The first time I stepped onto Muirfield Village, I loved it. The rolling landscape, picture perfect creeks and ponds, and lightning-fast greens all naturally fit my eye. I always felt comfortable there, perhaps because it was Jack Nicklaus’s tournament - The Memorial. Jack has been my idol since the early 80’s, and to be playing his event was extra special.
The entire week was about the players and making them feel comfortable. The atmosphere in and around the clubhouse always relaxed, and it was not unusual to see the great man sitting in the players lounge or locker room simply having a chat with the guys and telling stories. The course has an Augusta-like feel and the galleries are always fully into it come Sunday on the back nine. There are plenty of risk-reward holes and it’s a fantastic closing stretch where anything can happen. I hit the *second-best bunker shot of my life on the 18th hole one year. From a horrendous lie in the front left greenside bunker, I managed to extricate my ball out to the back left edge of the green. From there it slowly did a u-turn and rolled 30 feet back down the hill and eventually fell into the cup.
A favourite memory of mine was one Sunday morning in the players dining area. It was fairly empty, and I was sitting at a table by myself reading the paper while having a late breakfast. A voice from behind asked, “Do you mind if I join you?” I looked up to see Jack standing there and I’m thinking to myself, ‘is this a trick question?’ Needless to say, I quickly replied, “Of course!”. To be able to sit alone with the greatest player of all time is something pretty cool let me tell you. We swapped small talk, spoke about the course, then finally as he was leaving, I summoned up the courage to ask him what he thought I needed to do that day. He said, “Well, you’re obviously playing good golf so keep doing what you’re doing and trust yourself”. Simple, to the point, and the look in his eyes was of steely determination… and one I’ll never forget. It was as though he wanted to tee it up himself and take these young guns on. I’m sure to him it was just another Sunday morning but to me all I could think of was, ‘I love my job’.
*I say second-best bunker shot because the best one was when I holed out from the back bunker on the 4th extra playoff hole to win the 2006 Australian PGA Championship