Closing holes take toll on many, provide opening for few others
The final three holes at Muirfield Village don’t have a nickname.
That may be a good thing. Based on the way they ruined so many Memorial Tournament contenders’ rounds yesterday, any name for them probably would be unprintable anyway.
So many players entered the final three holes yesterday with a chance to put themselves on the leader board for today’s final round. So many faltered.
• After two birdies and an eagle on the back nine got him to 4 under par, Dustin Johnson bogeyed all three holes to fall back into the pack.
• Bo Van Pelt’s early-day charge ended the same way.
• Jim Furyk birdied No. 15 to get to 4 under but bogeyed No. 16 and double-bogeyed No. 18.
They were hardly alone. The par-3 16th hole played the toughest on the course yesterday, as it has all tournament. Three times as many players bogeyed the hole (24) as birdied it (8).
The par-4 17th hole played eighth-toughest (fifth for all three days) and the par-4 18th was the third-hardest (second for the tournament).
The irony is that several players said they didn’t think the final three holes played particularly difficult.
“To be honest with you, playing downwind, they’re gettable,” Aaron Baddeley said.
Added Jonathan Byrd, “I think they were playing about as easy as they can play today.”
But it may be telling that both Baddeley and Byrd were above par on those holes.
“When the wind is blowing like this, you don’t have to be far off in your distance or your line to go from hitting a great shot to being in a really bad spot,” Byrd said. “It’s just a small margin of error, especially coming down on a Saturday and guys wanting to make birdie. You can make mistakes.”
Players found it particularly difficult to hold the green on No. 16.
“I thought I hit a good shot and wasn’t even close to holding the green,” said tournament leader Spencer Levin, who bogeyed the hole but parred the final two to hold on to a one-stroke lead. “It’s just a really hard hole downwind — any wind, really.”
The final two holes are distinguished by numerous bunkers and elevated greens that make judging distances in the wind difficult.
“I birdied 16 and 17 and probably the golf gods were angry that I did that to them, and then I double-bogeyed the 18th,” Daniel Summerhays said. “It’s tricky trying to guess the wind going up the hill there, and there’s only a couple places you can leave it.”
Not everyone struggled on the final three holes; those who didn’t put themselves into position to win today because of it. Rickie Fowler birdied No. 17 and parred the other two to propel him into third place. Ryo Ishikawa’s birdie on No. 16 allowed him to move into a tie for fifth. Vijay Singh went from afterthought to tied for eighth after a birdie on No. 17.
So while the final three holes could break a round, they also could make them. There just were a lot more broken by them.