Once you’ve rearranged the furniture in your living room, it can be pretty much impossible to know when to stop. The allowance to be creative breeds fresh perspective that inherently doesn’t have an endpoint, even for the disciplined. When it comes to redesigning golf courses, layers of other influences come into play, but it also requires a break, if for no other reason than it’s time to play.
When Jack Nicklaus announced that his most recent redesign of Muirfield Village Golf Club – otherwise known as the natural gathering place at his home – was his last, it doesn’t mean that he’s done molding and shaping the possibilities virtually, imaginatively. It just means that he’s given the manifestation of his process his last, best shot (which assumes that he really is done molding and shaping).
In its debut last year, the latest iteration of Nicklaus’ beloved track in Dublin, Ohio, stood tall in testing PGA TOUR membership as host of the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday, albeit with one curious anomaly, and likely a one-timer at that. It’s explained in the course review below.
POWER RANKINGS: THE MEMORIAL TOURNAMENT PRESENTED BY WORKDAY
Cameron Smith, Joaquin Niemann, Marc Leishman, Mito Pereira and 2018 Memorial champ Bryson DeChambeau will be among the notables reviewed in Draws and Fades.
When considering the challenge of Muirfield Village over time, it’s always been a progressive experience tee to target, but it’s not as simple as classifying it as a second-shot track.
While Nicklaus has conceded room to miss off the tee, the course tips at 7,533 yards, so muscle is rewarded. (Overall distance is down 10 yards because the par-5 seventh hole will play no longer than 582 yards this week.) At the same time, the most penal of the rough begins at four inches high, so respect and thoughtfulness when sizing up each hole is required.
Still, the 120 entrants of this limited-field invitational need to step up and hit golf shots on approach. Bentgrass greens average just 5,000 square feet, and they’re annually the slickest surfaces outside the confines of Augusta National Golf Club. On second thought, that’s not true, at least it wasn’t last year.
New greens at Muirfield Village ran 12 feet on the Stimpmeter last year. That’s a common expectation on most courses utilized by the PGA TOUR, but they were measurably slower by comparison to pre-redesign when readings of 13 feet and beyond were collected. As a result, three-putt avoidance was at an all-time low of 1.52 percent, third-lowest among all of 51 courses during the super season. (The previous record for the course was 2.21 percent in 1998. The stat has been recorded in earnest since 1992.) That dropped average putts per round by exactly 1.00 (to 27.99), and the conversion percentage inside 10 feet climbed in concert, but most other familiar measurements to define how it went were in line with history.
The learning curve of the new greens served as a counterbalance. To wit, putts per greens in regulation and average distance of putts converted historically will not reflect the modifications. But now, with an additional year to mature, and with cooperative conditions, the governor can be lifted.
After a blast of early summertime heat, a front bringing rain and cooler air will make its way into the region midweek. The tail end of it will be gone on some time on Thursday, so the turf should be receptive for the opening round. Dry weather is forecast thereafter, daytime highs might not touch 80 degrees and wind shouldn’t be an issue.
Per the new norm, the winner will receive 550 FedExCup points, a three-season membership exemption (or one-year extension to a maximum of five seasons) and a three-year exemption into THE PLAYERS Championship.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.com’s Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous perspectives. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
MONDAY: Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Draws and Fades
WEDNESDAY: Pick ’Em Preview
SUNDAY: Medical Extensions, Qualifiers, Reshuffle, Rookie Ranking
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.