardwood trees and meandering creeks that Nicklaus used to create risk/reward situations.
The 18th is a wonderful example. It's heavily bunkered on the right with a stream guarding the left hand portion of the fairway. Several players hit 3-wood off the tee of the 444-yard par 4.
But it's the seemingly benign second shot that makes the hole play so difficult.
A Nicklaus course is like a pyramid. Imagine the tee sits at the base of the pyramid and the green is at the tip. The closer you get to the top of that pyramid, the more precision is required.
In 2007, I was doing play-by-play for PGA TOUR Radio and was just starting to describe the hole when Nicklaus arrived and stood right next to me.
I hate that.
It was as if the high school principal unexpectedly entered your classroom just as you were called on to give an analysis of John Keats' poetry.
I stammered something about the 18th hole's green complex. How it was easy to hit the center of the green but that left a player with a huge breaking right to left side-hill putt. On the other hand, with the hole cut on the left-hand side, a player could attack the pin but that brought in bunkers on both sides and if your shot sailed a little long you were left with a very fast putt or a downhill chip.
A seemingly straight forward hole is actually a complex equation and there are 17 other holes at Muirfield Village that require similar pre-shot consideration.
Nicklaus took it all in and when I finished, he turned, looked at me for what seemed like an eternity and then flashed me a "thumbs up."
I'm guessing Nicklaus is very proud of Muirfield Village for a golf course that was fit onto a piece of rabbit hunting property.
Green Speed: Muirfield Village has some of the fastest greens on TOUR and also the healthiest putting surfaces. It's easy to get firm and fast greens. You just stop watering the grass for two weeks and the greens will play firm and fast during the tournament. They will also die following the conclusion of play.
At Muirfield Village the greens are firm, fast and healthy. I once fixed a ball mark on the 10th green while walking the course during the players' practice round. I was surprised how deep the root structure was on the greens. That's a sure sign of healthy grass.
Driving Range: Nicklaus designed a circular driving range that is massive. It was created so players could hit into any wind direction they want. If the wind is blowing into a player's face but he wants to practice downwind wedges, he simply moves to the opposite side of the range. The same holds true for hitting draws and cuts into or against the wind.
Tiger watch: Tiger Woods is coming off a bad stretch of golf. A missed cut in Charlotte sandwiched between two mediocre performances at both The Masters and The PLAYERS. I expect a good showing from him this week. He is a multi-winner at Muirfield Village and obviously loves the course. I think Tiger was perhaps overconfident at Augusta and has seldom been inspired by TPC Sawgrass.
Two things to watch for Woods this week are par-5 scoring and three-putt avoidance. He is ranked 37th on TOUR in making birdie or better at par 5s. Woods is 19th in Strokes Gained-Putting but is just 102nd in three-putt avoidance.
Winner, winner: I think there are so many similarities between Augusta National and Muirfield Village, all you need to do is look who plays well at The Masters for an idea of who will play well at The Memorial.
You know the usual suspects � Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlory. Justin Rose and Luke Donald are both playing well but could be fatigued after last week's BMW in England. Let me give you another couple names: Jim Furyk and Rickie Fowler. Both have played well here in the past and both are playing well right now.
Furyk won The Memorial in 2002 and was runner up in 2009. He was fourth last week at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial where he led the tournament in greens in regulation.
Fowler has posted four straight top 10s, including a win at Wells Fargo. He was second in this tournament two years ago and is very much a "feel" player. I feel Rickie Fowler wins The Memorial.
.red Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio and is inside the ropes this week at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, [click here].