Golf

On The Ground at the PGA’s Memorial Tournament

August 22, 2023

Chris McNeil gives us his perspective from the first round of the PGA Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.

No one in Ohio was smiling as broadly as Jack Nicklaus today.

Not the hordes of twentysomethings to fortysomethings dressed so that Jack himself might tap them in to play the back nine if a golfer tweaked a hammy.

Not the women in sundresses telling themselves the burns on their shoulders are just “a base for the season.”

Not even that couple I ran into on the way out loudly debating how to split the Titleist ProVs they scored from a promotional tent.

With the sun baking the course all afternoon and the wind giving the players fits, Jack revealed to the world the true power of his fully operational Death Star here at Muirfield on the first day of this year’s Memorial Tournament. He’d strategically lengthened several holes, grown the rough to the optimal 3-plus inches (the head greenskeeper said in an interview they will let it grow to 4-5” by the weekend), and had the greens rolling — all gas, no brakes. Now with the heat and wind, his creation would prove a perfect test for the world’s best players.

Meanwhile, us veterans of this annual pilgrimage to Dublin visited the normal haunt at the Golden Bear Club. Nothing quite as satisfying as drinking a beer and smoking a cigar during the workday under the pretense of doing business. If you haven’t been: this is a space with food from Cameron Mitchell (the Rusty Bucket chicken sandwich is my personal favorite), several fully stocked bars, a putting green, a golf simulator, and plenty of Dublin’s finest eligibles.

They also had a new element I had not seen before — an acoustic guitarist. So there I was, at 2 p.m. on a Thursday, listening to a guy belt out a rendition of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” that had several in the crowd singing along. The loudspeakers throughout the sprawling adult playground ensured you could hear each tune from all corners, and it even spilled onto the golf course.

“We elected to stay put,
enjoy our cigars, and listen
to the next 90s tune.”

The hole adjacent to the Golden Bear Club on one side is #10 — where I could still hear an extended version of the Cranberries’ “Zombie” emanating from the club as the feature group of the day passed through — Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth.

Rory hammered his drive further down the fairway than anyone else I saw on this day, and he proceeded to place one safely on the green. Spieth pulled his into the sand and was facing a difficult out — almost a sure bogey, as the greens were rolling so fast it was nearly impossible to get a ball to stop, even with the aid of the sand.

After they hit, the wave of fans that followed their group washed past us. We elected to stay put, enjoy our cigars, and listen to the next 90s tune with which our Golden Bear guitarist would regale us. We were looking up the fairway for the next group when a roar came from the 10th green. Spieth had an improbable hole out from the sand — most likely the shot of the day and certainly the biggest roar of the day.

After meandering around the front nine watching players like Adam Schenk rise and implode, we happened to make our way to 18 when, as luck would have it, that featured group was once again approaching the green. Rory went over the green and Spieth was in the front bunker. Rory proceeded to go back over the green and then miss a small kick-in putt for an apparent double while Spieth made his short par putt. Unbeknownst to us, both players had to punch out from the fairway bunker and so Spieth turned in a bogey while Rory had a tidy triple bogey. A brutal finish for both players. It sent Rory from second to a tie for 33rd place.

The course today had given some but taken more on balance — leaving some players like Rory looking like a Zombie coming off the course. Even a small rattle on 18 turned into a full-on spinout. With the heat and dry, fast conditions, it can happen in an instant.

I pictured at that moment Jack Nicklaus sitting back in his chair, smiling broadly and looking over the weather for the next few days.

“Perfect.”

Photo Credit: Chris McNeil
Chris McNeil
Chris McNeil is the brains behind the infamous Cleveland Browns 0-16 parade. A viral internet personality, McNeil’s audience of over 500,000 social media followers (@reflog_18) hangs onto his every word and every meme about the Browns, Guardians, Cavs, Buckeyes, and all Ohio sports. He is a co-host on the Big Play Reflog Show on BigPlay.com
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