By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM contributor
Annual weather patterns suggest Muirfield Village Golf Club should present a firmer and faster track in the fall than what the PGA TOUR’s elite usually sees in early June for the Memorial Tournament.
One extremely wet day, though, has left Jack Nicklaus’ most prolific layout racing the calendar to firm up again in time for The Presidents Cup to tee off Thursday.
“We’re trending the way we need to be,” superintendent Paul Latshaw said, “just not as fast as I’d like.”
With the days getting shorter, there hasn’t been as much sunlight or warmth to dry out all the moisture left over from 2 inches of rain on Sept. 20.
A constant, soaking rain dropped 1.6 inches during the daytime, followed four-tenths from an evening storm that Latshaw said “came down really quick and washed out all the bunkers.”
Despite the sunny days that have followed, the course remains somewhat damp.
“The days are definitely shorter and the drying period not as long,” said Latshaw, adding that Muirfield Village’s sprinklers have been shut off since the rain, but morning dew is pretty heavy this time of year.
New bleachers and hospitality tents specifically for The Presidents Cup also have become a factor. “Some of the tents are blocking air movement,” Latshaw said.
All that said, Latshaw remain optimistic that the course will come close to ideal conditions by the time Thursday’s opening foursomes match tees off. However, forecasts call for a cold front to push through Thursday night, which could bring more rain.
“If we can dodge that, we should be good through Sunday,” he said. “Our firmness really will be predicated on what happens Thursday.
“There’s a lot of different models out there – some say it’s a 30 percent chance of rain and others say 60 to 70 percent. Right now we’re really hoping we miss that rain on Thursday and have it really dry going into the weekend.”
Latshaw also pointed out the rough will be lower this week than players typically see at the Memorial, allowing for more aggressive shotmaking in the match-play format. Along those same lines, at least four holes are expected to utilize forward tees to increase drama.
“It’s not going to be about numbers,” Latshaw said. “They’re thinking about excitement.”
Latshaw also heaped praise on his 45-man staff for the work they’ve done since spring – first working around a clubhouse renovation in time for the Memorial, then summer construction that added a new back tee at No. 18, followed by the buildout in preparation for The Presidents Cup. The course was left alone for just two weeks after Matt Kuchar won the Memorial.
“Most superintendents and staff are lucky to do one major tournament of [Presidents Cup] caliber in their lifetime,” he said. “And we know the Memorial is a very prestigious event.
“Some of my guys have worked 92 to 95 hours [in a week]. It shows how committed they are to putting our best product forward.”