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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.
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.
Looking at historical performance across the PGA TOUR, here are some courses that share overlapping success and/or failures with Colonial CC:
Quail Hollow Club
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.
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.
Golfers to Watch
He could have shot a 4-over 76 in the final round and still won but instead he was forced to WD after testing positive for COVID-19. It was a tough blow for Rahm and potentially impacted the Player of the Year voting as well. The Spaniard won the 2020 edition of the Memorial so it's safe to say he likes the layout here at Jack's Place.
While Rahm has nothing but kind words for the golf course, Rory was dishing out compliments last year in year one after the 2020 renovation. He said the par 5s were lending themselves to laying up and many of the par 4s were position-only holes that made it harder to separate from the field. He has four top 10s in eight tries here but still searching for his first podium at Muirfield Village.
He won the 2020 Workday Charity Open at Muirfiled Village when the course played much easier but also played his way into the playoff last year. They say Nicklaus caters to the left-to-right ball flight in his designs and Rahm and Morikawa feasting here only adds to that allure. Morikawa almost exclusively plays the fade.
The rookie is on an insane run with four straight top 15s right after a top 5 in the team event. Course history usually goes a long way at Muifield Village but if you want to ride the hot hand, I wouldn't fault you for continuing to lock in Riley in weekly fantasy leagues.
Speaking of course experience, Day is a member at Muirfield Village Golf Club. He's used that local knowledge to gain 24 strokes putting over the field in his last 34 rounds played at MVGC. However, he's given them all back with -24 strokes gained approach over that same stretch. His T4 at the 2020 Memorial was the first top 10 on his tournament resume.
He's arriving off a career-best 13.1 strokes gained tee-to-green at the PGA Championship but he didn't even register a top 10 thanks to him having one of the worst putting weeks of his career. Can he get back on track at Muirfield Village? Well, historically he's lost strokes putting in each of his last five appearances at the Memorial so this putting slump may last a bit longer.
Ranking the Field
1. Jon Rahm
2. Rory McIlroy
3. Xander Schauffele
4. Shane Lowry
5. Matt Fitzpatrick
6. Viktor Hovland
7. Collin Morikawa
8. Jordan Spieth
9. Patrick Cantlay
10. Cameron Smith
11. Joaquin Niemann
12. Hideki Matsuyama
13. Will Zalatoris
14. Max Homa
15. Sungjae Im
16. Daniel Berger
17. Cameron Young
18. Billy Horschel
19. Adam Scott
20. Corey Conners