Golf fans can start getting used to seeing Muirfield Village Golf Club on their TV screens.
This week marks the first of two straight PGA Tour events at Jack’s Place, with 157 players teeing it up in the newly-minted Workday for Charity Open before a smaller field tackles the Memorial Tournament next week. Some big names will play both weeks, while others will opt for one side or the other of the doubleheader.
From a couple former world No. 1s to a familiar face on the bag, here are some burning questions heading into the first leg of the Tour’s double-dip in Ohio:
Is Brooks Koepka poised to take back the spotlight?
In the wake of Bryson DeChambeau’s brawny victory at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, Koepka sent a not-so-subtle shot across the social media airwaves with this tweet. The two have jabbed at each other before in recent months, and if the Tour’s two bulkiest stars plan on keeping up their rivalry (friendly or otherwise), the game will be better off for it.
But this week it’s Koepka’s turn in the limelight, with DeChambeau back at home fine-tuning his caloric intake. Koepka is one of the headliners this week, making his first start since withdrawing from the Travelers out of “an abundance of caution” when his caddie tested positive for COVID-19.
Koepka has thrived in recent years when he has sensed a chip on his shoulder, sometimes manufacturing a perceived slight to serve as motivation. While he has been largely quiet this year, he did break through with a seventh-place showing last month at Harbour Town. Another similar result this week would only whet the appetite for when Koepka and DeChambeau can go bicep to bicep in a few weeks at the PGA Championship, where Koepka will look for a three-peat.
Can a home game save Jason Day?
The respective world ranking plights of Jordan Spieth and Phil Mickelson have received more attention in recent months, but the Aussie’s freefall is jarring. Once ranked No. 1 in the world for 51 weeks, he has dropped all the way to No. 63 heading into this week’s event. It’s the first time that Day has been outside the top 60 in the world since August 2010.
While some players have fallen in the rankings post-hiatus while watching from the couch, that hasn’t been the case for Day. He’s played in all four of the Tour’s return events, missing the cut in three of them. That included last week in Detroit, where his 4-under total missed the mark by a shot. He only has one top-10 finish in the last year, and it’s not hard to see why when he ranks 146th in strokes gained: putting – a category where he was second on Tour just two years ago.
Day is an Ohio resident and a member at Muirfield Village. While that hasn’t always translated to success at the Memorial, this two-week stretch on a familiar layout could prove especially important if he has any hope of turning around a mid-season tailspin.
Will a different setup really be that different?
With a two-week stay on the same course, Tour officials will take steps to differentiate the setups at Muirfield Village. For Workday, the rough will be a little shorter, the greens will be a little slower, and the short 14th hole will be drivable over the weekend as it was during the 2013 Presidents Cup.
While those minute details will surely be felt by those inside the ropes, it remains to be seen if that will be enough of a difference for viewers at home. Muirfield Village is one of the Tour’s most scenic and recognizable layouts outside of the major rotation, so if fans were to get a double-dip of any track, this would rank high on the list. But given the minor changes, the weeks may begin to blur.
The creation of a new event essentially out of thin air meant that officials had a wide array of options at their disposal, ranging from more extreme setup options to a possible format change. Instead, they are banking on the hope that a half-inch or half-foot here and there will be enough to differentiate the two leaderboards.
Can a familiar face guide Matthew Fitzpatrick to a maiden win?
The Englishman might not be as recognizable as his caddie these next two weeks, as Fitzpatrick has noted looper Jim “Bones” Mackay on the bag in Ohio. It’s a union that admittedly even caught the 25-year-old by surprised, as he was “shocked” to receive an inquiring text from a veteran who helped Phil Mickelson win five major titles.
Fitzpatrick is ranked No. 26 in the world, and while he has had ample success in Europe with five victories, he has yet to win in 60 PGA Tour starts as a pro. Only Tommy Fleetwood (No. 12) and Abraham Ancer (No. 20) are ranked ahead of him and have yet to win on Tour.
Fitzpatrick has had a few close calls, including a runner-up last year at Bay Hill. He noted the confidence boost he got when veteran looper Billy Foster agreed to take his bag, and he expects a similar boost as Mackay caddies for him both this week and at the Memorial next week. Given that his post-lockdown form already includes a T-14 finish at Harbour Town, it might be just the edge he needs to contend for an elusive PGA Tour title.