June 2, 2022, will be the start of the 47th Memorial Golf Tournament at Muirfield Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. Jack Nicklaus designed the course and fostered the idea of wanting to create a tournament that would treat the players, fans, volunteers and the media to outstanding golf and first-class service since the mid 1970’s. Frank Nobilo, a former professional golfer and now announcer, has stated this about the Memorial:
“You really have the ultimate PGA tour event”
The Tournament, founded and hosted by Jack Nicklaus, is conducted each year with three goals in mind:
- to honor the memory of individuals living and deceased who have distinguished themselves in the game of golf
- to showcase the world’s best golfers competing on one of the most challenging venues in the world for the enjoyment of spectators
- to benefit many Greater Columbus Charities in alliance with the Nicklaus Children’s Healthcare Foundation , Nationwide Children’s Hospital , Stephen and Ayesha Curry’s Eat. Learn. Play. Foundation and numerous other local organizations
Jack Nicklaus, who grew up in nearby Columbus, wanted to create a tournament similar to not only The Master’s with the same class and professionalism from the hosts of Augusta National but also the pageantry and aura of The Open Championship (The British Open). Growing up in the Buckeye State, Jack had a strong affinity to Ohio State/Columbus (his hometown) and wanted the tournament there. To honor his first Open Championship, win in 1966 he decided to name the course Muirfield Village Golf Club (to honor the Muirfield course in Scotland where he won his first British Open) and keep it close to Columbus by designing it in nearby Dublin, Ohio.
I set out to build not only an outstanding golf course for every level of player, but a magnificent course for watching a tournament…I thought the Masters was a great thing for golf and that I’d like to do the same thing in Columbus.
In 1966 Jack purchased the land where his father took him hunting as a child and turned it into the golf course we know today. In the late 1960’s Jack asked Pete Dye, a long-time course designer and architect, if he could apprentice with him. Jack helped with a few course designs (Harbor Town Golf Links, for example) until 1972, when he began the design for Muirfield with the help of Desmond Muirhead. Course construction began in July of that year.
The course was completed in about two years. On May 27, 1974 Jack and his friend and fellow Ohioan, Tom Weiskopf, played an exhibition match. Jack shot a 66 which stood as a record until 1979.
Every year the tournament recognizes a man or woman in golf who has helped promote the game or competed at an exceptional level. Jack has often stated that he wants this tournament to perpetuate the achievements of the game’s greatest players. Last year, Nick Price was the honoree with Gene Littler and Ted Ray chosen as posthumous honorees. This year, Ben Crenshaw, and Charlie Sifford (posthumous honoree) were the golfers chosen by the 27 member Captains Club.
The first Memorial Tournament in 1976 saw Roger Maltbie, now a course TV announcer for CBS, defeat Hale Irwin in a playoff. The list of winners over the years include some of the greatest then and now. Tiger Woods with five wins, Jack himself with two, Fred Couples(1 win),Tom Watson (2) and Greg Norman (2) are just a few of the big-name winners. Seven of the top ten golfers in the world have committed to play this weekend.
Also making it into the field is Akron’s own, Justin Lower. Justin is in with what many tournaments call the Tournament Exemption. His family will be in attendance.
The course is set up to be a par 72 (36-36) and totals 7,543 yards. Mid irons are a vital part of your game. Thus, great iron players like Morikawa might see some success. This year the players will see new changes at Muirfield. They have rebuilt some of the greens and added more challenging tees to the holes. Now all greens are bent grass and have been changed from former poa annua. Their speed will be at least 12.5 on the Stimpmeter, a device designed to gauge the speed of the greens.
Nicklaus had this to say about the greens:
I mean, those greens just looked horrible on television (with the poa annua), 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.”
The rough is thick and about three inches long. The fairways are wide but miss them and you are penalized. Watch for many of the golfers to hit tee shots in the same general area on the fairways. That could be a telling issue if by Sunday, balls are landing in divots. A river basically runs through the course and Jack uses water as a deterrent for short cuts. The 70 plus bunkers are not your pristine variety. A few years back, the tournament, at Nicklaus’ suggestion, removed every other tine in the rakes. It made the bunkers difficult with balls often landing between the two lines. Players criticized the move. Jack’s response was basically…. don’t hit it there!
Muirfield Hole by Hole Yards and Handicap
|Hole||Par||Yards||Handicap (Rank)||Hole||Par||Yards||Handicap (Rank)|
The backside should be interesting. Hole #15 is usually the easiest with a roughly 4.6 scoring average to the par 5. #18 is always a challenge. It always plays over par relative to the par of 4.
Notice how holes 16, 17 and 18 are three of the hardest on the course. That’s a brutal finish. The front side can be where you see golfers take advantage of the course. Five is a high risk/reward chance with a creek that runs through the short par 4. Most golfers will hit 3 wood and NOT the driver off the tee. But maybe Bryson DeChambeau, also in the field after leaving the PGA early with a sore wrist, might be tempted for glory. Hole 7 will see a drop off behind the green that used to be rough. Now, it’s similar to a waste area where your shot traveling over the green will continue to roll down and away to a small fairway area for one to pitch back up the hill with a sloping green. Go over the green and you are now looking at bogey at best.
Many consider The Memorial Tournament a fifth golf major. I’m not sure the course is hard enough for that distinction. However, this should be an outstanding tournament. And for once I believe there will not be weather warnings unlike so many of the last tournaments. Here’s hoping for great weather, great golf, and a great champion. Share with us your favorite Memorial Tournament memory in the comments. We will use those for a wrap-up article later this week.
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