Best bets for the PGA Tour Memorial Tournament

May 30, 2023 04:37 PM


The Memorial Tournament

Emiliano Grillo had not won on the PGA Tour since October 2015 at the Open (now known as the Fortinet Championship). He had come into last week with some solid form (two top-7s in his four lead-in starts) and two top-10s at Colonial in the last five years. Grillo, tipped in this column last week at 100-1 and ending with an 80-1 closing price, had a two-shot lead heading to the 18th tee on Sunday but hit his drive into an aqueduct, which took the ball back 150 yards before stopping against a rock. He decided to take a penalty stroke and landed a two-putt from 20 yards to tie with Adam Schenk. Harry Hall led after each of the first three rounds but failed to save par and missed the playoff and finished T-3 along with OWGR No. 1 Scottie Scheffler.

Grillo won the Charles Schwab Challenge on the second playoff hole and Schenk settled for his second runner-up finish (Valspar Championship) in 2023.

Grillo (110-1 this week) will be part of an elite field this week at The Memorial Tournament hosted by Jack Nicklaus.

That elite field playing just outside of Columbus, Ohio, consists of the entire OWGR Top 5, including OWGR No. 1 Scheffler (6-1). World No. 2 Jon Rahm (15-2) won this event in 2020 and should have had back-to-back titles but was informed coming off the 18th green after Saturday's third round that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and had to withdraw from the 2021 Memorial Tournament after having built a six-stroke lead. The biggest beneficiary of Rahm's withdrawal was Patrick Cantlay (10-1), who not only ended up winning the 2021 Memorial but also was the 2019 event champion.

Rory McIlroy (14-1) has just one top-10 in his last five trips to Muirfield Village.

Xander Schauffele (16-1) rounds out the OWGR Top 5 and has four consecutive top-20s here.

Viktor Hovland (22-1) was on the first page of the leaderboard heading into Sunday last week at Colonial, just one week removed from the near-miss at the PGA before a 3-over round dropped him to T-16. Collin Morikawa (25-1) has been disappointing lately all around but does have a victory on this course in the Workday Charity Open back in 2020 and was runner-up in a playoff to Cantlay in 2021. Justin Thomas (28-1) was the man Morikawa defeated in that Workday playoff in 2020.

Jason Day (30-1) lives in Columbus and would love to win a “home game” this week, especially after getting back in the winner's circle for the first time in five years, three weeks ago at the AT&T Byron Nelson. Also priced at 30-1 is Tyrrell Hatton.

Next on the board are several players who have been battling various injuries and illnesses, including Cameron Young (35-1), 2014 Memorial champion Hideki Matsuyama (40-1) and Jordan Spieth (40-1).

Sungjae Im (35-1) won three weeks ago in his homeland of South Korea but has missed two consecutive cuts. Matt Fitzpatrick (40-1) was third here in 2020.

Billy Horschel (125-1) is the defending champion of the Memorial Tournament but has made only six of 12 cuts this year with just one top-10 finish.

The Event 

The Memorial Tournament was founded in 1976 by Jack Nicklaus at his “home course,” Muirfield Village Golf Club. There is no title sponsor for the event but Workday, a cloud computing and enterprise software company, took over as the presenting sponsor last year and Nationwide Children's Hospital, based in Columbus, is the primary charitable beneficiary of the tournament. Nicklaus first spoke of wanting to host his own tournament at the 1966 Masters and made it a reality 10 years later. Jack has always modeled this event after the Masters and golf viewers with a keen eye will notice various similarities between Muirfield Village and Augusta National. Like the Masters, tradition is a major focal point at the Memorial. The event honors historical and accomplished figures in the game of golf every year and this year's honoree is Ben Crenshaw, the 1984 and 1995 Masters champion and victorious Team USA captain at the 1999 Ryder Cup. Instead of the two-year PGA Tour exemption that an event winner usually receives, the Memorial champion earns a three-year exemption. The Memorial is only one of five events on the PGA Tour to have "invitational" status, which means a smaller field than usual (ordinarily 120 players). 

The field consists of 120 players invited using the following criteria: 

  • Memorial winners in the last five years or before 1997
  • The Players Championship and major championship winners in the last five years
  • The Tour Championship, World Golf Championships and Arnold Palmer Invitational winners in the past three years
  • Tournament winners in the past year
  • Playing member of last-named U.S. Ryder Cup team, European Ryder Cup team, U.S. Presidents Cup team and International Presidents Cup team (non-PGA Tour members qualifying in this category count against unrestricted sponsor exemptions)
  • Prior year U.S. Amateur winner
  • Prior year British Amateur winner
  • Up to four players selected by the tournament from among the money leaders from the other five Federation tours
  • 14 sponsor exemptions — 2 from among graduates of the Tour Finals, 6 members not otherwise exempt and 6 unrestricted
  • Top 50 Official World Golf Ranking as of the Friday before the tournament
  • Top 70 from prior year's FedEx Cup points list
  • PGA Tour members whose non-member FedEx Cup points the previous season (excluding WGCs) would have placed them in the top 70
  • Top 70 from current year's FedEx Cup points list as of the Friday before the tournament
  • Prior year college player of the year (Jack Nicklaus Award)

Remaining positions filled alternating from current year's and prior year's FedEx Cup point lists

The Memorial Tournament is also one of the PGA Tour's new "designated events" and the tournament purse has been elevated to $20M.

The Course

Muirfield Village Golf Club serves as host for the Memorial Tournament and has done so every year since 1976. The course is in Dublin, Ohio, about 20 miles north of Columbus, where Jack Nicklaus played his collegiate golf at Ohio State. Nicklaus designed Muirfield Village, named after Muirfield, Scotland, where he completed his first Grand Slam in 1966 after winning the British Open, in 1974. The track plays as a par-72 and will measure out at 7,571 yards.

After the 2020 event, Nicklaus oversaw an extensive course renovation that included new tees on five holes, a complete reconstruction of the green complexes with Bentgrass surfaces and recontoured bunkers. The 15th hole was also completely rebuilt. This renovation also lengthened the course by close to 100 yards.

The course is still a tree-lined, parklands design and has played as the fifth-most difficult on the PGA Tour since the 2020 renovation at an average round score of 73.02 (+1.02 over par).

The Bentgrass fairways are generous (33 feet average fairway width), but trouble lurks with missing fairways as the mix of Kentucky Bluegrass, Ryegrass and Fescue rough will be around four inches this week. Muirfield Village tends to favor power fade shots off the tee and players with high ball flights.

The sloping Bentgrass greens will be quick and will run about 13 on the stimpmeter. The firm greens are an average of 5,000 square feet (sixth-smallest on the PGA Tour). The layout consists of 68 bunkers (that have all been modified) and 12 water danger holes.

Muirfield Village is a classical, second-shot golf course.

While Memorial is a unique track, there are several Nicklaus designs on the PGA Tour that could provide some correlations:

Annandale Golf Club (Sanderson Farms Championship through 2013)

Glen Abbey (2008, 2009, 2012, 2015-2018 RBC Canadian Open)

Montreux GCC (Barracuda Championship)

Old Greenwood (2020 Barracuda Championship)

PGA National (Honda Classic)

PGA West, Tournament Course (The American Express)

PGA West – Nicklaus Private (Humana Challenge through 2015)

Sherwood Country Club – Thousand Oaks (World Challenge through 2013 and 2020 ZoZo Championship)

Valhalla Golf Club (2014 PGA Championship)

Aside for the Nicklaus design links, other courses that are correlated to Muirfield Village include Augusta National, Innisbrook, TPC Potomac, Torrey Pines and Bay Hill. PGA National and Glen Abbey have the best correlations of the Nicklaus designs.

Nicklaus really wants to test players on approach and on the greens. Here is what he said upon beginning the renovations in 2020:

“My belief is that tournament golf should be a test to find out who is the best golfer that week. Far too many tournaments have eliminated the rough and firmness of greens, and that is just not my idea of what the game of golf should be. So I am going to stick with my old-fashioned beliefs about how the game of golf should be played and the way golf courses should be set up. The whole gamut of all shots is what the game of golf is all about. The game should challenge every facet of every club in the bag.”

Here is the official Memorial Tournament scorecard:


Recent History

2022: Billy Horschel (-13/275); 60-1

2021: Patrick Cantlay (-13/275); 22-1*

​2020: Jon Rahm (-9/279); 22-1

2020: (Workday Charity Open) Collin Morikawa (-19/269); 30-1**

2019: Patrick Cantlay (-19/269); 18-1

2018: Bryson DeChambeau (-15/273); 50-1***

2017: Jason Dufner (-13/275); 66-1

2016: William McGirt (-15/273); 200-1****

2015: David Lingmerth (-15/273); 250-1*****

2014: Hideki Matsuyama (-13/275);  66-1******

2013: Matt Kuchar (-12/276); 22-1

2012: Tiger Woods (-9/279); 9-1

2011: Steve Stricker (-16/272); 30-1

2010: Justin Rose (-18/270); 80-1

Playoff win over Collin Morikawa - *

Playoff win over Justin Thomas - **

Playoff win over Byeong-Hun An and Kyle Stanley - ***

Playoff win over Jon Curran - ****

Playoff win over Justin Rose - *****

Playoff win over Kevin Na - ******

Tournament Trends

  • Both winners here in the last two years have led the field for Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green.
  • 7 of the last 13 Memorial winners were behind after 54 holes. (2020: Rahm four-shot lead, 2018: DeChambeau one-shot lead, 2013: Kuchar two-shot lead, 2011: Stricker three-shot lead).
  • 9 of the last 13 Memorial winners were 11th or better after R1. (2022: Horschel 21st, 2018: DeChambeau 16th, 2016: McGirt 44th; 2014: Matsuyama 21st). 
  • 4 of the last 6 Memorial winners had at least one top-5 finish within four lead-up starts to the event.

Statistical Analysis

Another way to look at incoming or recent form is to evaluate Strokes Gained: Tee To Green.

Strokes Gained Tee To Green (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Scottie Scheffler 96.6
  2. Rory McIlroy 60.7
  3. Jon Rahm 60.2
  4. Collin Morikawa 58.7
  5. Tyrrell Hatton 55.8
  6. Patrick Cantlay 54.9
  7. Xander Schauffele 54.5
  8. Viktor Hovland 51
  9. Gary Woodland 48.1
  10. Justin Thomas 47.5
  11. Rickie Fowler 46
  12. Corey Conners 44.6
  13. Byeong Hun An 44.5
  14. Wyndham Clark 44.2
  15. Jason Day 44.1
  16. Sungjae Im 43
  17. Shane Lowry 40.3
  18. Hideki Matsuyama 40
  19. Chris Kirk 39

Since the 2020 renovation, the two winners here (Cantlay, 2021; Horschel, 2022) ranked fifth and 12th for Strokes Gained: Approach during their winning weeks. Both also led the field for Greens In Regulation.

Strokes Gained Approach (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Scottie Scheffler 41.7
  2. Collin Morikawa 41.5
  3. Wyndham Clark 38.2
  4. Jon Rahm 35.7
  5. Xander Schauffele 35
  6. Rickie Fowler 32.5
  7. Sepp Straka 27.3
  8. Viktor Hovland 27.1
  9. Gary Woodland 26.8
  10. Tom Hoge 26.2
  11. Rory McIlroy 25.9
  12. Corey Conners 23.4
  13. Shane Lowry 23
  14. Jordan Spieth 22.5
  15. Tyrrell Hatton 21.5
  16. Eric Cole 21.4
  17. Justin Thomas 20.4
  18. Hideki Matsuyama 20.1

Greens In Regulation Gained (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Scottie Scheffler 77.6
  2. Jon Rahm 53.8
  3. Xander Schauffele 48.4
  4. Joseph Bramlett 44.1
  5. Corey Conners 43.1
  6. Shane Lowry 42.1
  7. Collin Morikawa 41.7
  8. Gary Woodland 41
  9. Stephan Jaeger 40.8
  10. Patrick Cantlay 39.9
  11. Will Gordon 38
  12. Luke List 34.5
  13. Tyrrell Hatton 33
  14. Wyndham Clark 32.4
  15. Jordan Spieth 31.2
  16. Mark Hubbard 29.4
  17. Hayden Buckley 28.6
  18. Jason Day 27
  19. Sepp Straka 25.9
  20. Viktor Hovland 25.1
  21. Tom Kim 25

The average approach shot distance here is 191 yards compared with the PGA Tour average of 172 yards. Nearly half of the approach shots are 175 yards or longer at Muirfield Village.

Proximity Gained 175-200 Yards (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Chez Reavie 19.8
  2. Taylor Pendrith 18.8
  3. Will Gordon 18.1
  4. Gary Woodland 16.4
  5. Jon Rahm 15.5
  6. Hideki Matsuyama 15
  7. Sam Stevens 14.7
  8. Lucas Glover 13.6
  9. Trey Mullinax 12.2
  10. Viktor Hovland 12.2
  11. Rory McIlroy 12
  12. Christiaan Bezuidenhout 11.7
  13. Scottie Scheffler 11.2
  14. Cameron Young 11.1
  15. Emiliano Grillo 11
  16. Austin Eckroat 11
  17. Sam Ryder 10.9
  18. Wyndham Clark 10.9
  19. Rickie Fowler 10.1
  20. Keegan Bradley 10
  21. Justin Thomas 10

Proximity Gained 200+ Yards (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Jon Rahm 30.1
  2. Tom Hoge 25.8
  3. Gary Woodland 22.1
  4. Viktor Hovland 19.9
  5. Tom Kim 19.9
  6. Adam Scott 18.3
  7. Patrick Cantlay 17.6
  8. Rory McIlroy 17
  9. Shane Lowry 16
  10. Keegan Bradley 14.1
  11. Adam Svensson 13.6
  12. Scottie Scheffler 12.7
  13. Kurt Kitayama 12.5
  14. Xander Schauffele 12.5
  15. Eric Cole 12.5
  16. Justin Suh 12.1
  17. Chez Reavie 11.6
  18. Brian Harman 11.6
  19. Luke List 11.3
  20. Davis Thompson 11
  21. Danny Willett 11

Note: Proximity Gained measured in Average Feet Gained Per Shot.

The two winners here since the 2020 renovation ranked seventh (Horschel, 2022) and third (Cantlay, 2021), respectively, for Strokes Gained: Off The Tee.

Strokes Gained Off The Tee (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Scottie Scheffler 39
  2. Patrick Cantlay 36.5
  3. Viktor Hovland 30.7
  4. Luke List 29.9
  5. Gary Woodland 29.5
  6. Hayden Buckley 26.6
  7. Tyrrell Hatton 25.3
  8. Keith Mitchell 24.6
  9. Cameron Young 23.3
  10. Cam Davis 23.3
  11. Rory McIlroy 22.8
  12. Sungjae Im 22
  13. Corey Conners 21.7
  14. Brian Harman 19.9
  15. Jon Rahm 19.5
  16. Sam Stevens 19.3
  17. Davis Thompson 18.4
  18. Si Woo Kim 17.4
  19. Patrick Rodgers 17

Length is an advantage here without question, but positioning off the tee is just as important, if not more so.

Good Drives Gained — Long Rough (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Emiliano Grillo 37.1
  2. Collin Morikawa 36.8
  3. Aaron Rai 36.7
  4. Hayden Buckley 35.1
  5. Sungjae Im 32.8
  6. Matthew NeSmith 30.7
  7. Xander Schauffele 30.5
  8. Stewart Cink 29.5
  9. Chez Reavie 28.3
  10. Taylor Moore 27.9
  11. Justin Thomas 27.1
  12. Corey Conners 27
  13. Keegan Bradley 26.5
  14. Russell Henley 24.3
  15. Scottie Scheffler 23.8
  16. Tom Hoge 23.3
  17. Shane Lowry 22.9
  18. Luke List 22.4
  19. Brendon Todd 20.5
  20. Si Woo Kim 20.4

The par-5s are the four easiest holes on the course, all checking in with an eagle rate north of 1% and a birdie rate over 30%. However, players will have to take advantage. Three of the four par-5s measure between 550-600 Yards.

Strokes Gained par-5s 550-600 Yards (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Jordan Spieth 19.6
  2. Patrick Cantlay 18.2
  3. Scottie Scheffler 14.9
  4. Sam Burns 14.2
  5. Rory McIlroy 13.7
  6. Xander Schauffele 13.7
  7. Collin Morikawa 12.1
  8. Matt Kuchar 11
  9. Keegan Bradley 10.8
  10. Sungjae Im 10.4
  11. Jon Rahm 10.4
  12. KH Lee 9.5
  13. Sahith Theegala 8.7
  14. Rickie Fowler 8.6
  15. Emiliano Grillo 8.3
  16. Mackenzie Hughes 7.5
  17. Cameron Young 7.3
  18. Justin Thomas 7.2

Muirfield Village ranked as the second-toughest course to gain strokes Around The Green on the PGA Tour last year. Only Augusta National was more difficult.

Strokes Gained Around The Green (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Matt Kuchar 21.5
  2. Brendon Todd 20.9
  3. Chris Kirk 20.3
  4. Ben Griffin 20.3
  5. Byeong Hun An 16.6
  6. Scottie Scheffler 16
  7. Justin Thomas 15.8
  8. Sungjae Im 15.6
  9. Mackenzie Hughes 15.3
  10. Jason Day 14.8
  11. Hideki Matsuyama 14.7
  12. Alex Noren 13.1
  13. Robby Shelton 12.6
  14. Rory McIlroy 12.1
  15. Kevin Streelman 12
  16. Eric Cole 11.7
  17. Danny Willett 11.6
  18. Beau Hossler 11.4
  19. Matt Wallace 11.4
  20. Sahith Theegala 11

The last two winners here ranked first (Horschel, 2022) and sixth (Cantlay, 2021) for Scrambling during their winning weeks.

Scrambling Gained (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Matt Kuchar 20.3
  2. Jason Day 19.5
  3. Hideki Matsuyama 16.4
  4. Byeong Hun An 16.2
  5. Sam Ryder 14.3
  6. Danny Willett 14
  7. Chad Ramey 13.1
  8. Brian Harman 12.7
  9. Kevin Streelman 12.7
  10. Adam Schenk 11.4
  11. Sam Burns 11.3
  12. Taylor Montgomery 10.8
  13. Brendon Todd 10.8
  14. Alex Noren 10.7
  15. Luke Donald 10.3
  16. Rickie Fowler 10.1
  17. Patrick Rodgers 10.1
  18. Adam Hadwin 10.1

Bogey Avoidance percentage is 42% more difficult than the PGA Tour average over the last five years.

Bogeys Avoided (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Jason Day 44.6
  2. Scottie Scheffler 44.5
  3. Wyndham Clark 32.2
  4. Hideki Matsuyama 30.4
  5. Xander Schauffele 29
  6. Jon Rahm 25.7
  7. Eric Cole 25.1
  8. Matt Kuchar 24.2
  9. Patrick Cantlay 23.5
  10. Matt Fitzpatrick 23.3
  11. Brian Harman 22.4
  12. Alex Smalley 20.9
  13. Jordan Spieth 20.4
  14. Viktor Hovland 19.8
  15. Rickie Fowler 19.1
  16. Tyrrell Hatton 19
  17. Thomas Detry 18.6
  18. Adam Hadwin 18.4
  19. Tom Kim 18.1

The 2020 renovations included a complete reconstruction of the Bentgrass green complexes. Putting has actually become easier because these greens are newer and, therefore, are smoother. However, they are still very fast and have numerous undulations. This tends to level out the field because all players have to putt defensively. Nevertheless, we can examine the stronger putters on Bentgrass.

Strokes Gained Putting Bentgrass Greens (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Patrick Cantlay 43.4
  2. Justin Lower 30.4
  3. Beau Hossler 29.1
  4. Christiaan Bezuidenhout 28.8
  5. Brendon Todd 26.3
  6. Alex Noren 24.9
  7. Adam Svensson 23
  8. Rory McIlroy 22.4
  9. Denny McCarthy 22
  10. Lucas Herbert 21.6
  11. Keegan Bradley 21.4
  12. Sam Burns 21.1
  13. Andrew Putnam 19.5
  14. Patrick Rodgers 19.5
  15. Taylor Pendrith 18.3
  16. Jon Rahm 17.3
  17. Harris English 17
  18. Tyrrell Hatton 16.4
  19. Jason Day 16.3


Rory McIlroy (15-1, Circa Sports)

While he has not played great in this event recently, he has four top-10s and three other top-20s.

He was sharper with the irons in the PGA at Oak Hill two weeks ago, ranking fourth in the field for Strokes Gained Approach, which was his best since August 2021 at the FedEx St. Jude.

As a student of the game with a keen eye for history, other than the elusive fourth jewel of the Grand Slam (Masters), there is no other tournament McIlroy wants to win more than Jack Nicklaus' event.

Xander Schauffele (16-1, Circa Sports)

Despite just an 11th here in 2021, Schauffele led the field at Memorial that year for Greens in Regulation, Total Driving, Driving Accuracy and Ball Striking.

The incoming form is good with five consecutive top-10 finishes before an 18th two weeks ago at the PGA that continued a streak of six straight top-20s.

The last four winners at Muirfield Village have also won at East Lake, including Horschel, Cantlay (twice), and Rahm was the low scorer at the 2021 Tour Championship there. So that correlation fits nicely for both Schauffele and McIlroy, who have both won at East Lake in recent years.

Viktor Hovland (21-1, Circa Sports)

Hovland has shown up in the year's biggest events thus far with a third at The Players, a seventh at the Masters and a T-2 two weeks ago at the PGA Championship.

The Norwegian does not have a stellar record in the Memorial, but he did finish third on this golf course at the one-off Workday Charity Open in 2020.

He ranks third in this field for Strokes Gained Off The Tee, fourth for Proximity Gained 200+ Yards, eighth for Strokes Gained Approach and 10th for Proximity Gained 175-200 Yards.

Hideki Matsuyama (41-1, Circa Sports)

Matsuyama earned his first career PGA Tour win at Muirfield Village in 2014. He also has a fifth and sixth here.

Injuries have been a concern all season long, but he looks to be healthy now.

In his last two starts (AT&T Byron Nelson and PGA Championship), he has gained +9.2 strokes on approach and gained +10.6 strokes tee to green at the PGA.

Rickie Fowler (42-1, Circa Sports)

Fowler has two runner-up finishes here (2010, 2017).

He has finished inside the top 20 in seven of his last eight starts, including a sixth last week at Colonial, which earned him a spot in the British Open at Royal Liverpool later this summer.

Fowler seems to have good momentum, and his reunion with Butch Harmon has him swinging like he used to. A win looks like it is coming sooner than later.

Shane Lowry (55-1, Boyd Sports)

Lowry gained 5.5 strokes on approach and 3.7 strokes off the tee at Oak Hill en route to finishing 12th at the PGA two weeks ago.

He finished sixth here two years ago and has progressively improved his form at Augusta over the years.

Wentworth over in England has shown to be a solid correlation here and Lowry is the defending BMW PGA Champion on that course.

Matchups (28-21-5; 1-2 last week)

Adam Scott +110 over Keegan Bradley (BetMGM)

Kurt Kitayama -110 over Tom Hoge (South Point)

back to news

Related News

Live On Air

Streaming Now: The Greg Peterson Experience

play Watch Live radio Listen Live


The Greg Peterson Experience: Doing research during the week and timing the market for FCS football games accordingly can pay off big time. FCS games typically do not receive a betting line until the day of the game, so hitting openers on game lead to tremendous closing line value and large edges.  View more tips.

Brad Powers: Notre Dame at Louisville - UNDER (54). View more picks.