(Reuters) - The Memorial Tournament is the second PGA Tour event in as many weeks to be held at Muirfield Village Golf Club and those competing in both ends of the unusual double-header were greeted with a whole new course and much stiffer challenge on Thursday.
Faster greens, different hole locations and longer rough were among the notable changes during first-round action on the Jack Nicklaus-designed layout.
“Obviously, a lot faster. The greens I think are a lot firmer even than they appear,” defending Memorial champion Patrick Cantlay, who finished joint seventh last week, said after an opening two-under-par 70.
“You can get some action on it from the fairway, but even shots last week out of the rough would stop, and today that wasn’t the case.”
The PGA Tour had to scramble to fill a gap in its schedule when the John Deere Classic in Illinois was cancelled due to state-related challenges regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
The solution was the creation of the Workday Charity Open and staging it at Muirfield Village, which marks the first time since 1957 the PGA Tour has played two weeks in a row on the same course.
Collin Morikawa, who won last week at Muirfield in a playoff, noticed the changes.
“Today when we stepped on the course, even though it was morning you could start seeing a little shine, so you know the first bounces were skipping a little more, getting a little
firmer,” Morikawa said after a 76.
“The rough has obviously just kept growing. You miss in some spots, sometimes you’ve got to chip out and you never know what kind of lie you’re going to get, but for the most part it’s not going to be good.”
Jordan Spieth, who missed the cut last week, said the course has returned to its usual Memorial feel which means putting is tough.
“They let the rough grow a little bit, so you’re unlikely to find some good breaks if you miss the fairways,” said three-times major champion Spieth after an opening 70.
“But mainly the course has dried out significantly without any rain the last few days, and the greens are a foot to two feet faster on the stimpmeter.”
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond