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Is the modified 16th hole at Memorial any better? The pros weigh in

Is the modified 16th hole at Memorial any better? The pros weigh in

A familiar voice rang out as Jack and Barbara Nicklaus wheeled their golf cart past the 17th tee Wednesday at Muirfield Village Golf Club.

“Love No. 16,” Matt Kuchar yelled from No. 17 tee.

Nicklaus waved thanks and kept driving, presumably satisfied that at least one PGA Tour player was giving his redesign of the maligned par 3 a thumb’s-up.

Not all players were as enthusiastic with their praise.

“It’s better than it was. Put it that way,” said Jordan Spieth, one of several players who met with Nicklaus after the 2023 Memorial Tournament to share their misgivings about the hole at Muirfield Village, which ranks as the No. 1 private course in Ohio.

If Nicklaus was looking for a universal ringing endorsement of his changes, well, professional golfers seldom are 100% thrilled when confronted with a challenging hole.

And No. 16 is dastardly, forcing right-handed players to draw the ball – lefties must fade it – 218 yards into a narrow green with water on the left and a bunker back right. It has undergone several transformations through the years, but none has satisfied everyone.

No hole in the 49-year history of the Memorial Tournament has been criticized by players like the 16th, which took heat in the early days of the event when George Archer complained that no par 3 should be longer than 200 yards.

The complaints reached another level last year when several players took dead aim at the hole.

“It’s a stupid hole,” Westerville resident Jason Day said, echoing the sentiments of many.

Nicklaus took the feedback to heart, changing the hole by moving the tee about 30 yards to the right, which took more of the greenside pond out of play. More significantly, he removed a bunker just to the right of the green, replacing it with a grassy slope.

Jack Nicklaus drives his wife, Barbara, through a crowd of fans during a practice day for the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club. (Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch)

What hasn’t changed is the firmness of the green, which is difficult to hold when tee shots land past the first 20 feet. That is after Nicklaus reshaped the putting surface in 2021 to help keep balls from bouncing off the green even on good shots.

“I’ve always really liked the hole,” Sahith Theegala said, before shooting holes in it. “But there does come a point where you’re hitting a shot and you feel you have no chance of holding the green, whether you hit a good shot or a bad shot, there needs to be a…


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