Tournament host Jack Nicklaus wanted a demanding, yet fair test for his annual Tour stop, but a 74.397 2008 scoring average ' more than two shots over par ' and plenty of player reaction prompted Nicklaus to dial down Muirfield Village for this years event.
According to tournament director Dan Sullivan, the 2009 Memorial, which is scheduled to be played June 4-7, will feature shorter rough, two rebuilt greens and none of the furrowed bunkers that were introduced in 2006.
Last year we made it a little more severe than the Tour was comfortable with, Sullivan said. Jack is very reasonable about the way he wants the golf course to perform. He is a player and hes built the tournament and the golf course to be a fair test.
The first step in that direction was the length of Muirfield Villages rough. Weather permitting, Memorial officials plan to have the rough at about 3 to 3 inches to begin tournament week, at least an inch shorter than it was last year.
We paid particular attention to rough length and how the golf course was performing, Sullivan said. Because of the density and length it was very tough.
The tournament will also remove the furrowed bunking that were designed to create more of a challenge for the best players.
In the review process following last years event, Memorial and Tour officials discovered there was little statistical difference in sand saves between furrowed bunkers years and years when the bunkers were managed in a traditional way. The difference, Sullivan said, was in how competitors played away from the increased hazards.
What we saw was an up tick in driving accuracy, Sullivan said. (Furrowed bunkers) made them aware of the challenge out there and they had to manage the golf course in a certain way.
In the three years since Memorial officials began to rake bunkers with furrowed rakes, the course has ranked inside the top 15 among the Tours toughest twice, including last years fifth-place finish which was the second toughest non-major venue just behind TPC Southwind. By comparison, during the three years before furrowed bunkers, Muirfield Village was among the top 15 toughest just once (12th, 2003).
(Nicklaus) original thought was that bunkers were not to be played to. They should be a penalty, said Sullivan, who added that the U.S. Golf Associations plan to dial back the grooves on irons starting in 2010 factored into Nicklaus decision. He wanted to be more proactive and have more foresight but some of the things he had in mind to keep the course relevant have been taken care of.
For the 09 edition, Nicklaus also rebuilt the front portions of the greens at Nos. 11 and 18. The putting surface at the 18th hole became a particular concern last year when players began spinning their approach shots off the front of the green and 30 yards back down into the fairway.
During the third round D.J. Trahans approach to the final hole spun back down the hill. Trahans third, fourth and fifth shots also rolled back off the green to the bottom the hill and he took a quadruple bogey-8 on the hole. For the week he was 10 over par on the hole, 1 over for the other 68, and tied for 62nd.
'I think that's a pretty crappy hole,' Trahan told the Associated Press at the time. 'But nobody wants to hear that, right? Everybody wants to hear that it's a great hole. But I don't think it is. I think it's unfair and it's ridiculous.'