After three months of largely travelling around the southern states of the USA, the PGA Tour heads north to Ohio.
As is traditional for early June, the players will tee-up at Muirfield Village, for the 46th staging of the Memorial Tournament.
Due to the Covid pandemic, last year’s tournament was staged in mid-July, and was the second of two back-to-back events to be held at Muirfield Village.
Eleven months ago, the Workday Charity Open was followed a few days later by the Memorial.
Even though the latter possessed a stronger field, scoring was considerably higher, as the putting surfaces became significantly quicker. The rough was also slightly longer in the Memorial than it had been for the Workday-sponsored event the previous week.
These changes meant that the average 72-hole total for those finishing inside the top-25 had increased by more than 11 shots, from 277.1 in the Workday to 288.2 for the Memorial.
Matt Fitzpatrick‘s final total of 283, which was good enough for a spot on the podium in the Memorial, would have left him in a tie for 35th, seven days earlier.
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The need for accurate iron-play is a pre-requisite for performing well at Muirfield Village, and particularly when the greens are quick.
As with many Jack Nicklaus courses, Muirfield Village permits a little generosity from the tee, but from therein pin-point accuracy takes centre stage as the pros attempt to locate lightning fast greens that are smaller than the Tour average.
And the stats certainly bear this out. Between January 1st, 2016 and December 31st, 2020, it was the seventh easiest course on the PGA Tour for locating fairways from the tee, but requires significantly greater precision with approach shots.
On the tee
This prestigious title usually attracts a strong field, and this week’s instalment certainly doesn’t disappoint.
Seven of the world’s top 10 are teeing-up, as well as 16 of the leading 25.
Five of this group have all won here, including current Masters’ champion Hideki Matsuyama.
But maybe it’s best to look outside of the top 10 if you’re seeking more generous options.
‘Born-again’ Stewart Cink was ranked 300 in the world nine months ago, but has since enjoyed a brace of victories on the PGA Tour, his first for more than 11 years.
The 48-year-old is now up to No 45 having hit plenty of greens this season – he’s currently third in the category for Greens in Regulation.
He also whacks a fair ball, so the generous Muirfield Village fairways should suit him this week.
Meanwhile Fitzpatrick, third last year, is an accurate sort of chap whose three highest finishes on the PGA Tour during 2021 have all come at venues where good course management is paramount – Harbour Town, TPC Sawgrass and Riviera.
Opened in 1974, Muirfield Village hosted its maiden PGA Tour event two years later and, in 1987, was the venue where Europe secured its first ever Ryder Cup victory on American soil.
Muirfield Village, which is owned by Jack Nicklaus, covers more than 200 acres, and is laid out almost 1,000 feet above sea level.
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It is a traditional parkland course approximately 15 miles north of Columbus city centre.
The 81-year-old Nicklaus has continually made changes to the course, which has included lengthening holes, building more bunkers, and increasing the number and size of water hazards.
And within days of last year’s Memorial Tournament finishing, renovation began on greens, tees and fairways which have all been re-grassed.
Putting surfaces are undulating, and there is a plentiful supply of sand, which populate the many deep bunkers.
Although water comes into play on 11 holes, many of these hazards appear in the shape of ditches, rather than large lakes.
Course Comparisons (1.1.16 – 31.12.20)
Driving Accuracy (%)
73.88: Sea Island (RSM Classic) (1/29)
65.14: Muirfield Village (Memorial Tournament) (7/29)
52.24: Torrey Pines (Farmers Insurance) (29/29)
Greens in Regulation (%)
75.98: Sedgefield (Wyndham) (1/29)
64.46: Muirfield Village (Memorial Tournament) (20/29)
58.99: Innisbrook (Valspar) (29/29)
1.664: PGA West (host) (American Express) (1/29)
1.728: Muirfield Village (Memorial Tournament) (6/29)
2.668: Augusta National (Masters) (29/29)
Key: Above stats are for all 29 courses which staged four or more PGA Tour events between January 1st, 2016 and December 31st, 2020. To qualify for a ranking (between 1 & 29), tournaments must have a minimum of 50 players competing over the final two rounds of the event. Averages do not include players who failed to complete at least 54 holes.
Twitter: Andy Swales@GolfStatsAlive
MC* – Missed Additional 54-Hole Cut
Note: List Contains Leading Reserves
Course Form Table: `20 (1) – Workday Charity Open; `20 (2) – Memorial Tournament