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May 31 2011

9:13 PM

New 16th should be a challenge

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The 16th hole at Murifield Village will have a different feel than it did a year ago when Justin Rose birdied the par-3 en route to victory.

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

DUBLIN, Ohio -- Jack Nicklaus had thought about it for five years. And with the Presidents Cup slated for his beloved Muirfield Village in 2013, he finally decided to go ahead and act.

The 16th hole, what was once an innocuous par 3, has now been made more dramatic with the addition of a pond to guard the re-positioned green to the left. Nicklaus made the change to strengthen the hole, which now plays about 14 yards shorter at 200, with the biennial matches in mind.

"I think that one of the things that really sort of pushed 16 was probably The Presidents Cup to some degree," Nicklaus said. "The reason for that is that when you go to match play, many matches finish around the 16th, 17th hole, and that area right there is obviously where things come together, and I didn't like to see those matches finish on a weakish hole."

Nicklaus thinks the new 16th -- which will be featured, along with the par-5 11th on PGATOUR.COM's LIVE@ the Memorial coverage this week -- could produce a lot more birdies, as well as a few double bogeys. In short, "there's going to be a lot more excitement," he said with a sense of satisfaction.

"It's a kind of hole that I think will probably play easier with a good shot under the prevailing wind," Nicklaus explained. "The prevailing wind is a westerly wind, southwesterly wind, that usually when we hit the ball before the green was sitting sort of this way, and I think a lot of shots hit in there went through the green very easily or into the back bunker, and I never really cared for the way the ball went into that green.

"So what I did is I took the green and put it more this way, which sort of lines up with the prevailing wind.  And with the prevailing wind you have the ability to feed the ball back into the green so you don't have to worry about having to stop the ball as easily if you play a smart shot.

"And if the wind turns the other way, if there's no wind, then stopping the ball on the green is not an issue."

Justin Rose, who closed with a 66 to make up a four-stroke deficit, made the final birdie in his victory march last year at the 16th hole. He remembers hearing cheers for someone in the last group -- Rickie Fowler and Ricky Barnes -- and knew he needed to make something happen.

"When I made my birdie I figured I was maybe one ahead, so 16 was a pivotal hole for me and it could be even more so this year," Rose said. "It could be for other reasons. I think 5 is more of an option now than it ever has been in the past with that hole.

"It's going to be tricky. That's the one green being new, it's a little firmer than the rest, despite the rain, and there's going to be a little bit to think about on that tee, for sure."

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