Muirfield was the site of Jack Nicklaus’ first career Open Championship, and became the name of his pride and joy in Dublin, Ohio, a small suburb of Columbus. Muirfield Village Golf Club was built in 1976 and designed by the Columbus native, and has played host to one of the best stops on tour annually since then; the Memorial Tournament. Growing up in Dublin, Memorial Tournament week was a testament to how cool your parents were, as you spent most of the week begging for a note to get out of school to go seek autographs and golf balls from guys most of us had never heard of. To this day, I use it as a get-out-of work excuse and make the eastward trek “home” from Chicago for a week of playing golf, drinking beers with old friends, and watching the world’s elite in the Masters of the Midwest. To say that this tournament hits home to me would be understatement. This tournament is the defining event for my hometown, and has been a memory maker for me for two decades.
Muirfield Village Golf Club
It may be blasphemous to say, but Muirfield Village may be the closest thing on The Tour to Augusta National. Nicklaus admits that Augusta was a huge influence on the design, and to this day, the tournament is run in a similar fashion to the Masters. Like Augusta, the course is known as a second shot golf course, it’s defined by its tall trees, elegant water hazards, and underrated elevation changes that just can’t be appreciated until you see them in person. The similarities on the back nine get a little bit creepy to the point where it almost feels as if Jack used Muirfield Village as an excuse to remind you of his six Masters titles.
Here are the 12th holes at Muirfield and Augusta, respectively: And the 16th holes at Muirfield and Augusta, respectively (it should be noted that the 16th at Muirfield was reconfigured a few years ago and featured one of the deepest bunkers on tour in the place of where the pond currently sits – Jack moved a massive amount of earth to create the semblance below):
Those two examples are the easiest to illustrate visually, but that is not where they end. At both courses, the first hole is a long, difficult, dogleg right par 4 that is protected by fairway hazards to the right. The third holes are each short par-4’s that don’t require a driver. The fourth holes are long par-3’s that serve as one of the most non-descript holes at both courses. The 17th is a long, straight away par-4 on both courses, and the 18th is a long, dogleg right par-4 that chutes straight up the hill toward the clubhouse. The par-5’s are all reachable, and the course is ALWAYS being tinkered with, be it lengthening to keep up with the technology pace, adding/moving bunkers, or resurfacing the greens. Muirfield is Jack’s lego set.
A new tee went in on 18 last summer after the Memorial that was used for the Presidents Cup in October, and initial reviews from players are mixed at best. Jack grew tired of seeing guys hit 2-iron down the fairway from 440 yards, then a 9-iron into the green, so he stretched it to 480 yards to a spot I wasn’t sure it was possible to put a tee box. The problem isn’t the added length necessarily. It’s that it now brings the tree that guards the right side of the fairway squarely into play for a well struck tee shot, as seen here:
Here's your angle to 18 green after a 285 yd drive in fw. Pin is behind the trunk. Not sure I agree w new tee box pic.twitter.com/iwBDlPkqcC
— Mark Urbanek (@UrbanekMark) May 26, 2014
The 18th usually plays downwind, but if the wind shifts this week, you could see some ugly numbers on this beast.
When the course was built in the 1970’s, Dublin was nothing but corn fields, and was home to less than 3,000 people. Today, over 40,000 people call Dublin home. The city sits to the north of downtown Columbus, and is less than 20 minutes from the Horseshoe where Ohio State fans have gathered for a century. Columbus prides itself on being a huge sports town, and anyone who has come in contact with Ohio State fans over the last decade-plus can likely attest to that (be prepared to hear some “O-H” chants, followed by “I-O” on the broadcast).
When Columbus finally got its first professional franchise in 2000 with the expansion Blue Jackets, the passion the Buckeye community had for their city was evident from day one. A Jackets game at Nationwide Arena was rated as the number 2 experience in all of sports by ESPN the magazine. Every game was seemingly sold out, and that area rocked every night despite the team’s lack of success.
What does that have to do with the Memorial Tournament? Well, for nearly a quarter of a century, the Memorial was the only professional event in town, and this week still remains as the second biggest sports week of the year in Dublin, outside of the OSU/Michigan game. The natives come out in droves to watch Tiger dominate this course year after year, and is truly the place to see and be seen in Dublin. The weather has traditionally been awful, and it looks questionable again early in the week, but the people will trudge through with their umbrellas and golf shoes to watch the world’s best.
And an equal-opportunity bit from our resident SEC-homer, Tron Carter:
I’d imagine that the galleries at this event are a great sideshow for the majority of pros on a tour so predominated by SEC and Big-12 alums as it is. Hot, homegrown, wholesome midwestern women roam the premises, and in tow are bros of all-ages pimping Buck Tech shirts and lids, with some outdated Abercombie gear sprinkled in (corporate hq just east of here). Surely they’ll ramble on into eternity about how overrated the SEC is as they congregate on the 12th and (especially) 14th holes, causing headaches for the marshals patrolling those holes. Overall, it’s a hell of an entertaining scene and one that I appreciate more and more now that I’ve moved back to Georgia after my four-plus years at Miami of Ohio with Soly and Fil (and yes, I know, there are a legion of stereotypes in play there). This is my favorite course on tour outside of the majors, and the scene is there to match.
After the tournament, the fun moves over to the Bogey Inn, a local gin-joint turned once-a-year speakeasy/temporary John Daly bus-side merch-tent/beach-volleyball haven. Basically, imagine an off-site version of the Bird’s Nest. And while I’ll probably get a bit of flack for my anti-OSU diatribe above, I can take solace in two things: 1) with the new playoff format OSU football will never again be allowed to skate untested into a national championship game, and 2) my friends and relatives who reside in Columbus know that it’s one of my favorite cities in the country – a veritable golf mecca, a surprisingly progressive cultural oasis in the middle of Ohio, and home to a bunch of salt of the earth people prone to some good-natured ribbing.
The scene at the Bogey Inn:
Kuchar was unflappable on Sunday (making Tron’s oft-repeated assertion from our podcast that he “lacks pop and can’t play” that much more outrageous), and he outlasted Kevin Chappell and NLU favorite Kyle Stanley. The smiling Georgian didn’t miss a shot, and Stanley’s furious front nine run stalled out on the back nine when his drive on the par-5 11th plugged in the face of a fairway bunker, leading to a momentum killing bogey. Here’s Kuchar’s clinching putt on 18: (GIF courtesy of Adam Sarson. See his 2013 Memorial Tournament GIF’s here.)
(all lines courtesy Ladbrokes.com, the Official Bookmaker of NoLayingUp.com)
Horses for Courses
Justin Rose (16/1) – Hard not pick him right now. Former champ here who has been his normal self as of late. He’s in contention almost everytime he tees it up – at this point he just needs a hot putter.
Jim Furyk (20/1) – A weak showing last week at Colonial with a T51, but was coming off back to back runner ups in his previous two events. Outside of a missed cut in 2011 at Muirfield, he’s finished in the top 21 four of the last five years, including a runner up finish in 2009. He’s not a sexy pick, but he’s a safe one.
Gary Woodland (33/1) – I love the way Muirfield sets up for his baby fade, and I love the way he’s played recently. If he runs into an “uh-oh Happy learned how to putt” week, he’s going to win an event by about six. He’s going to turn the par 5’s into mush this week, and has a solid history here with a T16 a year ago, and a solo 6th in 2011.
Bo Van Pelt (50/1) – BVP has slowly played his way back into relevance, and has landed top 25’s in three of his last four events, including a T14 a week ago. In true Horse for Course fashion, he’s finished in the top 21 here in each of the last four years, including a 3rd place finish in 2010. (negotiable, but i still feel good here)
Ryan Moore (50/1) – Finished in the top 22 three of the last four years, including a 5th placed finish in 2010. We’re whores for ballstriking.
Charl Schwartzel (50/1) – We define his game as “tidy,” and this course requires buttery precision of your irons. Great success here in the past, including a first round 65 a year ago. His form’s been solid of late.
Kevin Chappell (66/1) – Love this play this week. Chapell’s game has quietly been on point over the last month, and he pocketed a T10 at Colonial last week. He finished runner up here to Kuchar last year, and if he had made some putts at all on Sunday, he could have snatched it from The Good Guy.
Brendon Todd (80/1) – This is yard sale type value! Following a win at the Byron Nelson, Todd notched a T5 at Colonial, which is almost equally as impressive considering the differences in the two fields. Muirfield favors strong putters, and he’s currently 7th on tour in strokes gained putting.
Honorable Mentions & Fantasy Fodder
Rory (love him on the course, just can’t advise a play at 8/1 as he could very well be exhausted), DubP (we simply can’t quit him, and he’s got a wonderfully consistent track record here), Brian Davis (tidy as hell, in form, great value at 100/1, just don’t think he can win), Paul Casey (he’s going to win, and soon), and finally Kyle F’n Stanley (obviously finished 3rd here LY and keeps making cuts but shooting himself out of it on the weekends. He’s due.)
- Muirfield Village is well known among the players for their world class milkshakes. Get ready for a lot of tweets this week from players on how many milkshakes they’ve had (and be ready for Bubba to complain about them in some way).
- The practice facility at Muirfield is widely known as the best on tour. The range spans 180 degrees so that players can practically simulate any wind environment they’d like. It’s relatively flat, there’s a ton of greens to hit, too. It makes Augusta’s facility look small.
- Web.com is off this week – we’ll dive in for some mid-season observation at some point in the coming weeks.
- We’re keeping the fringe short this week, as we’ve got a bonus section for you:
I’ve got story after story from the Memorial. Some are interesting, and some aren’t, so eject from this at your own leisure:
- Armed with my best friend and fellow golf addict Frank, we decided to follow Justin Leonard around one year for reasons that are still unknown. Leonard make a double-bogey on one of the holes on the back, but followed it with a birdie. My 13-ish year old self felt the need to give our guy a boost, so I gave him a “Way to fight back, Justin!” call in a high pitched voice that did not come off nearly as cool as I thought it would in my head. To this day, whenever I follow a terrible hole with a good one, Frank will give me a “Way to fight back, Justin!” call that brings me right back to that awkward encounter every time.
- In either 2006 or 2007, Fil, Tron, and I (along with our friend Kyle) are walking into the tournament. When I say that everyone snuck their phone into the tournament, I mean EVERYONE. Cell phones were still prohibited at this point, and to say security was lazy about it would be complimenting the volunteers at the entrance gates. The procedure consisted of them literally just asking you if you had a cell phone on you. Sure enough, I get asked if I have a phone on me. “Yep, absolutely….. I mean NO, NO.” And they STILL didn’t search me for the phone.
- Back in 2005, three young future No Laying Up founders were in search of some alcoholic beverages, yet we had not yet reached the legal drinking age. With the abundance of corporate parties, this was rarely an issue. A friend of ours from Indy tipped us off on a house that we should go to. The only problem was, we didn’t know a single person at this party. He told us not to worry, and to just show up at the Duke Realty house off to the side of the 12th hole, and if anyone asks who we know, just say that we’re friends of a “Wes Podell.” If they really ask questions, say that Wes couldn’t make it because he’s been busy working on the Anson Project. We gathered up the courage to check out the scene, and obtained our beverages, and were feeling pretty good about ourselves. We watched golf from the yard and joked about how it just wasn’t the same to not have our old buddy Wes there with us (a joke we still continue to this day). After a couple beers, someone finally realizes that there are teenagers there drinking beers in their yard, and they asked us who we knew. We went into our speech, but the middle aged man was not impressed. He very kindly asked us to leave. Thanks for nothing, Wes.
- It’s 2006, and Nick Price is putting on the practice green after his round. The green is pretty crowded, and there’s a decent amount of people standing around watching. There are two gentlemen there that are CLEARLY attending their first ever PGA Tour event. Cut-off tees, jeans, and cans of PBR that weren’t even available for purchase within the grounds (I’m actually extremely impressed that they pulled that one off, and still don’t know how). These guys are determined to get Nick’s attention…. only they think this is Nick Faldo, not Price. They are stunned when Price doesn’t turn around to constant “Faldo! Hey FALDO!” yells from less than 30 feet away. This goes on for long enough that finally Price has to run around and yell at them: “I’m not Nick Faldo. I’m Nick Price!” About fifteen minutes later, we’re walking the front-nine backwards when we see these guys getting escorted out the gate on the 8th tee, with their female significant others bitching all the while about how dumb they were.
- Lastly, it’s still 2006 and we’re hanging out around the 10th green and see David Duval teeing off. We’re curious to see him as he was in like year three of his prolonged stint in the wilderness (at this point he’d made 13 of his last 61 cuts). As he’s getting announced, this sales-type in his mid-thirties decked out in Nike gear turns to his buddy and says “Look at Duval. That guy is such a menace. I bet he shoots 65 today.” Tron, Fil, and I turn to one another in awe of this absurd proclamation and refer to Duval as a “menace” to this day.
Enjoy the week and catch us on twitter during coverage @NoLayingUp.