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Affectionately known throughout the golf world as “Jack’s place” Muirfield Village was designed by the great Jack Nicklaus himself and is regularly ranked in the top 20 of Golf Digest’s ‘America’s 100 Greatest Courses’.
But Nicklaus’ dream went beyond merely building a course in his birthplace of Columbus, Ohio – he also wanted to host the PGA Tour and with the Memorial Tournament, he has achieved exactly that every year since 1976.
Players from around the world are keen to add their name to the honors board and, whilst the reputation of Nicklaus is a key part of that, so, too, is the quality of the course he’s created.
Named after Muirfield, the Edinburgh course on which he claimed his first Open, it is a parkland classic that Nicklaus has never stopped tweaking to cope with the advances of technology.
‘The Golden Bear’, as Nicklaus is nicknamed, has key design philosophies that are on full display at Muirfield Village.
He always provides width from the tee, but it is of the deceptive kind – the smart golfer will position his ball in the correct half of the fairway for the optimum approach shot.
The greens provide a stern test of distance control and they are also lightning quick, often compared to Augusta National’s rapid putting surfaces.
The examination is good enough to have been granted both the Ryder Cup and the Solheim Cup – one of only two U.S. courses to have completed that particular double.
Muirfield Village GC
Yardage: 7,392 yards
Muirfield Village course designer: Jack Nicklaus
Muirfield Village course record: 61, John Huston
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Patrick Cantlay confirmed his promise with a second PGA Tour win and his first in a world-class field. A superb final round 64 turned a two-shot deficit into a two-shot win.
Victory for journeyman Swede David Lingmerth, but a week that more memorably witnessed Tiger Woods card 85, his worst score in professional golf.
After two days of action there was only one point in it, but Saturday was decisive and the Americans took control, opening up a six-point lead they never looked like conceding. Tiger Woods top-scored with four points.
Tiger Woods headed into the final four holes of the week two shots back of the lead, but three birdies helped him win by two, his fifth Memorial victory and, fittingly, the victory enabled him to tie Jack Nicklaus’ total of 73 PGA Tour titles.
The European team, trailing by five points heading into the final day, briefly threatened a stunning turnaround, winning the top four singles matches, but eventually succumbed 16-12.
Tom Lehman blitzed the course with a 20-under-par total of 268 which earned him the tournament low record score and a five-shot victory over Greg Norman.
The top amateur championship Stateside and this renewal witnessed the emergence of two fine golfers. Eventual world number one David Duval led the strokeplay qualifier before 12-time PGA Tour winner Justin Leonard claimed the win. Both men would become Open champions.
Europe, led by Severiano Ballesteros who earned four points (three of them in a deadly pairing with Jose Maria Olazabal), won the biennial match on foreign soil for the first time ever.
The first-ever two-time winner and appropriately it was Jack Nicklaus who claimed that honor. He first won in 1977 and seven years later defeated Andy Bean in extra holes to complete the pair.
Roger Maltbie, later to become a famous on-course commentator, triumphed in the inaugural running of the tournament. In an extra element of history, he defeated Hale Irwin in a then-unique three-hole play-off.
Par 4, 401 yards: A real touch of Augusta about this hole, with an undulating fairway twisting through beautiful trees and a green perched beyond the blue water of a wide creek.
Par 4, 363 yards: The shortest par-4 on the course can be attacked from the tee and yet peril awaits poor decision-making. A stream runs across the fairway at the natural landing area and then runs down the right-hand side of the long and narrow green, with bunkers protecting the left-hand side.
Par 3, 201 yards: Flanked by water, the green sits at a typical Nicklaus diagonal angle so it is entirely possible that players will need to play three different clubs during the week, depending on pin position.
Par 4, 484 yards: A classic Nicklaus combination – a tempting downhill drive followed by an uphill approach. A dogleg, anything wide left is threatened by a creek and going right is no safe option as it is protected by bunkers and a tall tree.
Jack Nicklaus (on his win in 1977):
“It was probably the most difficult, most challenging and most rewarding win I’ve ever had. It was a lot of fun and I’ll never forget it. I had started a tournament, got it going, and then won it.”
“Jack’s made it into the best dang golf course you’ll find anywhere.”
“Over the course of my career, I’ve done well on Nicklaus courses. I’ve always felt that my high fade has been advantageous.”
“It’s mostly a second-shot golf course, so you need to be on your irons and able to hit shots from all the different angles that Mr. Nicklaus has presented to you.”
“As different as it looks, it plays pretty similar to Augusta. It’s not the toughest off the tee but, unless you’re in the right spot where you’re attacking, you have to take your medicine. Where on other courses you can knock in a 15-footer, here you have to play defensive because these greens are as fast as we see all year.”
Matt Cooper has been a sports journalist since 2009 with his work appearing at ESPN, Sky Sports, NBC, Sporting Life and the Planet Sport Network among many others, in addition to guest appearances on the BBC and CNN. Although a specialist in golf, who has traveled the world to cover the sport, Matt has also covered rugby, cricket, football and the Olympics. Email: [email protected]More info on Matt Cooper
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