Tiger Woods chipped in for birdie on the par-3 16th en route to winning last year. (Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Contributor
It was only a few years back that Muirfield Village creator Jack Nicklaus described his par-3 16th hole as simply “a nice way to get from 15 green to 17 tee.”
However, there was more than a kernel of truth to that assessment.
Flanked on one end by the drivable par-4 14th and steep hazards at No.15, on the other by Muirfield Village’s tough closing holes, No.16 was the yawner in the bunch. Players were happy to take a “3” and move on; the hole rarely strayed from between seventh and 12th in difficulty.
With a new pond springing up short and left of a repositioned green, No.16 quickly has become a factor at the Memorial tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance.
Two years ago, the new design ranked as Muirfield Village’s second-toughest, trailing only the perennial chart-topper 18th. Last year, Tiger Woods’ dramatic Sunday chip-in from behind the green gave No. 16 an instant place in Memorial lore.
“I thought we could introduce some more excitement,” Nicklaus said.
Though the water is likely to first draw a player’s eye, the new green will play a far larger role in determining his success. In the prevailing westerly winds, players will have the option of holding a cut against the breeze or trying to play a draw to the back pin positions.
“You've definitely got to turn a little shot right-to-left in there,” said Justin Rose, the 2010 champion. “The green is designed in a way that if you hit the perfect shot, you do get a little bit of help with the slope into the back left-hand corner.”
Nicklaus, in fact, was rather perplexed with the choice of pin placement for last year’s final round, noting the back-left position had become something of a sucker bet when the wind switched.
“Guys kept trying to force it back there,” he said, “and they kept going to the back of the green or going in the back bunker and it was tough.”
To which Woods was moved to reply: “Oh, really?”
Nicklaus surely will hope for similar fireworks at September’s Presidents Cup, where No. 16 will get a lot of attention as matches enter the closeout stage.
“I didn’t want to see those matches finish on a weakish hole,” he said.