The season’s third major is just around the corner and this week’s event will provide a nice tune-up for many of the big names who are getting ready for the U.S. Open in a few weeks.
Jack’s event has always attracted a strong field so making it a designated event this year only slightly increases the strength of field. There are only a few notables taking a pass this week, such as Max Homa and Tony Finau.
Similar to last week we see another invitational event which means a smaller field (120 golfers) with the low 65 and ties playing the weekend.
Muirfield Village has hosted the Memorial since the inaugural 1976 edition.
Last week at Colonial we saw a classical course that has held up to the test of time in terms of needing to lengthen the course. Muirfield Village has not taken the same stance as it continues to gradually lengthen the layout.
The course played to 7,027 yards during the inaugural edition, it crossed the 7,200 barrier in 2001, played to 7,300 yards just four years later, expanded past the 7,400 mark in 2020 and now it’s starting to flirt with 7,600 yards.
The 2023 edition will see the par-72 layout stretch out to 7,571 yards.
Off the tee, golfers see relatively generous landing areas but those landing areas often pinch in after 300 yards. The result is that you can hit drivers if you want but the biggest of hitters are sometimes forced to lay back and see themselves hitting from the same spots or sometimes even further from the hole as their shorter opponents.
While the landing areas are relatively wide and generous, the same cannot be said for the rough. Golfers can attack from the fairways but are lucky to even have a reasonable par-saving putt if they play from the thick stuff.
Even from the fairway, the course can be tough if you aren’t precise with your irons. There is a heavy emphasis on smart and steady course management and iron play.
The bentgrass putting surfaces are some of the fastest they see all year, generally stimping around 13 feet, with a lot of undulation.
Add it all up and you have one of the toughest non-major scoring environments. Winning scores have been 15-under or tougher in 10 of the last 11 editions. For whatever, this event lends itself to playoffs with five of the last nine ending in a playoff.
Sifting through some past quotes, let’s try to break down the course to see how it will play.
Aaron Wise in 2022: “This is a course I feel like you can kind of attack a little bit if you’re in the fairway. But if you’re in the rough you’re scrambling from everywhere. You can’t hold these greens with how firm they are and it becomes a really tricky golf course to play.”
Jhonattan Vegas in 2022: “Every single shot out here you can get in trouble. Like absolutely every single shot. Just putting yourself in the right positions, even if it is missing the greens at the right spots or even leaving it 30 feet from the hole. You have to be patient and just stick with what the course gives you.”
Jon Rahm in 2022: “It’s definitely a golf course where you have to learn a bit of the strategy, and you have to think your way around it, right. The first time I played it, I hit a lot of drivers constantly. The next times, not as many, right. Being on the fairway in position is very, very important.”
An overall theme from reading quotes is just how important course management is at Muirfield Village.
Using historical data we can look at overperformance and underperformance at this week’s host course and compare that to all of the courses played out on tour. Here are the ones that shared a lot of overlap:
Tough courses with speedy greens is the main theme with a big missed-fairway penalty and the importance of mid-iron play are also key pointers.
Thursday: Sunny with a high of 89 degrees. Winds at 6 to 16 MPH.
Friday: Sunny with a high of 92 degrees. Winds at 8 to 20 MPH.
This event is historically known for providing some sloppy weather but there is no precipitation in the early forecast this week.