The countdown continues to the US Open with the Memorial Tournament this week on the US PGA Tour. The event has attracted a high class field and the host course provides a similar test to the one that is faced in the second major of the season. The joint favourites are Jason Day and Dustin Johnson but Justin Rose is the player in form though Bubba Watson has a game suited to the course. The field also includes Patrick Reed who won the Masters Tournament in April and Jordan Spieth who could contend given a decent week on the greens.
This week’s event is being played at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Ohio which has been the host course since it was first played in 1976. It is closely associated with Jack Nicklaus who conceived and designed the course. He has also won twice at the event which is often affected by weather delays. Muirfield Village also staged the 1987 Ryder Cup and 1998 Solheim Cup.
Its fairways are wide and forgiving but for the wayward the 75 bunkers lie in wait, the rough is severe and water comes in to play on 12 holes. The course has a par of 72 made up of two nines of 36 and there are four par 5s and four par 3s. However, most of the toughest holes are par 4s, especially the 17th. The closing hole, which has a heavily bunkered green, can also be testing. The average score disregarding the par 5s has been above par in the past. It’s a course that generally favours the long hitters but it’s important to have a short game in good order because the greens are very quick.
There is a smaller than average field and experience in general and of the course counts for a lot. Tiger Woods has won the tournament five times and Justin Rose was the champion in 2010. The English player was an impressive winner last week and winning back-to-back events is mentally tough. Rose will be happy his game is in good order ahead of the US Open which he won in 2013. The defending champion is Jason Dufner who won by three shots and with a score of 13 under last year.
A playoff decided the outcome in the three previous years and the highest margin of victory over the last 10 years is three strokes. The average winning score this century is 14 under in a range from 8 under to 19 under. Only three overseas players have won the Memorial Tournament in the last 10 years and Woods is the only multiple champion over that spell. Rose also lost to David Lingmerth of Sweden in a playoff in 2015 so he has an excellent bank of course form but Woods has the best.
Dufner led the field in greens in regulation and strokes gained from tee to green so finding greens in regulation is a key attribute for good scoring. Hitting fairways is less important than finding the greens with approach shots and last year the four pars averaged 3.22, the highest on tour. The Nicklaus design means narrow approaches to the greens and rough on the periphery of the putting surfaces. The course should suit Bubba Watson who was tied sixth during the trials of 2017.
Matt Kuchar won the title in 2013 so he has excellent course credentials but golf is a struggle just now. He has not finished in the top 15 in seven starts but he is third in the all-time list of earnings at Muirfield Village. However, if Spieth can get his act together on the greens the current Open champion can win at a venue named after a course on which Jack Nicklaus won one of his three Opens.