It took a couple of weeks for Kisner to shake off the adrenaline dump from the near victory in New Orleans, after down weeks at Wells and The Players….Kisner bounces back for a big win at Colonial! Kisner closed out a chasing pack of top tier talent in Spieth and Rahm. Hopefully you listened to the new podcast (Fringe with Benefits), Kisner was my pick to win this week. BOOM. Off to a great start with our my podcast picks, that is likely to go downhill rapidly but I’m fired up for Kisner to get his win! Well deserved. The other thing to take away from last week is the chalk slaughter that took place with Kyle Stanley, Pat Perez, and Jason Dufner meanwhile; Bud Cauley showed some heart and fought back from a bad 1st day to make the cut. In other news…RahmGoat continues to do GOAT-like things and dominate the game. I am excited for football to comeback and at this point…Rahm is the David Johnson of the PGA. Rahm is #NeverFade at this point. All in all Colonial provided another great year of golf and with that the tour leaves Texas.
Making the jump from the windy and flat courses of Texas the past few weeks, the tour lands at Muirfield Village in Dublin, OH and a decidedly different sort of venue with plenty of elevation change for the players to contend with. Muirfield Village is the creation of Jack Nicklaus, a 7,392 yard par 72 that winds through what is part of a forest that Nicklaus himself used to hunt in when he was a child. While wooded and tree lined Muirfield has wider fairways than what you might think and the fairways are hit more than not around here, that said missing them can take you out of a hole completely. Located just outside Columbus, Ohio, Dublin and Muirfield are home to plenty of gentle rolling hills and valleys that provided the prefect foundation for Nicklaus to sculpt his masterpiece, a journey dating back to 1966. The story of how Muirfield came to be is a tale for another day, the story of how it has played in the past is a better focus for today.
The one way we know that Muirfield Village plays is downhill. Nicklaus says that his days working with Pete Dye taught him that golf is better played and more enjoyable downhill. To that end Jack built Muirfield with that very sentiment in mind. Most of the tee and/or approach shots are played slightly downhill (some more so) with only 2 holes (10 & 15) playing uphill, if only slightly. Jack presents players with inviting downhill looks to some generously wide fairways, allowing for a high rate of fairways hit around Muirfield. Which is imperative, the greens are so undulating and demand precision to small spots depending on the pin placements. Generally fast greens mean that being above the hole on several greens is almost a certain 3 putt. Hitting small spots on small, fast greens is impossible if you are out of position. Out of position around Muirfield is generally 5-10 yards off the fairway with all the creeks, lakes and trees are very much in play throughout. The fairways are generous and because they are, you pay dearly for missing them here.
Taking a look at the Win Cut Chart below.
Based on the Win/Cut chart it looks like this tournament has delivered some varied results over the years. Muirfield is a tough course and depending on the setup and weather, you can see how difficult it can play for these guys. While difficult the course is scoreable, with the four par 5’s and several short par 4’s that we will get into later.
This tournament has frequently been a victim of inclement and less than ideal weather conditions through the years, even the Presidents Cup wasn’t immune to the seemingly erratic weather that be fells this course on tournament weeks. Jack is notorious for keeping Muirfield as fast as possible, Jack relishes in having green as fast or faster than Augusta. He also likes a tough and true test of golf, which Muirfield provides a plenty when the weather is good.
When it is dry and running, Muirfield plays as one of the toughest on tour. Logging 3 years ranked as the 6th most difficult course on tour. This is how Jack would prefer it play most years but, Jack doesn’t always get what he wants and when the course gets softened up by wet weather and the greens are a bit slower and irons stick a little tighter don’t be surprised by some lower numbers and a cut line that moves under par.
The real question is what to expect this year? Check back for the Yardage Book on Tuesday when we get our on course reporting and take an in depth look at the weather and how it is likely to impact the tournament. Until then let’s get into the scorecard and see if we can figure out how players are going to attack Muirfield.
Since Muirfiled is a par 72, it should come as no surprise that the par 5’s jump off the page here. 2 of the par 5’s are very reachable this week at 5 and 15, delivering an eagle to 5% of the field between the two holes. The other two par 5’s at 7 and 11 are reachable for the longest of hitters. Regardless the par 5’s this week are crucial to scoring Dratfkings points as 5 & 15 yield a birdie rate north of 40%!!!
Meanwhile the longer par 5 7th gets close at 38% and the 11th the lowest (but still) at 31%.
Sure plenty of scoring will take place on the par 5’s this week but since they are mostly reachable by the field and the birdie rate is high in general, you aren’t going to win the tournament on the par 5’s, but you can sure lose it by not scoring on them! With trees and water in play on the 2nd shots, going for the green can lead to a scramble for par if not careful and a bogey for the unfortunate 10%.
Instead, scoring on par 4’s is likely where this tournament is going to be won. We will look a bit deeper into this theory in the key stats section next. With 3 par 4’s averaging 20% or better birdie rates and a 4th that allows 18%, this is where the top of the leaderboard will separate themselves this week. Holes 3/6/9/14 are where guys will try and find a leg up on the field this week. These are on average the shorter of the par 4’s players face this week, it makes sense that they are also the ones where scoring will occur. Good drives in position will put a wedge in hand and a green light depending on pin placement.
That’s it for the birdie holes and since Muirfield plays .42 strokes over par, there must be a few holes that are going to give the players some difficulties this week and those are the par 4 10th, 17th, and 18th accompanied by ALL the par 3’s. That’s right all the par 3’s average over par here, by a 0.2 strokes as a group. The toughest of the bunch is the 16th, which clips 28.7% of the field for a bogey.
16 is also one of 6 carnage holes, 5 of which are on the back nine. Look out for carnage on holes 9/12/14/16/17/18. All these holes average a double bogey or worse rate of 3% or higher. 12 and 18 are the worst of the carnage holes, claiming a close to 5% rate of doubles or worse.
Another scoring observation about Muirfield that is less about specific holes but a more general in nature is the overall scoring setup. The front nine is a shade over 3x easier than the back nine is, with a scoring differential of .94 there is a stark difference in the scoring with regard to nines. Getting off to a hot start at Muirfield is imperative to overall success, as players are almost assured of bleeding strokes back to the field on the incoming nine.
Starting on the front nine, any player getting past the 1st and 4th holes without a bogey stands a good chance to put together a solid day as they have some cushion going into the back nine.. From an overall scoring perspective, Muirfield sneaks up on players progressively as they work their way through the wooded Ohio countryside. The front nine will see some score (they are gonna need it), as they make the turn the 10th is waiting to snag a bogey. Players are given the opportunity to bounce back on the par 5 11th, only to have a better than average shot of giving it back on the tough 12th.
With only one more scoring hole at the 15th, the closing stretch is brutal and will see several players eject and tumble down the leaderboard. 3 holes that collectively play .65 strokes over par and basically offset the scoring of two of the par 5’s. Players will need to take advantage of a scoreable front nine when they can and try to hang on down the closing stretch.
Jack certainly built Muirfield to ensure that only the worthiest champion hoists the hardware each year, the closing stretch is sure to vet out any flaws in a swing. Pressure combined with championship golf usually does that and Muirfield delivers an exciting finish annually.
So we know that we have to score on the par 5’s, which are reachable and on the short par 4’s. No big deal, while basically avoiding the ever impending back nine blow up…OK but how? Here go, this week’s stat picture is a testament to the overall quality of a golf course that Jack built!
The key stats are very general this week, with no specific approach distances that really jump out as big time significant to success. Players are forced to play a variety of approach distances throughout Muirfield, 175-200 does seem the be the most important of the bunch but it will only make my satellite stats this week. Moving to the right we get our first indicator of the type of course we have, SG APP jumps out and lets us know this is a second shot course. Right next to it we see that scrambling was pretty important to a top 3 or better finish the last 8 years. Likely due to the size of the greens and the occasional missed green in regulation will lead to a difficult up and down on fast undulating greens that can get away from players quickly. Especially on holes like 11 and 13 that are severely pitched and being above the hole is not an option.
Par 72 scoring is important, mainly just an indicator that scoring efficiency on par 5’s is key to success. I know super hot take there, moving on.
What is surprising that neither driving distance nor driving accuracy is terribly important. GD% is a bit more significant which makes sense because it accounts for greens in regulation but what really jumps out is how significant SG T2G is. While it is not surprising that the player that gains the most strokes from T2G is successful, its that none of the other really specific stats like approach distance driving distance, driving accuracy , etc jump out as significant as well to indicate or help us narrow what type pf player succeeds at Muirfield. That is how well Jack built this place, as tough as it is fair. Any and all game type can succeed but they have to be all around GREAT!
As usual birdies or better are important and will be treated as such yet again. Moving over, is some supporting data for the claim earlier that this tournament is won on the par 4’s. We can see that in general both are important but par 4 scoring is just a bit lower and more important to success. The winner has on average been an elite (Top 15) par 4 scorer! In general those hoping to find the leaderboard will need to score well on the par 5’s but only those in contention will out perform on the par 4’s week. It is likely they will all be field average on the difficult par 3’s this week. For the most part the guys won’t be thinking about birdie when standing on the tee of any of the par 3’s this week. Just surviving them should be enough the keep your players in contention.
- Birdie or Better %
- SG Approach
- GD %
- SG T2G
- Par 4
- Par 5
Well, I guess it is gonna be one of those years. Every week there is a major weather event, it seems to be following the tour. This week there is some potential weather on the horizon that could move through starting Friday with heavy rains and thunderstorms with continuing bands of thunderstorms through Saturday and potentially Sunday. It is really early and I don’t want to overreact to this since it will likely change but certainly will make for an in depth and strategic version of the yardage book if the wonky forecast holds to any degree. The rain is one thing but the lighting make for another beast all together and it could be a week of multiple stoppages and long waits in between infrequent golf shots. It is too soon to tell but don’t ignore the weather this week.
As always good luck this week.