The Memorial Tournament
It was a fantastic tournament last week at the Workday Charity Open as Collin Morikawa bagged his second PGA Tour title in a thrilling play off victory over Justin Thomas.
After a slow start to the day JT looked to have the event in the bag as he stood on the 16th tee with a three shot advantage, however bogey’s on the 16th and 18th coupled with a birdie from Morikawa on the 17th wiped his advantage out and sent them in to extra time before Morikawa clinched it on the third extra play-off hole.
From our point of view while the event was a great watch by the time we reached the weekend all of our interest had gone as our whole team failed to make it through to the final 36 holes. Obviously there’s no denying how disappointing this was and no denying it’s symptomatic of the run we’ve been on recently, however the beauty of this game is one good week turns things around and we move on in good spirits
I say ‘move on’ and while of course that is what we’ll do with regards to last weeks disappointment, the tour itself is going absolutely nowhere as it remains at Muirfield Village for the second consecutive week for the Memorial Tournament.
The Memorial event was founded in 1976 by Jack Nicklaus and is played on the Nicklaus designed course at the Muirfield Village Golf Club.
The Memorial is an invitational event and this weeks field will be made up of just over 130 players.
We have a stellar line up on show this week with the likes of Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm from last weeks cast along with last weeks winner Collin Morikawa, being supplemented by Bryson Dechambeau, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Tiger Woods who makes his first start since lockdown.
Muirfield Village is a Par 72 measuring at just over 7350 yards.
The greens are Bent Grass.
Muirfield Village is seen as a classical test. Approach play is key as it is imperative to find the correct part of the undulating greens, which can run up to 13 on the stimpmeter.
With a bit more room off the tee compared to some courses, Muirfield Village is basically a second shot and in course.
Although plenty of birdies are available particularly on the par 5s there is also a lot of danger lurking with water in play on more than half of the holes, and historically thick rough around the greens.
The closing stretch of the course 16 through 18 is the toughest.
The Par 5s is where you make your score at Muirfield Village with all four Par 5s playing under Par year in year out.
I would therefore see Par 5 scoring as a key stat to look at.
I would also suggest that form on other Nicklaus courses is worth taking in to consideration and one fact that stands out is that 2017 winner Jason Dufner is a past winner at the CareerBuilder which uses a Nicklaus course. Similarly David Lingmerth who won here in 2015 has also come close at the CareerBuilder [when losing to Dufner in a playoff].
In addition it may be worth looking at results at Glen Abbey for the Canadian Open, which is also a Nicklaus track or PGA National used for the Honda, which is a Nicklaus redesign.
Compared to last week we should expect slightly longer rough and considerably faster greens, which will run to 13 or 13 ½ on the stimpmeter.
So lets take a look at the last ten winners;
2019 Patrick Cantlay
2018 Bryson Dechambeau
2017 Jason Dufner
2016 William McGirt
2015 David Lingmerth
2014 Hideki Matsuyama
2013 Matt Kuchar
2012 Tiger Woods
2011 Steve Stricker
2010 Justin Rose
As we can see from this list it’s been a fairly mixed bag of winners here over the past decade and we have seen four players, Rose, Matsuyama, Lingmerth and McGirt gain there first PGA Tour wins here, with McGirt and Lingmerth’s successes in particular coming from left field.
Whilst past course form is never a minus it does not appear to be a requisite here. In fact the five winners from 2014 to 2018, Dechambeau, Dufner, McGirt, Lingmerth and Matsuyama had a best place finish of 19th between them in eleven previous starts. [Hideki was making his course debut.] So don’t be put off if the man you have a hunch for has not done much here before.
Current form coming in is a bit more interesting and I have provided a table below to show this;
2019 Patrick Cantlay 3 3 9 24 MC
2018 Bryson Dechambeau 42 37 4 3 38
2017 Jason Dufner MC 13 60 5 11
2016 William McGirt 47 43 17 37 9
2015 David Lingmerth MC 33 MC MC MC
2014 Hideki Matsuyama 10 23 38 MC MC
2013 Matt Kuchar 2 33 48 35 8
2012 Tiger Woods 40 MC 40 1 WD
2011 Steve Stricker 12 13 11 4 18
2010 Justin Rose 71 MC 43 14 MC
As we can see from this all but two of these last ten winners [Lingmerth & Rose] had posted a top ten finish in there previous five starts on tour and even Rose had finished third at the Honda a couple of starts previously to that. It would seem therefore that current form is a better way in here than course form.
One other angle I feel merits consideration is par 5 scoring and it’s correlation to similar style tracks like Bay Hill where taking advantage of the par 5s is key. Longer term readers may remember that this was a large part of the case I built for Bryson in 2018 when putting him up as he had finished second at Bay Hill [also fourth at Quail Hollow, which rewards par 5 performance], and he lead the tour coming in to the week in 2018 in par 5 scoring.
Finally as always the winning score is influenced by the elements with the lowest winning total in the last ten years coming from Patrick Cantlay last year who posted -19.
For the previous five years though we saw three winning scores of -15 and two of -13 [-15 was the score required to make the play off in 2018.]
It is also worth noting that only two winners in the past ten years Cantlay last year and Steve Stricker in 2011 managed to post all four rounds in the 60s on route to victory
The weather at Muirfield Village this week looks very similar to last week in all honesty.
Temperatures look set to sit in the high 80s to low 90s and there is again a risk of the odd storm through the week.
Once again wind does not look to be a huge factor.
As I always say though this could all change!
Before moving on to this weeks selections it would be foolish if we didn’t touch on how relevant last weeks event may prove to be this time out. My thoughts around this are that while I would be reluctant to row in with a player who had a complete shocker in the Workday it may pay to side with someone who showed some positive signs as the week progressed, rather than one who was in the thick of the battle on Sunday. Equally of course it may be that this weeks winner will be someone who didn’t play last week, and I am certainly happy to focus on those arriving in Ohio this week as much as I am last weeks protagonists.
All in all with the course expected to be set up very differently this week from a green speed and rough point of view, as well as a return to traditional Memorial pin positions, I am taking a view that last weeks form should be seen in the same way you would see an event on a closely correlating course the previous week.
With that in mind I have gone with five players this week as follows;
PATRICK CANTLAY – 14-1 – 3pts E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 32nd
I backed Cantlay in this last year and his Sunday 64 to close out the win will live long in the memory.
From that point of view while of course you could make strong cases for any of those right at the top of the market, with the UCLA mans price having some e/w juice to it I feel compelled to run with him again.
Rather than this being a case of misguided loyalty though there are of course compelling reasons for having Patrick on board this week.
Firstly after biding his time before returning at the Travelers post Covid hiatus Cantlay has built up momentum finishing 11th at TPC River Highlands and 7th last week at the Workday.
Also from a momentum point of view Patrick has no disappointment from last week to get over and instead will be buoyed by Sunday’s closing 65, which saw him gain over five shots from tee to green on the field and just under five in approach play.
Looking at Cantlay’s statistics for the season as a whole, as he did coming in to this event last year, he sits in the top 50 in all key areas, basically there are no holes in his game. Importantly for this week as well he also sits third in par five scoring.
Cantlay tees off this week as defending champion something, which can sometimes lead to added pressure however the only other time he has defended a trophy on the PGA Tour at the Shriners he finished second so clearly this doesn’t phase him too much.
It is also worth noting that Cantlay finished second at the Shriners this season giving him form figures there over the past three years of 2 2 1 and with him having finished first and fourth at the Memorial for the past two years it looks like keeping him on side at his favoured venues is the way forward.
All in all Cantlay looks to be hitting the groove at just the right time for his defence and I fully expect him to be in the hunt come Sunday.
DUSTIN JOHNSON – 16-1 – 2.5pts E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
With such a strong top end of the market in play this week I am keen to have two onboard from the games elite and the second who appeals to me the most is Dustin Johnson.
While Morikawa and JT were battling it out on Sunday DJ was resting up on the back of his latest tour success at The Travelers last time out.
At TPC River Highlands Johnson built on his promising showing at the Heritage the previous week to return to his formidable best posting a career low round of 61 on his way to victory.
Sixth for the week in approach play, sixth from tee to green and fourth in putting, all components of DJ’s game were in great order at the Travelers.
Johnson’s record in the Memorial is solid enough with four top ten finishes over the years and three top thirteen showings in his last four visits, however what makes me want to side with him the most this week is history of staying ‘hot’ after he posts a victory. To expand this further we only need to look at DJ’s finishes after his last twelve wins on tour going back to 2015. These are as follows with the most recent first;
Fifth, third, third, second, eighteenth, second, first, first, sixth, ninth, first, sixth.
As we can see on only one occasion in those twelve starts has Dustin finished outside of the top ten and he has only finished worst than sixth twice. In addition on three occasions he has gone on to win on his next start.
So there we have it the evidence is overwhelming that when Johnson has found form and his confidence is up he is a hard man to stop and on that basis alone I want him onside this week.
BYEONG-HUN AN – 100-1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
The one player I feel compelled to include again from last weeks team is Ben An.
The Korean was well fancied last week in many quarters to continue his love affair with Muirfield Village however after a disappointing opening effort of 76 he left himself in theory with too much to do on Friday to make the weekend.
Despite this though Ben bounced back mightily impressively on day two to go out in a six under front nine of 30, which moved him inside the cut line.
Unfortunately at this point with An completely in the groove and with career lows and course records on the table, the hooter blew for a weather delay as he was staring over another birdie putt of 13ft on his tenth hole of the day and all momentum was subsequently lost as after the break he played the remaining nine holes in +2 to miss the cut.
From a positive point of view though after Thursday’s blip, Friday’s effort reinforced what we already knew, that Ben loves Muirfield Village, something, which is shown by his form figures of 17 2 25 11 at the Memorial over the last four years.
As noted last week 2019/20 has seen Ben post five top ten finishes in eighteen starts, four of which have seen him hit the frame and in what has been a really solid campaign to date I am happy to give him another chance at the bigger odds this week.
DANNY WILLETT – 125-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 32nd
The next player at the odds who catches my eye this week is former Masters Champion Danny Willett.
My case for Willett is made up this week of several different strands. Firstly as his victory at Augusta of course showed he is more than at home on a par 72 track with slick greens, which gives some room off the tee, rewards good approach play and where it is important to make your score on the par fives, basically what we have this week at Muirfield Village.
This is something that can also be noted from his solid effort of 18th at Bay Hill earlier this year and of course at the Rocket Mortgage last time out when he finished fourth.
Looking at that effort at Detroit as well as giving us the recent top ten finish that sits well with the profile of previous winners here Danny looked solid in most areas of the game and particular encouragement can be taken from the fact that his putter improved considerably over the weekend after a sluggish opening couple of days.
The Yorkshireman arrived in Ohio last year for his debut spin around Muirfield Village in a poor patch of form having made only two of his previous seven cuts with nothing better to show than 41st, so the fact that he played solidly to finish 27th is a real sign that the course suits his game.
Currently sitting in 138th on the Fedex Cup standings his fourth place finish at the Rocket Mortgage was a timely boost in his efforts to make the Fedex Cup play offs and it gives him something to build on going forward.
In a week where the top of the market undoubtedly looks incredibly strong Willett offers us the opportunity to back a proven winner at the highest level who found something last time out, at three figure odds and I am keen to side with him.
WYNDHAM CLARK – 400 -1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
Finally this week at huge odds I can’t resist a roll of the dice on Wyndham Clark.
Firstly lets get the down side out of the way, since the restart Clark has missed the cut twice, finished 64th once and withdrew with a bad back last time out in Detroit when carrying our money. Certainly not ideal then and I wouldn’t blame readers, particularly those who backed him in Detroit, if they drew the line there and moved on.
So with the negatives out of the way lets look at my case for Clark.
Firstly lets assume that the back problem was minor and has now cleared up, otherwise you would think he wouldn’t be here.
On that basis we have a course that is made for him. One of the longer hitters on tour Clark eats up par fives, ranking second on tour in that department last season and 17th so far in this campaign. In addition as one of the strongest putters out there he should be more than comfortable on Muirfield’s slick greens.
Then perhaps we have the most compelling part of the argument, Wyndham’s two efforts to date at the Nicklaus designed PGA National, home of the Honda Classic, 11th and seventh. We have seen with other players, noticeably Ben An, how form across these two tracks translates well and that leaps out to me with Clark.
This time of year last year Wyndham found his straps putting a good run of results together noticeably finishing fifth at the 3M Open, another Par 72, when we were onboard.
Always of interest to me on this kind of track I am happy to ignore recent efforts at venues like Colonial and Harbour Town, which clearly don’t play to his strengths and take a chance that the talented 26yr old can shine on his Memorial debut.
UPDATED 14th JULY - FANTASY DRAFT KINGS PICKS
PICK 1 - RYAN MOORE - DK VALUE $6900 - FINISHED 40th
Our first selection this week is all about the 'horses for courses' mantra as I'm chancing Ryan Moore.
Moore has missed all three cuts since the restart and if he doesn't avert the slide soon his record of making the Fedex Cup Play Offs every year since their inception could be in jeopardy.
Last time out Ryan made a couple of late bogeys in his second round at the Travelers to fall just the wrong side of the cut line and that has been symptomatic of his play over the last few weeks, with one sloppy round alongside a solid one costing him.
If Moore is going to avert the slide though this week looks as good a week as any as his solid tee to green game has been a strong fit for Muirfield Village over the years, as one only one MC here in the last ten visits testifies.
At $6900 Moore has plenty of upside to him at this venue and I'm happy to trust him to bounce back this week.
PICK 2 - MAX HOMA - DK VALUE $6800 - FINISHED MC
For my second selection I am going to side with Californian Max Homa. Similarly to Moore it was a case of 'close but no cigar' for Max last time out as he missed the cut on the number at the Workday making it three weekends off in four since the restart.
Max too k to Twitter though [as is his want] afterwards to say his game is 'close' and how much he was looking forward to another crack at Muirfield this week.
While of course there could be an element of 'positive mental attitude' in this wh\t makes me particularly interested in Max this week is his win at Quail Hollow, a venue which correlates very strongly to hear along with his solid showing at the Memorial on debut last year.
Prior to lockdown Homa was one of the most consistent performers on tour missing only two cuts in his previous 21 starts since his success in Charlotte and at $6800 I am happy to chance that he gets back on track this week.