The Memorial Tournament is one of the premier events on the PGA Tour.   I remember when Muirfield Village Golf Club opened.  The golf world looked anxiously upon the roll out of Mr. Nicklaus’ finest work, one that would host the Tour’s top players.  Most understood the exclusive layout in Dublin, Ohio would become the “Northern Masters.”  Several aspects from the first major played in April would be weaved into culture of the Memorial.  It’s worked very well for Mr. Nicklaus and his committee of grey jackets. Except for perhaps one thing.  The sixteenth hole is a puzzle that seemingly can’t be solved.
Is it coincidence that Augusta National Golf Club finishes par 5 (15), par 3 (16), par 4 (17) and par 4 (18) as does Muirfield Village?  Keep looking.  There are more commonalities the two clubs share.  But when it comes down to Sunday’s final round to determine a champion, Augusta National’s sixteenth is the superior hole.
For the avid golf fan it’s easy to remember the forty foot putt Nicklaus drained on his way to his fifth Masters title in 1975.  Move ahead to ‘86 when Jack nearly holed his tee shot to secure his record sixth Masters.  Tiger generated a frenzy with his epic “Nike” hole out from behind the green to edge Chris DiMarco in 2005.  Knowledgable viewers however know that Davis Love executed the same shot a few years earlier in 1999 although he did not go on to win the tournament.  Love did make a hole-in-one there in 2016.
There are other iconic moments from sixteen that have entertained patrons, determined the champion or derailed contenders from capturing a green jacket.  The venue is a par three thrill ride.  Virtually anything can take place to shape the tournament.  Seating fills up quickly n the idyllic setting with its emerald carpet, stately pines and tranquil pond.  The Sunday pin placement is always the same, allowing a well played shot to negotiate the slope dissecting the putting surface feeding the ball to the hole.  It is the best theater available late on an April Sunday afternoon.  Some might say it’s “masterful.”
For everything the sixteenth has at ANGC, Muirfield Village’s sixteenth has no drama, no nostalgia, and while the players may be reluctant to tell the tournament host they hate the hole, it’s easy to tell they, well… ok, they hate the hole.  Except for Tiger’s insane hole out in 2012 I can’t think of any notable shots that have occurred there.
Last year the decision was made to redo the hole allowing the green to be more receptive.  The tees were shifted, a bunker removed and the green complex softened a bit.  Watching the proceedings this afternoon I saw nothing that captivated my viewing experience.  Scheffler and Morikawa, with eight irons in hand steered their shots to the right side of the green complex, neither hitting the green, walking away a combined one over par.  Had Scheffler not holed a tricky thirteen foot putt the leaders would have both bogied the “improved” hole.
Some might recall the original offering lacked the pond.  It was rather nondescript par three with a deep bunker fronting an elevated green.  I wouldn’t say it was a bad hole.  It just didn’t have much of a wow factor.
When the pond was introduced you had a feeling the designer was attempting to conjure some of the fond memories he created in Georgia.  But his efforts in Ohio have come up short.  When the world’s best players, with eight irons in their hands, opt to play away from the flag in one of the finest tournaments on the PGA Tour, that says something.  A good hole should offer an inviting challenge.  Yet at the sixteenth hole of Jack’s place the invites are sorely lacking.
The man is the greatest player the game has known.  He is one of the finest course designers on the planet.  His impact off the course has benefitted so many worthy causes.  Above all his devotion and love of family is unsurpassed.  It’s hard to imagine the game of golf and life without Jack Nicklaus.  He is committed to putting his best foot forward on every occasion.
Next year marks the fiftieth playing of the Memorial.  I have never attended the tournament but would love to take in the experience.  As good as it looks on TV I can only imagine how special it is in person, especially if the host figures out his sixteenth hole.