DUBLIN, Ohio – Muirfield Village is one of the most venerable venues on the annual PGA Tour schedule, a favorite among players who have often likened it to Augusta National in both design and feel.
Like the host site of The Masters, though, this course isn’t exempt from criticism and already much of it has been leveled at the newly redesigned 16th hole – a 201-yard par-3 that has been shortened, but rendered much more difficult due to the implementation of a large pond guarding the front left section of the rebuilt putting surface.
“I took the green and [lined it up] with the prevailing wind,” said course designer and tournament host Jack Nicklaus. “With the prevailing wind, you have the ability to feed the ball back into the green so you don't have to worry about having to stop the ball as easily if you play a smart shot. And if the wind turns the other way, if there's no wind, then stopping the ball on the green is not an issue.
“I think you're going to find a lot more birdies. I think you'll find a lot of fairly conservative 3s, and I think you'll also find a few double-bogeys that will come in there, which an errant shot will not be rewarded and a good shot will be rewarded, which is what a good hole should be anyway.”
Of the 59 players in Thursday’s morning wave, only three – Josh Teater, Matt Kuchar and Brett Quigley – birdied the 16th hole. Behind closed doors and off the record, some players have been grumbling about the lack of a bailout area and the bounciness of the new green, but publicly reviews were mostly positive after Thursday’s opening round.
Here’s a smattering of examples:
Justin Rose: “I've been liking it. I think right now we're a little uncertain in terms of when you're standing on the tee whether the green is firm or whether it isn't firm, just because we don't know because it's a new surface. But from a design perspective, it gives you everything you want, you got to stand up there and hit a committed shot.”
Chris Riley: “I liked it. It's a good-looking hole. It'll be exciting coming down Sunday to see how that hole is on TV.”
Josh Teater: “I don't have a lot of experience on the old design. But the green, I think, is a little firmer. … That front part of the green, you think you can get it up-and-down from a little short and right in that fairway cut, but you've just got to pick a number there and try to play to it.”
Rickie Fowler: “It's definitely a tough hole. Right now the green is different than the other ones condition-wise. It's a bit firmer, rolls a little bit differently, so you have to play, I guess, a little bit of a different shot than you normally would if the green was similar to the others. With it being firmer you have to bring the ball in a little bit higher to stop it. It's a great hole. It's tough. If that was the plan, to make the closing stretch a bit tougher, 16 is a good hole.”