Steve Stricker is off to another hot start on another sticky day at Muirfield Village, posting two consecutive birdies on Nos 1 and 2. Going into the final round of the Memorial, Stricker held a three-shot lead over Jonathan Byrd. The two played in the last group together on Sunday at the first tournament of the year, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua. Stricker didn’t have his best day and Byrd ended up carrying the day after winning a playoff against Robert Garrigus.
Who’s your pick to win? Oh, and a few other things to note: *I was walking (or riding on his chariot) with PGA Tour XM radio’s Michael Collins (aka @funnycaddy) yesterday during the third round. Mike was covering Matt Kuchar and Josh Teater’s group, which worked out perfectly because Kuch was making a run and my buddy Chris Wilson was following his good friend Teater. Win-win! Anyway, Mike noticed Kuchar was leaving driver in the bag quite a few times. On the 14th tee Lance, Kuchar’s caddie, had walked ahead to grab some water while everyone else was on the 13th green still. I asked Lance why Kuchar was opting for 3-woods and 3-irons more often than driver. He said it was because conditions were firmer than usual and if Matt hit driver, he ran the risk of running through the fairway (which happened to quite a few players earlier in the day).
This week at Memorial, which I’m told has traditionally been one of the wetter tour stops, the ball was going further than usual due to the rock-hard fairways and extremely hot weather. I mean, Stricker, not the longest hitter in the world (not the shortest either), holed out for an eagle on the par-4, 455 yard, No.2, with a 53-degree wedge in his hands!
Lance also said something like, “It’s like US Open-style conditions.”
With the overnight rain, the conditions at Muirfield are softer. You can hit more club off the tee and you don’t have to worry about a ball bouncing off the green, so you can be a bit more aggressive. That’s also why scores are so low today.
It was informative to walk with Chris Wilson, a native of Dublin who played on the PGA Tour last year. Wilson estimates he’s played Murifield like a million times (hyperbole, obviously). Some highlight of our chat on keys to playing well and winning at Muirfield:
*Target golf, you gotta pick your spots
*It’s not a bombers course and it’s playing shorter than usual because of the firm conditions and the wind.
*Gotta play percentage golf. For example, the par-4 351-yard 14th hole has a creek that guards the green. During the third round, the tees were up and it was playing 322 yards. Dustin Johnson nearly drove the green, but he’s one of the longer hitters. Obviously, Kuchar laid up with an iron to about 108 yards in front of the creek. Let’s say you drop 10 balls at that same spot, he’ll probably birdie the hole 50-60% of the time. Good percentage!
*Play conservative (most the time) takes out the potential for blow-up holes. A lot of players are going to beat themselves. You just gotta hang in there and taken the big numbers out of play.
Alright, leaderboard check — Woodland is making a move, four-under through 8 today, 10-under total and four shots behind Stricker who is at 14-under. Kuchar, Rory McIlroy (go Rors!) and Brandt Jobe are also 10-under. Kevin Streelman and Phil Mickelson, who are paired together, have the hottest rounds going — they’re both six-under through 15.
Now time to head out to the course and sweat out another 10lbs (hey ladies, this is a great weight loss program!). As always, please leave your musings on the tournament, and for tennis fans, feel free to discuss Nadal taking out Federer at the French Open. Go Nadal!