PGA Tour best bets: The Memorial Tournament

May 31, 2022 07:37 PM
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Sam Burns shot a 65 on Sunday and finished nearly two hours before the final group, which included World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, before defeating Scheffler in a playoff to win the Charles Schwab Challenge at a price of 30-1. Trailing by seven strokes to begin the final round, Burns was 200-1 at Circa Sports entering Sunday. 

Neither Scheffler nor Burns, now the No. 9 player in the world, are part of this week's field at The Memorial Tournament. However, this tournament, hosted by Jack Nicklaus, always draws a stellar field and this year is no exception. Seven of the OWGR Top 10 and 13 of the top 18 will participate at Muirfield Village just outside of Columbus, Ohio. 

Last year, Jon Rahm (10-1) looked well on his way to winning back-to-back Memorial Tournaments. He held a six-stroke lead at the conclusion of 54 holes. Upon stepping off the 18th green after finishing Saturday's third round, Rahm was informed that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and was forced to withdraw. Patrick Cantlay (16-1), the 2019 winner, became a two-time Memorial champion, not Rahm, after he prevailed in a playoff over Collin Morikawa (22-1). Morikawa won at Muirfield Village in a one-off event in 2020 (Workday Charity Open). 

Rory McIlroy (12-1) has contended in both majors this year. Jordan Spieth (20-1) finished seventh last week at Colonial and led the field, along with Scheffler, for Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee. Xander Schauffele (20-1) and Cameron Smith (22-1) return after taking last week off. Viktor Hovland (22-1) finished third on this course at the 2020 one-off event. Hideki Matsuyama (28-1) won The Memorial in 2014. 

The Event  

The Memorial Tournament was founded by Nicklaus in 1976 at his home course, Muirfield Village Golf Club. Nicklaus first spoke of wanting to host his own tournament at the 1966 Masters Tournament and eventually made it a reality 10 years later. Nicklaus modeled this event after The Masters, and viewers with a keen eye will notice various similarities between Muirfield Village and Augusta National. As it is at The Masters, tradition is a focal point at The Memorial. The event honors accomplished figures in the game every year. This year's honoree is Ben Crenshaw, the 1984 and 1995 Masters champion and the victorious captain at the 1999 Ryder Cup.

The Memorial champion earns a three-year exemption on the PGA Tour (most events come with a two-year exemption). The tournament is one of only five events with “invitational” status, which means a smaller field (usually 120 players). 

The Course 

Muirfield Village Golf Club is located in Dublin, Ohio, about 20 miles north of Columbus, where Nicklaus played his college golf at Ohio State. The Nicklaus-designed course is named after Muirfield in Scotland, where he completed his first grand slam in 1966. The course measures 7,533 yards and is a Par 72. 

After the one-off event in 2020, Nicklaus oversaw an extensive renovation with new tees added on five holes, a complete reconstruction of the green complexes with Bentgrass surfaces and recontoured bunkers. The 15th hole was also rebuilt, and the course was lengthened by 100 yards.

The Bentgrass fairways are generous (average width of 35 yards), but trouble lurks on misses with a mix of Kentucky Bluegrass, Ryegrass and Fescue rough around 4 inches. Muirfield Village tends to favor left-to-right shots off the tee and high ball flights. The sloping Bentgrass greens will be quick and will run at about 13 on the stimpmeter. The firm greens are an average of 5,000 square feet (seventh smallest on the PGA Tour). The course has 68 bunkers and nine water holes. 

Muirfield Village is a classical, second-shot golf course. It played as the seventh-toughest course on tour last year with an average round score of nearly a stroke over par (72.97). 

While Memorial is unique, several Nicklaus designs could provide some correlations: 

— Annandale Golf Club (Sanderson Farms Championship through 2013) 

— Glen Abbey (2008, 2009, 2012, 2015-2018 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 (The American Express through 2015) 

— Sherwood Country Club (World Challenge through 2013 and 2020 ZoZo Championship) 

— Valhalla Golf Club (2014 PGA Championship) 

Outside of Nicklaus designs, courses that are correlated to Muirfield Village include Augusta National, Innisbrook, TPC Potomac, Torrey Pines and Bay Hill. Of the Nicklaus designs, PGA National and Glen Abbey have the strongest correlations. 

Nicklaus widens the fairways to really 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.”

Recent History/Winners

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); 16-1 

2011: Steve Stricker (-16/272); 28-1 

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******

Statistical Analysis ​

Strokes Gained: Approach (last 36 rounds)​

Five of the last six winners ranked in the Top 10 on approach during their winning weeks.

1. Shane Lowry 32.8

2. Will Zalatoris 32.5

3. Cameron Smith 31

4. Viktor Hovland 30.3

5. Jordan Spieth 28.7

6. Hideki Matsuyama 28.1

7. Collin Morikawa 27.9

8. Mito Pereira 25.3

9. Luke Donald 24.9

10. Max Homa 22.8

11. Xander Schauffele 22.8

12. Tom Hoge 22.1

13. Daniel Berger 22

14. Luke List 21.8

15. Keegan Bradley 20.8

Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee (last 36 rounds)

While Muirfield Village is considered a second-shot course, you still must gain a little bit off the tee (14 of the top 15 did so last year). 

1. Jon Rahm 48.7

2. Cameron Young 38.5

3. Bryson DeChambeau 30.9

4. Luke List 28.7

5. Rory McIlroy 28.1

6. Keith Mitchell 27.4

7. Brendan Steele 26.8

8. Corey Conners 23.8

9. Will Zalatoris 23.4

10. Sungjae Im 21.1

11. Mito Pereira 21

12. Cameron Champ 20.8

13. Keegan Bradley 20.8

14. Chris Kirk 20.2

15. Viktor Hovland 20

Strokes Gained: Par 4s 450-500 Yards (last 36 rounds)

Seven Par 4s at Muirfield Village measure between 450 and 500 yards.

1. Cameron Young 30.1

2. Shane Lowry 23

3. Gary Woodland 23

4. Seamus Power 21.3

5. Jon Rahm 20.3

6. Max Homa 19.6

7. K.H. Lee 18

8. Rory McIlroy 17.9

9. Alex Noren 16.1

10. Aaron Wise 15.7

11. Cameron Smith 15.2

12. C.T. Pan 15

13. Billy Horschel 13.8

14. Xander Schauffele 13.4

15. Viktor Hovland 13.3

Strokes Gained: Par 5s 550-600 Yards (last 36 rounds)

Three of the Par 5s measure between 550 and 600 yards.

1. Jhonattan Vegas 16.2

2. Joaquin Niemann 13.1

3. Min Woo Lee 12.5

4. Matt Fitzpatrick 12.3

5. Bryson DeChambeau 11.4

6. Rory McIlroy 11.3

7. Hudson Swafford 10.7

8. Jordan Spieth 10.6

9. Cameron Young 9.6

10. Patrick Cantlay 9.5

11. Martin Laird 9.3

12. Keith Mitchell 9

13. Cameron Smith 9

14. Jon Rahm 8.4

15. Hideki Matsuyama 8

Good Drives Gained (last 36 rounds)

Last year, every player in the Top 10 beat the field average in good drives. 

1. Martin Laird 56.4

2. Mito Pereira 42.3

3. Jon Rahm 38

4. Corey Conners 36.2

5. Xander Schauffele 36

6. Abraham Ancer 32.9

7. Russell Knox 30.3

8. Shane Lowry 29.8

9. Sungjae Im 28.4

10. Aaron Rai 28

11. Brendan Steele 27.8

12. Brian Harman 27

13. Viktor Hovland 23.8

14. Matt Fitzpatrick 23.7

15. Collin Morikawa 23.5

Scrambling Gained (last 36 rounds)

Muirfield Village is a difficult course for scrambling. The greens are on the smaller side and approaches can roll off of these firm, fast surfaces. 

1. Matt Fitzpatrick 23.8

2. Matt Kuchar 20.7

3. Denny McCarthy 18.5

4. Cameron Young 17.8

5. Shane Lowry 16.9

6. J.T. Poston 16.6

7. Seamus Power 15.1

8. Patrick Reed 15

9. Harris English 13.2

10. Lucas Herbert 12.9

11. Daniel Berger 12.2

12. Peter Malnati 12

13. Rory McIlroy 11.9

14. Jordan Spieth 11.4

15. Brian Harman 10.9​

Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green (last 36 rounds)

Gaining strokes around the green is highly correlated to success at Muirfield Village.

1. Matt Kuchar 25.8

2. Danny Willett 24.6

3. Chris Kirk 20.6

4. Matt Jones 18

5. Joaquin Niemann 17.5

6. Pat Perez 17.1

7. William McGirt 16.8

8. Charles Howell III 16.1

9. Daniel Berger 15.1

10. Harris English 14.4

11. Sungjae Im 12.8

12. Rickie Fowler 12.6

13. Jordan Spieth 12.5

14. Luke Donald 11.9

15. Francesco Molinari 11.9​

Selections​

Xander Schauffele (21-1 Boyd Sports)

Schauffele has finished 14th or better in his last four appearances at Muirfield Village. After his victory partnering with Patrick Cantlay in New Orleans, Schauffele was fifth at the Byron Nelson and 13th at the PGA, so his form is coming around. 

Viktor Hovland (25-1 BetMGM)

Hovland was third here at the 2020 one-off event. A week later in The Memorial, he was eighth after 36 holes before falling away when the course became U.S. Open tough. He finished a disappointing 21st last week at Colonial but ranked third in the field for Total Driving, fourth for Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and ninth for Strokes Gained: Putting. The irons let him down a little last week, but they still remain the strength of his game (he ranks fourth in this field for Strokes Gained: Approach over the last 36 rounds). 

Sungjae Im (37-1 Boyd Sports)

After an enforced six-week absence following a positive COVID-19 test in Korea, Im returned last week at Colonial and finished 15th. He ranked second in the field last week for Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and fifth for Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green. His record here is not great, but he has two quality finishes (second and eighth) at Augusta, a correlated course. 

Cameron Young (40-1 DraftKings)

Young has done everything in his rookie season except for earning his first win. His first season on tour has resulted in three runners-up and two third-place finishes. From tee to green, he has been arguably the best player on tour over the last couple of months. He was second in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green at the PGA, first at the Wells Fargo and second at the Heritage.

Patrick Reed (65-1 DraftKings)

Reed has had a tough year and a half since his victory at the Farmers in 2021. However, he has gained 5.0 and 6.5 strokes from tee to green in his last two starts. He has three Top 10s in six career starts here. Even though he had difficulty finding fairways until his last few starts (he has now dumped his PXG driver), the short game has never left, and that will be paramount this week. 

Brendan Steele (150-1 DraftKings)

After struggling at the start of 2022, Steele has made five straight cuts, capped off by a Top 10 at the PGA Championship. He is always solid off the tee (seventh for Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee over his last 36 rounds), but he has also gained with his irons in five of his last six starts. 

Porsche European Open

It looked like this column was going to grab another outright winner on the DP World Tour last week as Ryan Fox held a three-stroke lead on the Par 5 18th and just needed to avert disaster to win the Dutch Open. Instead, he drove his ball into the water, missed the green on approach and then duffed his fourth shot into a greenside bunker to card a double-bogey 7. Fox eventually lost to Victor Perez in a dramatic playoff. 

This week, the tour moves to Germany for the Porsche European Open. Tommy Fleetwood (12-1) headlines the field in his first start in Europe in 2022. Adrian Meronk (20-1) finished third last week, his third show position in his last five starts. Jordan Smith (25-1) won this event in 2017. Robert MacIntyre (25-1) finished runner-up here in 2019. Rasmus Hojgaard (28-1) earned a Top 10 last week. Pablo Larrazabal (33-1) already has two victories this season and was seventh here in 2019. Perez (33-1) earned his first win in two and half years Sunday and finds himself back in the OWGR Top 100. Matt Wallace (35-1) was in the final pairing Sunday but finished fifth. Adri Arnaus (35-1) cashed a winner for this column five weeks ago. Defending champion Marcus Armitage (40-1) won for this column at 80-1 last year, but his price has been cut in half this time. 

The Green Eagle Golf Courses (more specifically the North Course) has hosted this event since 2017. The Par 72 measures a lengthy 7,603 yards, but with four teeing areas on each hole, that length can be adjusted. The fairways are generous and the greens are large and undulating. The course’s primary defenses are the large bunkers and water on 17 holes. Last year, only three holes played under par. The Par 5 16th can play a whopping 705 yards, while the 18th is “only” 603 yards.

Selections​

Adrian Meronk (20-1 Westgate SuperBook)

Meronk, still seeking his first tour win, had another near miss last week for his third third–place finish in his last five events. That finish clinched his spot for The Open Championship at St. Andrews, so that’s one less thing for him to worry about. He ranks third on tour for Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and sixth for Putts Per Green In Regulation. 

Jordan Smith (25-1 Westgate SuperBook)

Smith won this event in 2017, the first time it was held at Green Eagle. He ranks first on tour for Greens In Regulation and second for Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee. 

Rasmus Hojgaard (25-1 Westgate SuperBook)

Hojgaard has already amassed three victories in his short career and comes into this event in excellent form. He has five Top 20s in 10 starts this season, including a 10th-place finish at the Dutch Open, and hasn’t missed a cut. His rankings in his last two starts are fantastic (13th and eighth for Total Driving; first and sixth for GIR).

Matt Wallace (45-1 DraftKings)

Wallace has nine missed cuts in 10 starts on the PGA Tour, but in his return to Europe last week at the Dutch Open, he finished fifth and was in the final pairing on Sunday for the first time in more than a year. He ranked eighth for Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and seventh for Strokes Gained: Approach last week. Wallace has won in Germany before (2018 BMW International Open).

Marcel Schneider (66-1 BetMGM)

Schneider, who is from Germany, won twice last year on the Challenge Tour and has been taking advantage of some starts on the DP World Tour over the last several weeks, with finishes of 13th, seventh and then fourth last week at the Dutch Open. In his last two starts, he ranked seventh and sixth for SG: Approach and fifth and 11th for SG: Tee-to-Green. He finished seventh here last year. 

Kristoffer Broberg (125-1 BetMGM)

Broberg was 14th last week after a two-month layoff, ranking seventh for SG: Tee-to-Green, third for SG: Off-the-Tee, second for Driving Accuracy and first for GIR.

Nick Bachem (400-1 BetMGM)

This is a step up from the Challenge Tour for the 22-year-old German, but he has been going well on the lower tour of late. He missed the cut here last year as an amateur, but finishes of 20th, third, 11th and then fifth last week indicate he could land on the leaderboard at a big price. 

U.S. Women's Open

​The second of five majors in the women’s game is being played this week at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club in Southern Pines, North Carolina. 

Two-time major champion and World No. 1 Jin Young Ko (15-2), a winner earlier this season in Singapore, is the favorite and was the 2020 U.S. Open runner-up. Minjee Lee (12-1), the World No. 4, is one of the game's hottest players, having won three weeks ago and winning her first major last summer at the Evian Championship. World No. 3 Lydia Ko (12-1) won the LPGA Tour's second event of the season. Lexi Thompson (14-1) has plenty of scar tissue in the U.S. Open — she had a five-stroke lead in the final round heading into the back nine last year but fell apart. 

The biggest story of the week is the return of World No. 2 and Olympic champion Nelly Korda. The 23-year-old Korda (18-1) needed surgery after suffering a blood clot in her left arm in early March. She has not played since the first weekend of February. 

Like Thompson, Nasa Hataoka (22-1), who won six weeks ago, is also looking for redemption, having lost in the U.S. Open playoff last year to Yuka Saso (33-1). Hannah Green (25-1) comes in with four finishes of eighth or better in her last eight events. Atthaya Thitikul (30-1), the 19-year-old and World No. 5, won her first tour event 10 weeks ago. Jennifer Kupcho (50-1) won the first major of the season after gaining her first win in April. 

Michelle Wie West (500-1), the 2014 U.S. Women's Open champion, is stepping away from the game after this week's event. Meanwhile, 51-year-old and three-time U.S. Women's Open champion Annika Sorenstam (400-1) won the U.S. Senior Women's Open last summer to earn a spot in the field and will make her first appearance at the U.S. Women's Open in 14 years.

The Course

Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club is hosting its fourth U.S. Women's Open. The course was designed by Donald Ross in 1928 and restored by Kyle Franz in 2018. A Par 71 of 6,638 yards, the course is a traditional Donald Ross parklands layout. The fairways are Bermudagrass and of average width, but they’re tilted, which makes for tight landing areas. The rough is about 2 inches with some waste areas. The course has 68 bunkers with water in play on three holes. The greens (6,200 square feet on average) are Ross’ traditional, crowned complexes. 

All three U.S. Women's Opens at Pine Needles were won by big-name players (Annika Sorenstam, 1996; Karrie Webb, 2001; Cristie Kerr, 2007). 

Recent History/Winners  

2021: Yuka Saso (-4/280); Olympic Club

2020: A-lim Kim (-3/281); Champions Golf Club 

2019: Jeong-Eun Lee6 (-6/278); Country Club of Charleston  

2018: Ariya Jutanugarn (-11/277); Shoal Creek  

2017: Sung-Hyun Park (-11/277); Trump National  

2016: Brittany Lang (-6/282); CordeValle  

2015: In-Gee Chun (-8/280); Lancaster  

2014: Michelle Wie (-2/278); Pinehurst No. 2  

2013: Inbee Park (-8/280); Sebonack  

2012: Na-Yeon Choi (-7/281); Blackwolf Run  

2011: So-Yeon Ryu (-3/281); Broadmoor  

2010: Paula Creamer (-3/281); Oakmont  

Trends and Angles  

— South Korean players have won nine of the last 13 U.S. Women's Opens (and currently comprise 10 of the Top 20 spots in the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings)

— Only two winners from a country other than South Korea or the United States have won the U.S. Open since 2002 (Ariya Jutanugarn, 2018, Thailand; Annika Sorenstam, 2006, Sweden)  

Selections​

Lexi Thompson (14-1)

Thompson is looking for redemption after her collapse in last year's U.S. Women's Open. She’s in good form with two runners-up and a fourth this season. Thompson ranks first on tour for Greens In Regulation, second for Scoring Average and eighth for Driving Distance. 

Atthaya Thitikul (30-1)

The 19-year-old from Thailand has gotten off to a stellar start in her young career, picking up her first win at the JTBC Classic and rounding that off with four Top 10s in 11 starts. She leads the tour in birdies with 172 and ranks third in eagles with six. She’s also seventh for Scoring Average at 69.67.

Hyo Joo Kim (33-1)

She won her first major championship in her first major start in the 2014 Evian Championship as a 19-year-old and has had a couple of looks since, including the 2018 U.S. Women's Open where she lost in a playoff. Kim won seven weeks ago at the Lotte Championship. She ranks fourth on tour in Putting Average. 

Madelene Sagstrom (40-1)

Sagstrom has four consecutive Top 10s entering this week. She had her best major finish last summer with a runner-up at the Women's British Open. 

Patty Tavatanakit (45-1)

Another player from Thailand, Tavatanakit won her first tour event in a major championship (ANA Inspiration last year). She is one of the better putters on tour,  ranking second for Putts Per GIR and fifth for Putting Average. The short game will be vital on these undulating Ross greens. 

Mao Saigo (50-1)

A 20-year-old from Japan, Saigo has five victories and two runners-up on the LPGA of Japan Tour over the course of the last three months.

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