Return to Normal?
Returning to the 2021 Memorial Tournament - a PGA tour stop - at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio as a volunteer and spectator last week was a moment I won’t forget. Arriving at the maintenance facility early on Monday morning, actually in darkness, was a shock in itself. I have not been awake that early in over two years.
Photograph 1. Early morning operations including mowing greens started prior to sunrise. This photograph was taken from the 18th fairway looking toward the green and clubhouse.
Last year Muirfield Village Golf Club hosted two PGA tournaments back to back, the Workday Charity Open (July 9-12, 2020) followed by The Memorial Tournament hosted by Nationwide (July 16-19). Played under the restrictions imposed by Covid, both tournaments seemed more attune to college golf tournament than a PGA event. The tournaments reminded me of Sunday afternoon round at a local golf course.
Following the Memorial tournament the golf course went under a total restoration/renovation by the architect Jack Nicklaus. Chad Mark, #SBI15 alumn and the Director of Grounds oversaw the project. The course opened one week to members prior to this year’s tournament.
Figure 2. Restoration of Muirfield Vilage Golf Club began following the 2020 Memorial tournament that was held during the middle of July 2020.
The excitement of tournament week could be felt in all those involved. It was like the tournament was a new beginning following the covid pandemic. It looked like a tournament with the patrons (restricted to around 50 percent of normal), hospitality tents, skyboxes, and concession stands.
Figure 3. The course was in excellent shape and playing to the desired level of the PGA Tour and The Memorial Tournament.
Agronomically the course was in excellent condition due to Chad Mark (Director of Grounds), Nate McKinnis (Golf Course Superintendent), the staff and volunteers efforts. Even though the staff faced frost delays, rain delays and fog delays.
Figure 4. Minor maintence or play delays were due to weather. Fog shown above caused a slight delay in play.
While walking the grounds much of the pandemic was behind us as many of the restrictions since the 2020 Memorial tournament had been lifted. Noticable howerver, there was a small pop-up green tent that was located on the practice range near the short game area near one of the merchandise tents. The tent was staffed by health care professionals from Ohio to answer questions and if desired administer the vaccine shot to anyone in attendance. The vaccine pop-up-tent was the first to be at a PGA Tour event and approved by The Memorial Tournament. On average 20 people per day received the vaccine.
Figure 5. One of changes during the renovation of th golf course was to increase the number of pin placements on some of the greens.
With this as a backdrop it was surprising and disappointing that Jon Rahm was disqualified from the tournament while walking off the 18th green of Saturday’s third round. He tested positive for Covid, which meant immediate disqualification. He had shot a spectacular 64 on a difficult course and was six strokes ahead going into the final round.
I hope Jon Rahm, his family and those who came into close contact with him are safe and stay healthy. His positive test is a reminder that returning to normal, like running a golf tournament, will not happen until we are fully vaccinated.
About the author
Dr. Karl Danneberger is a professor of Turfgrass Science at The Ohio State University. Dr. Danneberger's contact information can be found here. You may also follow Dr. Danneberger on Twitter: