It wouldn't be a Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance without numerous enhancements and alterations to Muirfield Village Golf Club from the previous year. It's just that this year's edition will be contested more as a result of reactionary adjustments.
Many tournament host sites would sit out a year when preparing to stage a global event like The Presidents Cup as Muirfield Village did last fall. Figure in unfavorable conditions for the biennial event followed by one of the coldest winters on record in Columbus, Ohio, and the combination of challenges would seem to be a groundskeeper's nightmare.
"Some of our grasses aren't matching up (in color) the way we want them to, but they will," tournament host Jack Nicklaus told The Columbus Dispatch for a story that ran on Monday. "It will just take a little time because it's new grass. But as far as the playing surfaces, (they're) perfect. (Superintendent) Paul (Latshaw) has done a great job getting the golf course in shape."
In addition to countless truckloads of newly laid sod, Nicklaus estimated that 30 acres of rough had to be overseeded. However, Muirfield Village doesn't penalize wayward tee balls anyway. Defending champion Matt Kuchar proved this by ranking T37 in fairways hit. Meanwhile, he led the field in greens in regulation and placed second in strokes gained-putting. He missed only one of 56 attempts from 7 feet and in, 17 of which were from outside 3 feet.
Not long by most measurements, Kuchar ranked 23rd in distance of all drives at 282.7 yards en route to victory. However, while the 7,352-yard Muirfield Village finished the season 15th in the same stat, its split landed at just 280.1 yards, so Kuchar was longer than average.
The course was completed in 1974, but it's a modern-day Nicklaus design in that the challenge increases nearer each hole. To wit, it ranked 15th in greens in regulation at 61.43 percent last year. Putting surfaces averaging just 5,000 square feet aid in limiting eagle and birdie opportunities, but salvaging par is no gimme. Muirfield Village finished fifth in scrambling at 51.49 in 2013. That's very much in line with its recent history.
It is no surprise then that Muirfield Village has been the hardest par 72 in a non-major two years running. Last year's scoring average was 73.256.
Rain and storms are expected to be gone by the first tee time on Thursday morning. From that point forward, it should be dry with high temperatures in the low 80s. Winds will be moderate at worst.
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