2006: Nicklaus rakes over Memorial field
Jack Nicklaus and the PGA Tour greeted 104 players at the Memorial Tournament with a new twist. Or was it an old one?
Acting on the suggestion of its legendary tournament host, the Tour experimented with wooden rakes that created furrowed bunkers, a course feature most thought went out with hickory-shafted clubs.
The gap-toothed, wooden rakes made V-type groves in the sand in all 78 bunkers at Muirfield Village, making escapes in fairway and greenside bunkers more difficult for a Tour that saves par from the sand at an average clip of 49.1 percent.
“The whole idea was to say, ‘OK, you’ve got a pin close to a bunker – think,’ ” Nicklaus said. “Do I want to hit at that pin? Or do I want to play a little bit to one side to give myself the opportunity not to shortside myself? You want to put a little bit of fear into the shot. And I think it did that.”
Carl Pettersson, the Memorial champion, said the old-style method used to groom the bunkers made a difference in his strategy. At times, he used 3-wood off the tee instead of driver to take fairway bunkers out of play. As a result, he found only one fairway bunker in 72 holes.
“That’s my point,” Nicklaus said.
But not all the players approved of the experiment, which the Tour may opt to use again this season. Some met the idea of furrowed bunkers with furrowed brows.
“I just know that there’s not one player that likes it,” said Paul Azinger, who tied for 10th. “What it does is neutralizes anybody who is an exceptional fairway bunker player, and relegates him to the same as a guy who is a marginal fairway bunker player. The same for greenside bunkers, too.”
The Tour’s sand save average at Memorial was 43.8 percent. Some players were unhappy that they weren’t adequately notified of the change ahead of time, saying they could have been better prepared from an equipment standpoint.
“I think the only place we probably faulted, or the Tour faulted, is that we did not give the players enough notice to that, and they might have brought a different kind of wedge,” Nicklaus said.
Joe Ogilvie joked that Nicklaus only went ahead with the experiment because he wasn’t playing in this year’s Memorial.
The more Ogilvie thought about the change, the more it seemed to grow on him.
“Let it filter through people’s systems,” he said, “and then I think that a lot of guys in retrospect will come back and say, ‘You know what? It probably wasn’t a bad idea.’ ”