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Ensconced As Signature Event, Memorial Tournament Embraces Its Roots



Xander Schauffele reacts during a practice round at Muirfield Village Golf Club. (THE MEMORIAL)

DUBLIN, Ohio — As one of eight signature events on the PGA Tour, the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday has a field of 73 golfers to go with a new spot on the calendar, as it’s now being contested a week prior to the U.S. Open.

This is the latest the Memorial Tournament has been held, and with that comes logistical challenges, some of which have been learned on the fly.

Executive Director Dan Sullivan spoke at media day about the signature event allowing for a couple of traditions which throw back to the earlier years that the tournament was contested.

“This golf tournament started with the ability to play from the first hole to the 18th because of the size of the field,” he explained. “We’re going to go back to that. You’re going to see competition on Thursday start with twosomes off the first tee, which is very much reminiscent of what the Masters does and what Jack ultimately had in mind when he created the tournament.”

Of course, this change is weather-dependent, but will allow for all attending fans to walk the course in a traditional routing.

Muirfield Village Golf Club Superintendent Chad Mark stated last month that it was something that logistically he and his staff were still trying to figure out.

Mark’s headquarters are now on the front side of the course, so in theory, that will make it easier for the staff as a whole, but the working plan was to attack laying out MVGC as if rain could move the event back to having split tees.

“I don’t want to change things in the middle of the week,” remarked Mark. “It’s a little more efficient to work our staff into groups anyhow, so we’ll have a group start on the back and a group start on the front and work on our start time, because it’s a little bit later of a start time than we’re used to.

“I think the afternoon shift is going to be a bit easier for us, to be honest with you. We’ve had to wait until both groups turn, both groups get far enough ahead on each side before we start night maintenance. One of my assistants and I really dove into the signature events and looked at tee times and watched on the app what time they’re on certain holes and try to dial in our start times off of that.

“I think it will be fun for the fans to see everyone on one side of the golf course and to know that marquee groups are going through one section at a time is fantastic. We’re going to roll with it like we do with everything else, and fine tune what we need to get better next year after we’ve had a year of experience with the front-nine start.”

There will be many activations from the Memorial Tournament, but a new one this year will be Folds of Honor Friday, in which everyone is encouraged to wear red, white and blue. This is a tour-wide initiative and also include a playing of the National Anthem.

The field of 73 includes nine of the top-10, with the lone golfer inside of the Official World Golf Ranking not playing being Jon Rahm, as he tees it up for LIV Golf in Houston this week.

The entire top 10 of the FedExCup Point standings will be present. Last week’s winner Robert MacIntyre withdrew Monday and was replaced in the field by Davis Thompson.

This is one of three ‘legacy’ signature events, meaning along with Tiger Woods’s Genesis Invitational and the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, there is a cut in this event.

Also returning to the scene of his first triumph on American soil is last year’s champion Viktor Hovland, who has rediscovered some of the form that made him the FedExCup champion as he has reunited with Joe Mayo.

“Winning Memorial in a playoff was a pretty memorable week,” Hovland observed. “Being Jack’s event, first time winning on US soil and it was the first bigger win of my career on a championship golf course against the best field, all of that stuff. Hitting some of the shots I hit, especially on the back nine, was really cool.”

At week’s end, one of the 73 golfers will win the $4 million first prize and the famous handshake with Jack Nicklaus.

“He’s a legend,” responded Hovland matter-of-factly. “He’s won so many tournaments, been a really good ambassador for the game of golf over the entire world. To see him still involved, he could have easily just ridden into the sunset never to be seen again, but he has created that legacy, to get us younger guys to play his tournament and be part of that is really cool and a huge honor.”


Nicklaus mentioned how he watched ShotLink data and quickly deduced that last year’s changes to the divisive par-3 16th hole, were too much.

Sullivan remarked that Nicklaus had a conversation with many players about the hole’s composition that led to some thinking and redesigning.

The tees are now reoriented to the green, so there is more of a straight shot, with a bunker on the right side removed.

“It definitely succeeds in getting guys nervous over that shot,” Hovland opined. “You want drama, you want a good finish for that championship, and he (Nicklaus) has definitely succeeded with at. I just think for how hard it is, especially with that back tee he had there, it’s too long and there’s too little surface area to land it on the green. If you hit a good shot, you should be rewarded and that wasn’t necessarily the case always.

“You want to see guys make birdie or hit it in the water and make double bogey, but when it gets that severe guys are going to bail out and take that par or bogey and move on. Hopefully he gets it right this time, but there’s potential to make that an unbelievable hole. It doesn’t have to be too severe or penalizing.”

Mark stated that having the greatest weather stretch in the eight or nine tournaments he has been at the Memorial Tournament magnified some of the issues with 16 and the tees were moved 25-30 yards to the right of where they were before.

Another change, albeit minor, is the 17th hole being lengthened by five yards.


Viktor Hovland

Rory McIlroy

Collin Morikawa

Dark horse: Si Woo Kim

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