By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Insider
It wouldn't be wrong to label Muirfield Village as a second-shot golf course, but the greater premium is on and around the putting surfaces. Distance control is just as important as accuracy on approach, which is just as important as the touch to get up and down from a lie off the green.
As I laid out in the Power Rankings, the host track of this week's Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance is a beast in terms setting up birdie opportunities. The six champions of the event in the FedExCup era have minimized squaring big numbers with efficient, sound strategy.
Defending champion Tiger Woods won the 2009 edition as well. Of the sample size of winners, he ranks first (2012) and second (2009) in green in regulation, finishing those respective weeks T1 and T3. Meanwhile, of the six, both of his efforts rank in the bottom two in strokes gained-putting at 42nd (2012) and 30th (2009), further adding to the mound of evidence I've chronicled throughout the year to help prove the theory that there are many ways to win the same golf tournament.
K.J. Choi painted a photographically negative image to Woods' plan of attack by sitting a lot-worst T48 in proximity but a group-best third in scrambling. Since Choi's triumph, all five winners went on to rank inside the top 20 in proximity. Given the undulating greens, it's an underrated focal point this week.
Justin Rose led his field in strokes gained-putting in 2010 and ranked T13 in GIR. All things considered, he pieced together the most impressive numbers of the champions, slotting 17th in proximity to the hole, T8 in scrambling and a slash line of T6/2nd/T3 in par-3/4/5 scoring. It is then no surprise to relay that his 18-under 270 is low aggregate of the bunch.
Extending a pattern we've ridden in recent weeks, all of the winners ranked inside the top five in par-4 scoring. (Rose is the only champ to crack the top 10 in all three sets of par.) And while it's not top priority to hit the fairways at Muirfield Village, it sure hasn't hurt these guys. All six winners ranked inside the top 15 en route to their titles.
So, perhaps the most attainable achievement is, indeed, the most vital. Consider how often we hear a touring pro slap the tag of "second-shot golf course" only to turn around and hear another underscore the importance of finding the fairway. The broad-stroke takeaway suggests that when you hear what could be perceived as conflict is really just another way to compliment a great golf course.