Unpredictable weather notwithstanding, it's probably safe to assume Muirfield Village Golf Club won't have quite as much bite during this year's Memorial Tournament.

Unpredictable weather notwithstanding, it's probably safe to assume Muirfield Village Golf Club won't have quite as much bite during this year's Memorial Tournament.

A decade of major renovations ending in 2006 and the annual tweaks applied since by Jack Nicklaus certainly left their mark, however. The course ranked as the fifth-most difficult overall in relation to average score over par (2.397 strokes) among the 54 used on the PGA Tour last season, and three of the four ahead of it came on courses employed during major championships.

It stood as the toughest par-72 layout with an average score of 74.397. That's nearly six full strokes higher than the average score (68.93) recorded on the Palm Course at Walt Disney World Resort during the Children's Miracle Network Classic, which ranked as the easiest course on the PGA Tour with an average score of 3.07 under par.

It's also nearly a half-stroke higher than the average score of 73.773 at Augusta National Golf Club during The Masters, another par-72 layout and the only major championship held on the same course every year.

The Memorial's average score was its highest since 1990. The number that year was 76.453 as winds exceeding 40 mph during the first round and rain lengthened the course entering the weekend. The Memorial was limited to 54 holes for the first time that year, too, as Greg Norman led the field at even-par 216. In 2008, Kenny Perry posted a winning score of 8-under 280, which is the highest at the Memorial since 1990.

That led Rob Pampling to say before leaving town that players would get a reprieve two weeks later at U.S. Open.

"The greens are going to be slower, there is going to be less rough at the edge of the fairways and the bunkers are going to be better," said Pampling, who tied for 20th during the Memorial at 2-over 290 but would have finished alone in third place had he shot par during the third round instead of a 77. "There were no letups out here."

The sand traps have been the focus of much debate after Nicklaus decided to furrow them for the first time in 2006, another move aimed at countering technological advances in balls and equipment. Muirfield Village ranked as the 12th-most difficult course in 2006, up from 31st in 2005. It ranked 38th in 2007 when K.J. Choi prevailed with a score of 17-under 271, but the course bounced back with a vengeance last year, in part because of longer-then-normal rough.

Tournament director Dan Sullivan promises things will be different this year, however, at least in regard to how the Muirfield Village will be set up.

"The rough will be managed a little lower, and we're not furrowing the bunkers like we have in the past," he said.

Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean the course will become a shooting gallery.

"We've made only a couple of changes and overall the course should be more receptive," Sullivan said. "The biggest one is that we've changed the pitch on a couple of the greens (at the par-5 11th and par-4 18th) to allow for more pin placements."

He also defended last year's higher scores as a product of the weather to some degree.

"(For the second round) on Friday the wind really came up, and that day we had the highest average score (75.856) on the tour up to that point," he said. "Then it rained Friday night and the rough really popped up.

"We want to ensure fairness but last year we just got a combination of things that really toughened up the course."

The par-4 17th was the most difficult hole at the Memorial last year with an average score of 4.359. It ranked 31st overall on the PGA Tour after giving up only 34 birdies all week.

The most difficult course in 2008 was Royal Birkdale, which played host to the British Open and had an average score of 4.869 strokes over par. Then came Oakland Hills' South Course (4.315), site of the PGA Championship, and Torrey Pines' South Course (3.712), site of the U.S. Open. The TPC Southwind (2.534) ranked fourth while playing host to the Stanford St. Jude Championship.

Muirfield Village surrendered more bogeys (1,506) than birdies (1,195) a year ago although that ratio pales in comparison to Royal Birkdale, which allowed 2,300 bogeys and just 823 birdies. But only five courses saw more scores of triple-bogey or worse than Muirfield Village's 45, led by Royal Birkdale's 66. There were 50 recorded at Torrey Pines during the U.S. Open but only 13 on the same course for the Buick Invitational.

Phil Mickelson, who tied for 20th a year ago at the Memorial, said afterward he wouldn't return.

But with promises of a softer, gentler Muirfield Village, players likely won't be the only ones appeased.

"I say leave the 7-inch rough and all that other stuff to the U.S. Open," said Bob Curtis, father of PGA Tour player Ben Curtis. "I don't think fans really like seeing the pros scramble to make par. They want to see birdies."