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Culp's Corner

Memorial Tournament Preview

by Josh Culp
Updated On: May 30, 2022, 11:46 am ET

The PGA TOUR heads to Jack's Place this week for the 2022 Memorial Tournament.

It is the 47th edition of this event, all of them held at Muirfield Village Golf Club. 

Similar to last week in Fort Worth, we'll see another limited-field, invite-only event with 120 golfers lined up to start the week. The top 65 and ties will advance through the 36-hole cutline. 

 

The Course

Muirfield Village Golf Club remains the host venue for the Memorial. It's a par 72 that stretches out to 7,533 yards on the card. There aren't a lot of wedges here, it's mid-iron or longer for most of the approach shots. 

This Jack Nicklaus layout was designed in the early 1970s and retouched in 2020, also by Nicklaus. He rebuilt the bunkers and recontoured the greens The changes were largely unnoticeable to the casual fan but the pros did have to make adjustments to their course notes before last year's edition. 

Off the tee, golfers see generous landing areas that produce a field-average fairways hit rate of around 70 percent. That means the average cut-maker will take about 50 approach shots from the fairway and 22 from the rough. A part of that high accuracy rate is due to the second-shot nature of much of the course. Some holes just require golfers to hit into the same zone with less than driver and attack from there. 

The rough is extremely penal but that is exactly what Nicklaus wants. He gives you plenty of room to work with so if you miss those wide targets then you should be punished. 

On approach, they see small targets with an average green size of just 5,000 square feet. Fourteen of the top-17 finishers last year had arrived with positive strokes gained approach in their 12 lead-in rounds before the big finish. That was a much higher rate than previous editions so it's possible the 2020 course renovation put a bigger emphasis on iron play, or it could just be a one-year sample glitch. We know that courses like to take it easy on the turf the first year or two so that could have also played a role in that. There was also some weather that rolled through last year to soften the course. 

Water remains a big issue when navigating the course. It comes into play on about eight holes off the tee and half the holes on approach. Lots of water balls here, again putting an emphasis on ball-striking skills. 

As I mentioned above, the greens were redone during the renovations. They are now pure bentgrass, or at least mostly bent as they had gotten overrun with poa annua over the years. They prep them to run very fast, over 12.5 feet on the stimp. 

The scoring environment is tough overall with four of the last five years producing a field scoring average of 72.56 or higher (+0.56 RTP). As we often see with tough scoring courses, ball-striking gets elevated while it becomes less of a putting contest. 

 

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Quotes on the Course

Jon Rahm: "The redesign's made it at least one to two strokes harder, but when the greens are receptive like now and you can fire at every single pin -- you saw what Collin did. He probably left a couple putts out there, he was just firing on all cylinders. And when you're a good iron player you can take advantage of it."

Carlos Ortiz: "It's high. It's tough. Thick. I guess it's a good practice for the U.S. Open, right? It's tough rough."

Rory McIlroy: "I think what's happened here is everyone is just now playing from the same spot with their second shot, so it's really become -- and it's not an easy driving golf course by any means, but everyone is hitting to the same spot. I guess there's no different strategies off the tee, it's just sort of everyone goes and does this and then they go from there. So it's sort of hard for, you look how condensed the field is, it's hard to separate yourself when a design is like that."

Justin Thomas: "I'm pretty sure Jack's courses are second-shot courses. I would say that was a strength of his game, and I do like that aspect of it. You have to hit it well. The fairways are pretty generous out here. The greens are also pretty generous but they have some severity to them, so you need to have control of your ball, putting them in the correct spots."

Jack Nicklaus: "We got to get rid that have blasted poa annua. I mean, those greens just looked horrible on television, they looked horrible -- and the greens were putting beautifully, there was nothing wrong with the way the golf course played or anything. Aesthetically, I can't stand the look of it."

Going back to what I said above, the importance of approach play was likely exaggerated due to the weather and softer conditions in 2021, as Rahm laid out above. Rory talked about the redesign making it tougher for big hitters to get home in two on the par 5s. 

Correlated Courses

Looking at historical performance across the PGA TOUR, here are some courses that share overlapping success and/or failures with Colonial CC:  

TPC Scottsdale
Riviera CC
Torrey Pines
Quail Hollow Club
Kapalua
 

It's a mixed bag in terms of overall theme here but generous fairways, long approaches, small green targets, and fast greens are common themes. 
 

The Weather

Thursday: Rain likely with a high of 72 degrees. Winds at 6 to 10 MPH. 

Friday: Sunny with a high of 74 degrees. Winds at 6 to 10 MPH. 

Matt Kuchar summed it up well when talking about weather at this event over the years, "Typically, I always have a base layer and a ski cap coming here and make sure my rain gear is packed and ready to arrive and play." 

It looks like rain on Wednesday and Thursday will be all they have to dodge, at least for now. 

Josh Culp

Josh Culp joined NBC Sports Edge in 2014. The DFS enthusiast from Iowa State can be found on Twitter @futureoffantasy.