The Memorial Tournament
It was another tough week for us at the Charles Schwab Challenge, in what is no doubt a tough run for us at the moment. With two of our team of four missing the cut and another, Sebastian Munoz stalled around level par for the week, it was left to Jordan Spieth to fly our flag and while his game never fired enough to look like seriously contending for the trophy, he looked set as he stood on the 17th tee on Sunday to bag us a full place return and a small profit on the week.
Sadly though the golfing gods once more had other ideas as a bogey on 17 was followed by a three putt bogey on 18 from 35ft, which consigned the Texan to a share of the place money in seventh place.
The event in the end was won by Sam Burns who starting seven shots behind over night leader Scottie Scheffler, came through the pack on a fascinating final days play that was dominated by blustery conditions.
In the end Burns’ final round 65 was good enough to earn him a play off with Scheffler and a 38ft birdie putt on the first extra hole saw him bag the trophy.
So onwards we go and its time for the annual trip to ‘Jack’s place’ Muirfield Village, for the 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 strong line up on show this week with John Rahm just edging Rory McIlroy for favouritism in the market. This duo are then followed by Patrick Cantlay, Jordan Spieth, Collin Morikawa and Cam Smith.
Muirfield Village is a Par 72 measuring at just over 7450 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.
After the 2020 edition the course underwent significant renovation with the aim according to Jack Nicklaus to make the course “better, not necessarily harder”.
Most holes had the greens completely recontoured with bunker modifications and the only holes where the greens now resemble the old greens are 12, 13, 14 & 17.
Based on these changes there was a fair amount of speculation as to whether past course form would count for as much however with Rahm and Cantlay dominating it appeared to be very much ‘business as usual’.+
Away from Muirfield Village I would also suggest that form on other Nicklaus courses is worth taking in to consideration and one fact that stands out is that in addition to last years champion Jon Rahm, 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].
Other Nicklaus courses to consider are PGA National home of the Honda Classic, Glen Abbey the former home of the Canadian Open, and also Concession, which hosted the one off event in Florida earlier last year.
So lets take a look at the last ten winners;
2021 – Patrick Cantlay
2020 – Jon Rahm
2019 – Patrick Cantlay
2018 – Bryson Dechambeau
2017 Jason Dufner
2016 William McGirt
2015 David Lingmerth
2014 Hideki Matsuyama
2013 Matt Kuchar
2012 Tiger Woods
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 three players Matsuyama, Lingmerth and McGirt gain there first PGA Tour wins here, with McGirt and Lingmerth’s successes in particular coming from left field.
Over recent years however the event has very much been the domain of the big names with Patrick Cantlay and Jon Rahm sharing the trophy two to one over the past three years. Lets not also forget of course that the balance would almost certainly have been two to one in Rahm’s favour had he not been forced to withdraw from the event on Saturday evening last year after a positive Covid test when he held a six shot lead through 54 holes.
Whilst past course form is never a minus it does not appear to be a requisite here. In fact the six of the seven winners since 2014, Rahm, 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;
2021 – 23 MC MC 18 MC
2020 – Jon Rahm 27 33 37 MC 3*
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
*Denotes finish pre ‘lockdown’ 2020.
As we can see from this all but two of the last ten winners, Lingmerth and Cantlay last year, had posted a top ten finish in their previous five starts on tour [although Rahm’s top 10 did come prior to the Tour’s break for covid 19]. Let’s also not forget that Rahm was in fine form last year before his WD, having finished eighth at the PGA in his previous start, so 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 in 2019 who posted -19, however last year Rahm triumphed with a -9 total.
For five years prior to Cantlay’s win though we saw three winning scores of -15 and two of -13 [-15 was the score required to make the play off in 2018., while Cantlay triumphed again with -13 last year.
It is also worth noting that only two winners in the past ten years, Cantlay and Steve Stricker in 2011 managed to post all four rounds in the 60s on route to victory
The early part of the week shows the potential for a storm on Wednesday, which could linger in to Thursday so the players could be faced with a softer course on the opening day and possibly some weather delays.
Beyond this though fingers crossed we seem to be set for a dry remaining three days with temperatures sitting in the mid to high 70s.
Wind, which can be a factor here doesn’t at the time of writing loot to be too much of a factor with not much more than 10-15mph showing in the forecast.
As I always say though this could all change!
I have gone with five players this week as follows;
CAMERON SMITH – 20/1 – 2pts E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 13th
In all honesty the top end of the market is very strong this week and you could easily make a case for any of them to triumph at ‘Jack’s Place’.
Rahm will most likely be on a mission to regain the trophy that was snatched from him due to the Covid withdrawal last year, while Rory McIlroy was hugely tempting to put it all together this week based on his obvious correlating form at venues like Bay Hill and Quail Hollow.
Ultimately though the one I like best from the top of the market is Cameron Smith and I will start my team off with the Aussie this week.
Getting the elephant in the room out of the way first of all and Smith’s form here at Muirfield Village in all honesty is pretty atrocious with only two made cuts and nothing better than 65th in six visits. Looking at these results and understandably it may well be enough to put many off the Players Champion this week and I wouldn’t blame you if you want to move on to the next selection.
From my point of view though the more I looked at Smith’s record here based on the 2022 version of the player the more I was happy to dismiss it, particularly as noted earlier past course form doesn’t appear to be of huge significance here. To put it simply the reason I was happy to look past Cam’s history here is that everything screams to me as this being a test 2022 Cam should relish.
To break it down further and Smith currently ranks first on tour in approach play, often key here, and ninth on tour in good old fashioned GIR. Throw in Cam’s renowned short game and he is perfect for Memorial.
Building on this further and Smith leads the tour in the par five scoring averages, always a key to success here, and from a correlating point of view we know he loves Augusta, which certainly links well here.
Returning to Smith’s poor course history and he has had a tendency since he has been on tour to go AWOL through the summer and his dismal efforts have more often than not tied in with a dismal run of form. This year however he arrives here on the back of another strong effort of 15th at the PGA Championship where he lead the field in approach play only for the normally reliable putter to let him down badly.
On that basis I am happy to chance that Cam’s putter returns to its normal standards this week and if so I keen see him putting his poor record here well and truly behind him and shining at Muirfield Village.
PATRICK REED – 50/1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 53rd
Next up at the odds I can’t resist chancing Patrick Reed this week.
It’s been a tough 21/22 campaign for Reed to date with his long game suffering in particular, something reflected in his current rankings of 192nd off the tee, 182nd from tee to green and 174th in approach play.
Over his last couple of starts however Reed has started to turn a corner firstly with a 34th place at the PGA Championship and then even more encouragingly with a seventh place at the Charles Schwab Challenge last weekend.
Looking at Reed’s numbers over those two performances he ranked ninth in approach play at Southern Hills and 34th from tee to green and this clear improvement in the long game continued at Colonial where he ranked 15th both in approach play and tee to green.
It was also interesting to hear Patrick talk in Fort Worth about how he felt he had been playing a lot better than his results had reflected.
Moving on to Reed’s body of work at correlating venues and firstly we need look no further than his win at Augusta to know he is comfortable on a par 72 track with four reachable par fives. In addition he has three top 12 finishes in his last four starts at Quail Hollow to his name, a couple of top 15’s over recent years at Bay Hill and a top ten in the ‘one off’ event held at the Nicklaus designed Concession Club.
Last but not least of course Patrick has also shown that he is a fan of Muirfield Village over the years making the cut on all seven visits here posting three top tens along the way, including on both of his last two outings here.
Whether Reed has truly turned a corner over the past fortnight is tough to say, however as a proven winner who clearly likes and is suited to the track, any doubts are reflected in the odds, as if he was fully in form he would be 20pts shorter. On that basis with Reed being a player who has been known to pop up with a win when not a 100% on his game coming in I can’t resist him at the prices being dangled this week.
KEITH MITCHELL – 125 /1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 18th
Next up for me this week is Keith Mitchell.
Since a strong run of form in February, which saw him post three consecutive top twelve finishes Mitchell has cooled off somewhat, with his 34th place at the recent PGA Championship his best finish for the past couple of months.
Like many players though through a period, which has seen lesser events, the pairs event, a Match Play event and the Masters, for which Keith wasn’t qualified, he has been fairly lightly golfed on the standard 72 hole stroke play front with the PGA representing only his second start in this genre since his 13th place at the Players over two and a half months ago. Perhaps then the supposed ‘drop off’ in Keith’s form isn’t quite what it seems.
More encouragement on these lines can be found from Mitchell’s 34th place at Southern Hills in that a look at his stats for the week will tell us that he ranked third off the tee for the week and fourth in driving accuracy. Furthermore after a slow start on Thursday on the greens his putter warmed up nicely gaining strokes over the remaining three days, including over three on Sunday.
So with Keith hopefully arriving at Muirfield Village in better form than it may seem at first glance, what of his form on the track or other correlating ones?
Well, with regards to ‘Jack’s Place’ itself there is not too much to get overly excited about with a 22nd place in 2020 the best he has managed. This though did come on his most recent visit so there is some encouragement to be taken from that.
As mentioned before though past course history here hasn’t been too hugely significant and instead I prefer to focus on Keith’s form on correlating courses, which is where things get interesting.
Firstly of course the Georgia man notched his lone PGA Tour title to date at the Nicklaus designed PGA National in the Honda Classic. Furthermore he has two top six finishes to his name at Bay Hill over recent years and last year he posted a third place finish at Quail Hollow, both tracks, which to my mind tie in very nicely here.
Finally as one of the longer hitters on tour Keith will have been disappointed with his par five performance over recent years as the last two seasons have seen him languish well down the stats, with last seasons 94th in the par five scoring averages an improvement on the previous seasons even poorer effort.
This season however he has put this right and he currently ranks eighth on tour in this area.
All in all then there is a lot to like in my eyes about Mitchell this week and at juicy each way odds I am keen to be on board.
PATRICK RODGERS – 150/1 – 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
Regular readers will know that I am more than happy to roll the dice on Patrick Rodgers from time to time on the appropriate track in the hope that it will be the week he finally puts it all together. Of late however I have shied away from Patrick however this week, back at a suitable venue, I am going to jump back on board the Stanford Grad.
After a strong start to his 21/22 campaign which saw him post two top six finishes in his first three starts of the season things went quiet for Patrick early in 2022 and the best he could manage in his first ten starts of the year was a 38th at Bay Hill.
Over the recent weeks however Patrick appears to have perked up a bit as he followed a solid week in the Zurich pairs event with a top ten in Mexico, on a track which it must be said tied well to this weeks test, and a couple more mid division finishes. Even more encouragingly Rodgers rounded off his week at the Charles Schwab on Sunday with an eye catching 66, which saw him gain just under four shots from tee to green and three shots in his approach play, the area, which normally causes him the most trouble so he should head over to Ohio in good heat.
Eighth and 18th on two of his last three starts in the Memorial Rodgers has posted these finishes on the back of four missed cuts in his six previous starts in 2018, a run which featured a best result of 34th at the Wells Fargo, and three missed cuts and a 45th in four starts in 2020 prior to the 18th, a result which we should also note could have been much better but for a poor Sunday. We know then that Patrick is a player who can find his game out of nowhere on the right course so arriving here in more solid form this year is a bonus, particularly as the tenth in Mexico gives us the high recent finish we are looking for.
A look at Patrick’s body of work on tracks like Bay Hill and Quail Hollow, which clearly tie well here shows us that he is always a man to consider on the right classical test and I am happy to chance him again this week.
KURT KITAYAMA – 250/1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
A player who makes his debut at Muirfield Village this week but I believe will be suited to the test is Kurt Kitayama and for my final pick this week I am keen to bring him onside for the first time this season.
A two time winner on the DP World Tour Kitayama graduated to the PGA Tour courtesy of the Korn Ferry Tour finals last year and so far he has taken to the big league in fine fashion.
Currently sitting at 64th on the Fedex Cup standings Kurt’s two biggest efforts this season leap out to me as huge pointers for Muirfield Village being right up his alley as he firstly posted a third place at the Honda Classic before more recently bagging the runners up spot to Rahm in Mexico.
Long off the tee Kitayama should really be able to flourish on the par fives here and with his approach play currently ranked at 25th on tour he is clearly more than just a ‘bomber’.
Last week at Colonial, a course, which it must be said I wouldn’t expect to play to Kitayama’s strengths, he performed strongly again until a disappointing Sunday in the wind saw him slip back to 40th place, however over the first three days there was plenty of really good stuff from tee to green.
While this event has certainly been carved up by the bigger names over the past few years we have seen some upsets here over the last decade or so particularly from Lingmerth and McGirt and with Matsuyama joining that duo in bagging their first PGA Tour titles here there is certainly a precedent for ‘a maiden’ to strike here.
Add that to the fact that Kitayama has shown plenty of character the two times he has been seriously in the hunt this season and of course his winning experience on the DP World Tour and I am happy to chance him to upset the bigger names this week.
UPDATED 31st MAY
FANTASY DRAFTKINGS PICKS
PICK 1 - PAT PEREZ - DK VALUE $6600 - FINISHED 26th - DK POINTS 72
I will start of this section this week with veteran Pat Perez. The case for Perez this week is about as straightforward as they come with regards to what you are looking for from a sub $7K DK pick. He is playing some good golf at the moment, making plenty of cuts and he has been a cut making machine over the years at Muirfield Village.
To expand on this further and last week Pat posted a strong 12th place finish at Colonial to make his fourth cut on the spin while he has made the cut on all nine ocassions since 2010 he has tee'd it up here. On that basis he looks rock solid to stick around again once more for all four days.
PICK 2 - ERIK VAN ROOYEN - DK VALUE $6600 - FINISHED MC - DK POINTS 24.5
Second up this week is Erik Van Rooyen.
Van Rooyen has tee'd it up once at Muirfield Village finishing 22nd in the 2020 Memorial, which immediately tells me he is comfortable here. Add that to his win at the Barracuda last summer on another Nicklaus design and a solid performance in the WGC at Concession last year and there is reason to thing that he enjoys Jack's layouts.
Granted he has missed his last two cuts, however prior to that he was tenth at the Heritage and 13th not long before at TPC so he has produced some good stuff this year. Back then on a Nicklaus layout this week I expect him to return to form and put in a strong showing.