Keeping with the theme of last week, the PGA TOUR heads to Dublin, Ohio, for another invite-only event.
This time it's the Memorial Tournament which takes place at Jack's Place. Known for generous fairways, fast greens, and delicious milkshakes.
The cut-line rules remain Top 70 and Ties which means another big chunk of players will get through the cut. That didn't matter last week at Colonial when a ton of big names managed to slam their trunks early, despite the limited field.
Muirfield Village Golf Club was designed by Jack Nicklaus in the mid 70s. It's a par 72 that plays at roughly 7,400 yards on tournament week.
Nicklaus is known for making his courses with generous fairways and this course is no different. Given the length combined with generous fairways, it would be easy to mistake this for a bomber's paradise but there is more to the story.
There are a lot of well-placed fairway bunkers to dangle the carrot in front of bigger hitters which are very difficult to recover from. While the TOUR-average GIR rate from fairway bunkers sits around 49% that number hovers closer to 40% at Jack's Place. The best way to avoid them is to lay back a bit and opt for more 3-woods off the tee. Jason Day has a good quote about the preferred distance off the tee. Head to the Quotes section to read that.
Since most golfers tend to lay back off the tee, it becomes a second-shot course that is mostly about positioning. Those approach shots become oh-so-important when you add in the element of water hazards which come into play on about half of the holes at Muirfield Village. The water hazards aren't as visually intimidating as a lot of the Florida water parks but they do still come into play quite frequently.
Nicklaus was known to hit the high fade and he's built that into his design profile, as well. Golfers with a left-to-right ball flight have talked about the course really fitting their eye here in Dublin, Ohio.
Golfers will need to be aggressive but delicate with their approaches as they will face extremely fast, bentgrass putting surfaces. You don't want to short-side yourself here.
For stats, it seems to be largely about off-the-tee play with driving accuracy also being more relevant than most weeks. I guess you could call it a total driving course. Distance is always a plus but you don't want to be spraying into the rough and/or fairway bunkers. Approach play also grades out as very pivotal and that makes sense with the quick greens. You want to land your approaches in the proper sections to make the short-game shots that much easier. Course management, if you will.
Sifting through some past quotes over at the Fantasy Golfanac, let's try to break down the course to see how it will play.
Jason Dufner: "I think distance can play a factor because it brings shorter clubs in. But I think it’s mostly a second-shot golf course, so I think you need to be on your irons, being able to hit the different shots, you got a lot of different angles that Mr. Nicklaus has presented to you on the golf course. A little bit of positioning off the tee because the better you can be in position to some hole locations the better the angle is, so the easier the shot may play.
But you get a hole like 12, it’s pretty narrow, you got a weird angle there, especially to those back right pins, so you got to be able to control your ball with a little bit of a fade. A lot of the hole locations, a lot of the second shots play to kind of a fade bias, where if you can move the ball a little bit left-to-right it will make it a little bit easier for you. So I think it’s a second-shot golf course.
And then putting. The greens are fast this week and they have a good bit of natural slope. I don’t want to say they’re real slopey, but they have tilt, so you get a lot of putts inside of that 10-foot range that kind of have a good amount of speed but also a good amount of break. So being able to control your speed and match your lines is pretty important."
Grayson Murray: "You can hit a lot of fades off the tee, which is good for me. Pretty generous fairways. When you’re coming out of the fairway you have a lot of scoring clubs and for me if I can hit fairways, which I did a pretty good job today, scoring clubs are usually my strengths, so I can take advantage of it."
Tiger Woods: "So over the course of my career I’ve done well on Nicklaus courses. And I’ve always felt maybe just the high fade or just high shots in general, because I’ve always hit the ball high has always been advantageous."
Jamie Lovemark: "You have to be conservative off the tee. The fairways are pretty wide. But the greens are so fast and slippery that if you short side yourself you have no chance."
Jason Day: "It’s a course where I think if you hit it like 280, it sets up perfect for you. You can hit it to the corners, you don’t have to try to take over the bunkers. Like for instance, 10, 11, 12, 13, the par-4 in the corner, I can take it over that bunker. But once again, if you take that on and you don’t hit it on the correct line, you hit it straight, you can hit it in the trees and it’s difficult. But if you hit it just above average out here, it sets you up in perfect position."
Overview: Golfers tend to agree that Muirfield Village is a second-shot course. It's about position off the tee and then attacking on approach, preferrably with a left-to-right ball flight.
Looking at grass types, geography, course attributes, and past performance, here are a few courses/events that I think could prove to be a good pointer this week:
TPC Boston (Playoff Event)
TPC Sawgrass (PLAYERS)
Innisbrook's Copperhead Course (Valspar)
Waialae CC (Sony Open)
Quail Hollow Club (Wells Fargo)
TPC River Highlands (Travelers)
Most of the courses that pop here are position-off-the-tee type of courses. TPC Boston and Quail Hollow do allow you to grip it and rip it more than the others. Boston and River Highlands are also closest in proximity and provide similar cool-season grasses to deal with.
Thursday: A strong chance of storms (60%) with a high near 78 degrees. Winds at 9 to 15 MPH.
Friday: A chance of storms (30%) with a high near 76 degrees. Calm winds.
Weekend: The threat of storms remain all weekend with temps in the mid-70s. Not a lot of wind.
The current forecast suggests we may be in for some start-and-stop action this week with storms possible most of the week. On the bright side, winds are much calmer compared to last week at Colonial.