Tuesday’s Fantasy Insider will include reviews of Patrick Reed, Sam Burns, Matt Fitzpatrick, Rickie Fowler and other notables.
If it’s possible to play the same golf course three different ways in as many consecutive tournaments, then Muirfield Village is where the magic happens.
You’ll recall that Jack Nicklaus’ home club served as the site of the Workday Charity Open immediately before the annual Memorial last year. As expected, scoring for the Workday was measurably easier than the nightcap of the twin bill.
The one-time expanded field of 132 at the 2020 Memorial averaged 74.007, its highest in 12 years. The 157-man Workday checked up at 71.853. In contradiction to its profile over time, fairways and greens were harder to hit for the Memorial. The field averaged just 7.46 (of 14) fairways and 10.36 GIR per round last year. That ranked sixth- and fifth-stingiest of all courses last season in those stats, respectively. Jon Rahm’s winning pace of 9-under 279 was the highest since Tiger Woods posted the same as the 2012 champion. Gusty winds inflated the 2020 final-round scoring average to 75.96, highest of any tournament since the 2016 Farmers Insurance Open.
This time around, the stock par 72 will look different to those in the field of 121 who have played it before.
Beginning as the final round of the 2020 Memorial was concluding – you read that right – Muirfield Village since has undergone a significant renovation. All greens were rebuilt, 12 of which reshaped in some noticeable way on and around the targets. They still average 5,000 square feet, but because they are new, the bentgrass surfaces will have some spring to them on approach, so they might play even smaller but they’ll likely run no longer than 12 feet on the Stimpmeter. (At some point in the near-future, it would be surprising if they don’t mature to stretch to 13 feet or so to align with Nicklaus’ historical preference as the slickest putting surfaces of all PGA TOUR-operated competitions.)
All bunkers were upgraded and, by default, some may serve as a greater hazard as compared to recent editions. See, the sweeping modifications across the property generated a net gain of 87 yards on the scorecard, just two of which on the inward side. At 455 yards, the par-4 13th is the only hole that hasn’t changed. The course now tips at 7,543 yards. The primary rough is four inches high.
It’d be incorrect to label Muirfield Village as a new test, but many elements of it are just that. Fresh sightlines off a few tees and unfamiliar undulations on the greens could be confusing. It’s the kind of mind game for which success piling onto impressive course history could be classified as coincidental. Then again, Nicklaus has nipped and tucked the course almost every year, and the leaderboards have sparkled with household names, but just like with the Golden Bear himself, class is permanent.
En route to 550 FedExCup points, a three-year membership exemption (or one-year extension to the maximum of five) and a three-year exemption into THE PLAYERS Championship, the winner likely will navigate inclement weather, at least until the cut line. A very good chance of rain and possibly storms populates Thursday’s forecast. Another threat will emerge on Friday, but the limited field makes it easier to complete both rounds on time at this latitude in early June. Daytimes temperatures will rise into the 80s for what should be a dry weekend.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
MONDAY: Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Sleepers; Fantasy Insider
* – Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.