Memorial Rougher Than Ever

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 28, 2008, 4:00 pm
2007 The Memorial TournamentDUBLIN, Ohio -- A consensus is forming among players that hitting out of the rough at Muirfield Village Golf Club these days is like swinging a magnet through steel wool.
Course designer Jack Nicklaus disagrees.
Nicklaus, the founder of this weeks Memorial Tournament, believes the hay bordering the fairways and greens is no worse than in the past.
Its the same, he said Tuesday, comparing this years gnarly, grabby calf-high rough with years past. Its just a more consistent rough. Because of a wet spring, the rough has really gotten a very consistent growth.
Almost everyone else sees things differently. Defending champion K.J. Choi is convinced the rough is much more punitive than a year ago when he avoided major problems after veering off the courses fairways.
This year the rough around the greens is two times longer than what it was last year, Choi said through an interpreter. Its going to be very tough if you miss the green.
The Memorial has long been a favorite stop for tour players, mostly because of the $6 million purse, championship conditions and milkshakes in the mens grill that can make you weak in the knees.
The list of the pros favorite things, however, will never include the lighting-quick greens, sinkhole-deep bunkers and dozens of treacherous threats that Nicklaus built into the course.
And that list certainly wont include the rough at its current depth and consistency. A shot just a few feet off the generous fairways may or may not be findable. If a player locates his ball, the biggest problem is advancing it forward more than a few feet.
The course has wide fairways so the penalty will be stiff if you miss, Mike Weir said.
Deep rough is bad enough but with the rain that always seems to pelt Muirfield Village the week of the tournament'and did again on Tuesday'the rough is downright dastardly.
Once the tournament gets under way on Thursday, youll undoubtedly see some big hitter wade into the rough, pull out a wedge and whack away at his ball. No matter where the shot ends up'and it could go sideways, 100 yards or just 2 inches'the sudden stop when the grass grabs his club will send shockwaves throughout his shoulders and the rest of his body.
Sergio Garcia, fresh from two weeks in his native Spain after winning THE PLAYERS Championship, knows the dangers that lurk for anyone finding the deep stuff.
You know that if you miss the fairway, its going to be a little bit of a struggle because (the course) is set up like a major, he said. The rough is thick. Unless you get quite lucky, its difficult to get it to the green with more than a 7 iron or 6 iron.
On a course that stretches 7,366 yards, and could get longer if rains come on the weekend as expected, that leaves little margin for error.
Nicklaus said he would not advise anyone missing the fairways or greens.
I dont think the guys will enjoy hitting the ball in the rough this week, he said with a knowing smirk.
Choi cemented his victory a year ago with a terrific par save from behind the green at the par-4 17th hole. His 6-iron approach had bounded 30 feet over the green, nestling into the heavy, twisted grass. As he looked over his next shot, he was faced with a touchy sand wedge to a pin just a few feet onto the back of the green, which then slanted downhill. Nine times out of 10, even the best players in the world would either leave the ball in the deep rough or knock it back off the front of the green.
With a ferocious swing, the former weightlifter from South Korea popped the ball out to 15 feet and then holed the putt.
During his practice round on Tuesday, Choi and his caddie laughed when they returned to the scene of that heroic shot.
We kind of joked and he said, We definitely cant be doing that again, he said.
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