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Tiger returns to tour as part of Memorial field

By Wes Reynolds  (Point Spread Weekly) 

July 14, 2020 11:16 PM
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Tiger Woods
© Imagn
The PGA Tour returns for the second of back-to-back weeks at Muirfield Village for the Memorial Tournament hosted by Jack Nicklaus. Last week Collin Morikawa (30/1) won the Workday Charity Open over Justin Thomas (12/1) on the third playoff hole. Morikawa, 23, set the PGA Tour record since strokes-gained stats began in 2004 for Strokes Gained: Approach in a final round at + 5.9 strokes. He has two PGA Tour wins against one missed cut in his first 25 events as a pro. Tournament favorite Thomas looked like he would earn his 13th tour victory as he had a three-shot lead with three holes to play. But he bogeyed two of his last three holes to end up in a playoff. Thomas made a 50-foot birdie, only for Morikawa to make a 25-footer in response under massive pressure. Thomas missed a 9-footer for birdie on the second playoff hole and then found the deep stuff off the tee on the next hole as Morikawa won with a par. Thomas is 8-for-13 converting 54-hole leads/co-leads into wins. 
 
Both players are back for another week in Columbus, Ohio. Thomas slots in as the second choice at 12/1 behind favorite Bryson DeChambeau (10/1), who won this event two years ago. Morikawa is priced just slightly shorter than last week at 25/1. World No. 1 Rory McIlroy returns from two weeks off at 14/1 and has finished outside the top 10 in three straight starts. Patrick Cantlay (16/1) is the defending Memorial champion. Dustin Johnson (18/1) is back from two weeks off after winning the Travelers Championship. World No. 2 Jon Rahm has been a bit slow since the restart but did shoot a 64 in Sunday's final round. 
 
A host of players are available for wagering in the 25/1 range, including Tiger Woods, who makes his post-pause debut at a place where he has won five times — 1999, 2000, ’01, ’09 and ’12. Also priced at 25/1 are Morikawa, Webb Simpson, Brooks Koepka, Xander Schauffele, Viktor Hovland and 2014 Memorial winner Hideki Matsuyama. All in all, nine of the top 10, 17 of the top 20 and 57 of the top 64 in the Official World Golf Ranking are at “Jack’s Place” this week.
 
The Event
 
The Memorial Tournament was founded in 1976 by Nicklaus at his home course, Muirfield Village Golf Club. The event has no title sponsor, but Nationwide Insurance, which is headquartered in Columbus, is the presenting sponsor and Nationwide Children’s Hospital is the primary charitable beneficiary. The Memorial is an annual highlight on the PGA Tour schedule and makes some history as this year’s tournament marks the first time since 1957 that the tour will have two consecutive events on the same course. Nicklaus first spoke of wanting to host his own tournament at the 1966 Masters and made it a reality 10 years later. He has always modeled this event after the Masters, and viewers with a keen eye will notice similarities between Muirfield Village and Augusta National. Like the Masters, tradition is a major focal point at the Memorial. The event honors historic and accomplished figures in golf, and this year’s honorees include Nick Price, the 1992 and ’94 PGA champion and 1994 champion golfer of the year. Honored posthumously will be 1961 U.S. Open champion Gene Littler and 1912 champion golfer of the year and 1920 U.S. Open champion Ted Ray, who also was the British team captain for the inaugural Ryder Cup in 1927. The Memorial is one of only five events on the PGA Tour to have invitational status, which means a smaller field than usual. In lieu of the two-year tour exemption an event winner usually receives, the Memorial champion earns a three-year exemption. 
 
The Course
 
Muirfield Village Golf Club has been the host for the Memorial since 1976. The course is in Dublin, Ohio, about 20 miles north of Columbus. Nicklaus designed Muirfield Village in 1974. The track plays as a par-72 and will measure at 7,392 yards, about 64 yards shorter than the layout used last week. The mix of Kentucky Bluegrass, Ryegrass and Fescue rough will be about 4 inches this week, and the Bentgrass/Poa Annua greens will play the usual 13 feet on the Stimpmeter. The Memorial and the Masters usually feature the fastest greens the players will see all year. The layout contains 73 bunkers and 13 water hazards in play over 11 holes. Muirfield Village is a classic second-shot course. At 35 yards wide on average, the fairways are relatively easy to find, but it’s not a track where players can just grip it and rip it. Higher and thicker rough plus faster greens should mean that scoring should be at least slightly more difficult than last week. Scattered thunderstorms are expected, with temperatures in the low 90s. Tee times were moved up last Sunday morning due to afternoon thunderstorms, and we could see the same thing this weekend, so plan your viewing accordingly. 
 
While Memorial is a unique track, a number of Nicklaus designs on the PGA Tour could provide some correlations:
— Annandale Golf Club, (Sanderson Farms Championship through 2013)
— Glen Abbey (2008, 2009, 2012, 2015-18 RBC Canadian Open)
— Montreux GCC (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)
— Valhalla Golf Club (2014 PGA Championship)
 
Memorial Tournament Recent History
 
2020: (Workday Charity Open) Collin Morikawa (-19/269)* 30/1
2019: Patrick Cantlay (-19/269) 18/1
2018: Bryson DeChambeau (-15/273)** 55/1
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 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
 
 Memorial Tournament Trends and Angles
— The winners here the last four years have had an average field ranking of sixth for SG: Tee-To-Green and 10th for SG: Approach (Morikawa was third in both last week).
— Six of the last 10 Memorial winners were behind after 54 holes.
— Seven of the last 10 Memorial winners were 11th or better after the first round. 
 
Muirfield Village is a second-shot course, so Greens In Regulation, Strokes Gained Approach and Strokes Gained Tee-To-Green take on even greater importance. But you also have to be solid in scrambling, which measures a player’s short game and basically constitutes a chip or putt from less than 50 yards that results in requiring no more than one putt. Here are this week’s field’s PGA Tour rankings for these statistics:
 
Strokes Gained: Approach
1. Collin Morikawa (1) 1.084
2. Justin Thomas (2) 1.047
3. Marc Leishman (4) 0.996
4. Webb Simpson (5) 0.968
5. Hideki Matsuyama (6) 0.963
6. Viktor Hovland (7) 0.945
7. Patrick Cantlay (8) 0.929
8. Paul Casey (9) 0.838
9. Abraham Ancer (11) 0.795
10. Gary Woodland (12) 0.743
11. Emiliano Grillo (13) 0.741
12. Corey Conners (14) 0.716
 
Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green
1. Rory McIlroy (1) 1.883
2. Justin Thomas (2) 1.876
3. Hideki Matsuyama (3) 1.781
4. Sergio Garcia (4) 1.653
5. Bryson DeChambeau (6) 1.593
6. Patrick Cantlay (7) 1.549
7. Collin Morikawa (8) 1.494
8. Viktor Hovland (9) 1.371
9. Tony Finau (10) 1.278
10. Abraham Ancer (11) 1.226
11. Webb Simpson (12) 1.223
12. Xander Schauffele (13) 1.212
 
Greens In Regulation
1. Jim Furyk (1) 76.34%
2. Corey Conners (2) 74.38%
3. Emiliano Grillo (3) 73.09%
4. Xander Schauffele (4) 72.83%
5. Bryson DeChambeau (5) 72.62%
6. Gary Woodland (6) 72.47%
7. Harris English (7) 72.45%
8. Hideki Matsuyama (T9) 72.22%
9. Webb Simpson (T9) 72.22%
10. Patrick Cantlay (11) 72.02%
11. Paul Casey (12) 71.88%
12. Justin Thomas (15) 71.56%
 
Scrambling
1. Brendon Todd (1) 69.43%
2. Daniel Berger (2) 69.10%
3. Bryson DeChambeau (3) 68.60%
4. Rory McIlroy (4) 68.53%
5. Kevin Na (6) 67.79%
6. Abraham Ancer (8) 67.36%
7. Webb Simpson (9) 67.33%
8. Justin Thomas (11) 66.05%
9. Maverick McNealy (12) 66.04%
10. Brian Harman (14) 65.98%
11. Harris English (15) 65.97%
12. Bud Cauley (16) 65.85%
 
(Parentheses indicate overall ranking on PGA Tour in category)
 
Selections
 
Jon Rahm 22/1
The world No. 2 hasn’t exactly come out firing since the restart with a log of MC-33-37-27. However, he does carry at least a bit of momentum into this week. 
 
After a week that was going nowhere, Rahm shot -8/64 Sunday, tied for the low round of the tournament. The Spaniard usually gains more off the tee than he does on his second shots, but he gained + 4.31 strokes on approach and + 6.29 strokes tee to green. This was Rahm’s best performance tee to green since the WGC Mexico Championship in February, where he finished third. 
 
The recent form indicates that his price should be drifting higher, but keep in mind this man has won nine times worldwide in just 3 1/2 years. 
 
Viktor Hovland 25/1
This isn’t exactly a price bargain, considering he was the same price in a weaker field last week. However, Hovland has led the field in Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green in three consecutive events. He is the first player to accomplish that since strokes-gained statistics came into existence in 2004. Hovland also led the field in Strokes Gained: Off The Tee by 0.4 strokes per round over the next-closest player while rating sixth in the field for Strokes Gained: Approach. He finished third last week and has shown progressively better form each of the last five weeks (23-21-11-12-3). 
 
Hovland is playing his sixth straight week, so fatigue could be a factor, but it shouldn’t faze a young guy that much. His weakness is still with the flat stick, as he did lose -1.4 strokes on the greens last week. However, he lost -6.8 strokes combined at the Rocket Mortgage Classic and the Travelers Championship. 
 
Gary Woodland 40/1
Woodland was tipped here last week but got off to a bad start and was sitting + 3 through his first 13 holes Thursday. After the tough beginning, he shot -15 for his last 59 holes to end up tied for fifth. He has three top-10 finishes in his last five starts. 
 
Abraham Ancer 50/1
Ancer shot 65 in the final round and finished -21/263 at the RBC Heritage last month. But Webb Simpson birdied five of his last seven holes and took the victory from his grasp. After that heartbreak, Ancer still finished a respectable 11th the next week at the Travelers. Now he has had a couple of weeks off to recharge his batteries after the near miss in Hilton Head. 
 
Ancer rates in the top 11 on the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Approach (best in this week’s field since the restart in June) and Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green, so his ball striking is on par with some of the best in the game. He also rates eighth on tour in Scrambling. He was the first-round leader two years ago here with a -7/65 out of the gate. Ancer also fits a course-correlation angle with a fifth in 2018 at Glen Abbey, another Nicklaus design. 
 
We get a fair price here with a player who has been off for two weeks and whom bettors may look at as out of sight, out of mind. Ancer reached the OWGR top 20 for the first time in his career going into the Workday but took the week off, so he is now at 21. He’s on the cusp of his breakthrough win, and the last two Memorials have produced high-class breakthrough winners in Cantlay and DeChambeau, plus Morikawa last week at the Workday. 
 
Jason Day 60/1
Although Day is from Australia, this week is a home game for him. He lives in nearby Westerville, Ohio, a northeastern suburb of Columbus. He has a spotty record at the Memorial, where his best finish was 15th in 2017, but he did finish seventh last week at the Workday. 
 
Last week Day gained strokes in all areas (Putting, Around the Green, Off The Tee, Approach and Tee To Green). Day also has a win at the Nicklaus-designed Glen Abbey (2016 RBC Canadian Open). He also has three top-five finishes at Augusta National. 
 
Tony Finau 78/1
If there’s a list of most disappointing PGA Tour players, Finau is certainly near the top. The talent is clearly there, but the results are not. Nonetheless, a world top-20 player at this big price is worth a stab. 
 
Finau really hasn’t had anything going particularly well since the restart, with a pedestrian 23rd at Colonial as his best finish, but he might return with a little inspiration. He went back home to Utah and took a week off from competition. During that week, he got back with coach Boyd Summerhays and played his home course, Victory Ranch GC in Park City. He broke his own course record with a 59 on Friday. Finau was 14 under through 16 holes but bogeyed the 250-yard par-3 17th. 
 
He has three finishes of 13th or better in five appearances at the Memorial and really likes the course. He was also in the final pairing at last year’s Masters, and the Memorial has obvious ties. 
 
Sergio Garcia 80/1
Garcia makes his first appearance at Muirfield Village since 2008. His best finish here is second almost 20 years ago in 2001. Most years the BMW PGA Championship, a flagship European Tour event, has conflicted with the Memorial, which explains why Garcia hasn’t made many recent appearances here. 
 
Since the PGA Tour restart, Garcia has been the best player on the tour in Strokes Gained: Tee To Green at + 2.4 strokes per round. The greens will be slick here and Garcia’s issues usually are with the putter, but he is a former champion at Augusta, so he has done well on a similar course. 
 
Danny Willett 150/1
Another former Masters champion who should fit this track, Willett comes in off his best finish of 2020 with a fourth in Detroit two weeks ago. Willett sits 138th in the FedEx Cup standings and needs a couple of solid outings to ensure he gets into the top 125 and keeps his PGA Tour full exemptions. 
 
Euram Bank Open
 
The European Tour returned last week in Austria, and Marc Warren earned his first European Tour victory since 2014 at the Austrian Open as a 110/1 shot. Warren’s win was also notable in that he had to carry his own bag due to his caddie failing to pass a COVID-19 test. Warren had made only five cuts in his last 19 starts and had not played competitively in six months, as his last start was at the South African Open in January. The tour gets one more go-around in Austria this week for the Euram Bank Open, co-sanctioned by the European and Challenge tours. 
 
Once again, Joost Luiten is the short-price favorite at 5/1 or 6/1. South Korean Joohyung Kim, 18, is on the board at 8/1, but he might not play after winning the KPGA Gunsan CC Open on the Korean Tour last weekend. Spaniard Adri Arnaus and Italian Lorenzo Gagli follow on the odds board at 16/1. Sweden’s Rikard Karlberg finished fourth in this event last season on the Challenge Tour and is priced at 18/1. 
 
The Event
 
The Euram Bank Open began in 2018 as an event solely on the Challenge Tour, the European equivalent of the Korn Ferry Tour. This event begins on Wednesday morning this week, just before publication of “Point Spread Weekly.”
 
The Course
 
The Golf Club Adamstal in the small mountain town of Ramsau plays host this week. Designed in 1998 by Jeff Howes, the course plays as a 6,473-yard par-70. Yes, only 6,473 yards, and it actually will play shorter than that because the course is 3,500 feet above sea level. Strategy will really come into play, considering elevation changes that will provide deceptive yardages and require players to be precise with club selection. The elevation changes will also test the fitness of the players even though the course is so short by professional standards. 
 
Recent History/Winners
2019: Calum Hill (-18/262)
2018: Darius van Driel (-17/263)
 
Selections
 
John Catlin 25/1
Catlin is an American born in Sacramento, Calif., who bases himself in Thailand and plays primarily on the Asian Tour. He has won four times in the last two seasons on that tour, and three wins came on shorter courses. Catlin finished eighth last week at the Austrian Open but made 21 birdies, which ranked second, in a deeper field than this week’s event. 
 
Garrick Higgo 30/1
Higgo, 21, is a South African who played collegiately at UNLV. He already has a win in the 2020 calendar year, having won the Tour Championship on South Africa’s Sunshine Tour, and he was second at the RAM Cape Town Open two weeks before. Higgo not only bombs it off the tee (322.6 yards, fifth on Challenge Tour) but is also a fairly solid ball striker, ranking 14th for Greens In Regulation (68.54%).
 
Bernd Ritthammer 40/1
Ritthammer is a 33-year-old German who has the distinction of once earning a promotion from the Challenge Tour to the European Tour in 2016. Brooks Koepka also accomplished that feat. Unfortunately for Ritthammer, he has not sniffed Koepka’s success. However, he should like this course, having finished eighth two years ago. 
 
Marcel Siem 70/1
Siem turns 40 this week and perhaps can take some inspiration from Warren breaking his four-year drought last weekend. It has been six years since Siem’s last win at the 2014 BMW Masters. The German was a top-50 player in the world in 2013. He does have three top-20 finishes at Crans-sur-Sierre, another similarly short course in the Swiss Alps and the home of the European Masters.
 
 
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