Andy Gottesman / Multimedia editor
Despite a spring filled with torrential rains, Memorial Tournament host Jack Nicklaus said he believes Muirfield Village Golf Club is in prime condition for this week’s PGA Tour event.
After getting to play the course last week, the 18-time major champion also said he believes his golf course is ready for the PGA Tour’s best.
“(I played) the golf course on Thursday, and I went back out on Friday and I was amazed,” Nicklaus said. “I thought the golf course was really pretty good Friday.”
Although Nicklaus referred to the course as looking more like “Lake Muirfield” just a week ago, the course is drying out and returning to the fast conditions the Memorial field has come to expect.
“I heard about how much rain they have had,” said defending Memorial champion Justin Rose. “No doubt the rough in some areas is a little squishy, but the golf course is every bit as good as you expect it to be at this tournament every year. The greens are fantastic and the fairways are relatively firm. … The course is in perfect shape.”
Aside from the weather’s impact on the course, there have been some structural changes to the course since last year’s edition of the Memorial Tournament.
Nicklaus decided to give the par-3, 16th hole a makeover because of a future edition of the Presidents Cup, a match play tournament that will come to Muirfield in 2013.
“One of the things that really sort of pushed 16 was probably the Presidents Cup to some degree,” he said. “The reason for that is that when you go to match play, many matches finish around the 16th, 17th hole and that area right there is obviously where things come together, and I didn’t like to see those matches finish on a weakish hole.”
The new hole features a brand new green and a lake that lines the left side of the green. With the changes, some players, including Rose, said the 16th hole is improved.
“Sixteen was a pivotal hole for me (last year), and it could be even more so this year,” Rose said. “I think (five strokes) is more of an option than it ever has been in the past with that hole. It is going to be tricky. … There is going to be a little bit to think about on that tee, for sure.”
Whether the hole is more difficult, Nicklaus said the change at 16 will lead to some more exciting golf this week.
“I think you’re going to find a lot more birdies,” Nicklaus said. “I think you’ll find a lot of fairly conservative threes, and I think you’ll also find a few double-bogeys that will come in there, which an errant shot will not be rewarded, and a good shot will be rewarded, which is what a good hole should be anyway.”