The PGA Tour is headed to Ohio this week for the Memorial Tournament.
This event was established in 1976 and is hosted annually by Jack Nicklaus. His course, Muirfield Village Golf Club, opened in 1974.
Muirfield Village also hosted the 2020 Workday Charity Open, a makeshift one-time event held the week prior to the Memorial Tournament. It was created due to the PGA Tour needing to fill out its schedule after the pandemic wiped out several tournaments in the spring.
Muirfield Village is a par 72 measuring 7,462 yards. It tends to draw praise for its immaculate conditioning and lush, green grass. The fairways and greens are bentgrass/poa annua.
We all remember during the 2020 Memorial as play was still going on on the holes ahead, the greenskeeping staff was ripping up turf left and right.
It was part one of a two-phase renovation project that began in 2019. According to Golf Digest, the first phase included new tee boxes on holes 8, 11, and 15 as well as a new rough area on the par-5 fifth.
The second phase shut down the course to rebuild all greens and bunkers, add sub-surface heating and cooling systems below the greens and alter fairway widths. The par-5 fifth is also redesigned to play more difficult.
Muirfield Village is a prototypical parkland-style layout.
The strategy to play well here is “right in front of you” as they’d say, so it’s all about execution. Forced carries and aerial-style assaults tend to get it done best, though the right conditions can firm things up.
A left-to-right ball flight like Jack used to hit is favorable.
The Memorial Tournament is a designated event on the PGA Tour.
This results in a very strong field making the trip to Ohio this week.
All of the top six in the Official World Golf Ranking are present, as well as seven of the top 10.
The weather forecast for the week appears to be warm and dry with wind not a huge factor. That could lead to firm and fast conditions, especially if Jack gets his way.
Let’s get into the top 10 players with the best chance of slapping skin with Mr. Nicklaus beside the 18th green.
Matt Fitzpatrick is already a winner of a designated event this season. He fended off Jordan Spieth in a playoff to win the RBC Heritage in April.
It was a redeeming moment for Fitzy, who dealt with some neck injury issues early in 2023 that led to some uncharacteristically poor results.
The Englishman will be teeing it up this week at Muirfield Village for the sixth time. He’s made three cuts, including solo third at the 2020 Memorial Tournament (75-66-74-68).
"“Just hitting a lot of fairways,” Fitzpatrick described his success here in 2020 in a transcription from ASAP Sports. “You know, I think I hit 11 fairways for the day, so that just allowed me to control the ball into the greens. The fact that it’s playing so firm, you’ve really got to pick your spots, pick your targets. I’d say aggressive to conservative targets.”"
Fitzpatrick ranks 21st on the PGA Tour in total strokes gained per round (1.002) and 42nd in SG tee-to-green (.592). Everything’s looking ship-shape with his statistical profile except for on approach. I expect those numbers to keep climbing as he gets more rounds under his belt while healthy.
He’s also 16th in scrambling (65.16%). Fitzpatrick’s craftiness always keeps him in the hole and will be valued when he’s representing Team Europe at the Ryder Cup this fall.
Fitzpatrick comes in rested after a week off following the PGA Championship, as well as a week off prior to the PGA.
I anticipate a good showing this week in what expects to be his last tune-up before defending his U.S. Open title in two weeks’ time in Los Angeles.