The PGA Tour moves to one of its favourite stops this week as the best players on the PGA Tour are invited to Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio to compete in The Memorial Tournament, hosted once again by the great Jack Nicklaus.
This is always a brilliant test, one which Jon Rahm mastered the best last year and the Spaniard will look to make a successful defence of the title. A good field is guaranteed in this and that is no different this week.
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
2011 – Steve Stricker
Once again we are back at Muirfield Village this week. This is a typical stop off on tour but the 120 players teeing it up this week will be seeing a modified golf course to the one they have encountered in the past. Jack Nicklaus oversaw a huge change to the course with all the greens rebuilt and bunkers moved in line to make them hazards. There has been a little length added to the course so the par 72 is now 7,543 yards so it is a fair length.
The dynamics of the course haven’t changed too much. Nicklaus likes his tracks to be a test with the second shot but the rough has been grown a little longer this week and is at four inches, which with new greens which will be firm, is quite impactful. That might make a little more of a premium on hitting fairways but they aren’t the toughest to hit. Scrambling is often a key statistic around these very small greens. The fact they are new might bring poor putters into the game.
When you consider where this tournament falls in the calendar it is always amazing how strong the field is here but that is testament to the importance that Jack Nicklaus has in the game. Both the winners on this course last year are in the field. Jon Rahm defends the title while Collin Morikawa won around here the week before in an event that was devised purely to handle the Covid situation a little easier.
This is pretty much a who’s who of golf right now with the likes of Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Bryson DeChambeau and The Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama all in the field this week. Talented Americans such as Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay and Tony Finau all have a tee time as do international stars such as Corey Conners, Jason Day, Cameron Smith, Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman. Matthew Fitzpatrick heads up the English charge.
The defending champion Jon Rahm is 11/1 to make a successful title defence. I’m sure I don’t need to mention by now that I’m not one for backing defending champions but I’m not sure I would be interested in the Spaniard at any rate. I say that because he is in nothing like the form he was in last year, whether that is down to the equipment change or the changes in his life only he will know but either way you need to be hitting it pure to win around here and he simply isn’t convincing me enough.
We have a trio of players at 16/1 this week. They are Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. McIlroy won the Wells Fargo at Quail Hollow a few weeks ago but there has been little since to suggest that was anything other than him enjoying one of his favourite courses so I’ll pass him over. Thomas just hasn’t looked up to much at all recently and he would need a massive improvement to contend here. Spieth is much more of interest but he was all over the shop over the weekend at Colonial last week and you get nothing for mishits here so he isn’t for me either.
Former champion Bryson DeChambeau and Viktor Hovland are next in the market alongside the Workday Open winner here last year in Collin Morikawa. DeChambeau won when he was a more traditional golfer and I’m not convinced he hits enough fairways anymore for him to be a huge runner. Hovland needs to up his short game to be a factor but unless the price is too short for you there isn’t a whole lot to not like about Morikawa. It is 22/1 bar.
I’ve given Hideki Matsuyama a couple of months for his momentous win at Augusta to settle in and now I think this could be his week. He has a good record here anyway having won the title in 2014 and then added a couple of top 10s to that since then but it might be that he has never been better suited to the design than he is this year. I say that because more and more this is becoming a major test golf course and with four inches of rough this week you’ve got to think the man who is the best from tee to green is going to be right in the mix. Matsuyama’s game isn’t all about the tee to green stuff though. We saw at Augusta that his short game and putting can be of the highest quality and the new greens will bring any slight weakest in his putting back to the field so the Japanese ace ticks every box for me this week.
The other main bet I like this week is Charley Hoffman, a player who arrives here in great form and who has the game to really do the job here. Hoffman isn’t really known for his long game but he is actually ranked 16 on the Tour in proximity to the hole this season and that is never a bad statistic to go by around here. He hasn’t actually been out of the top three in strokes gained on approach in his last three tournaments and that is the statistic which usually sorts the men from the boys around here. His short game is decent enough so the way he is hitting the ball right now he could well follow up his third place at Colonial last week, where he recorded rounds of 62 and 65 over the week, with something even better here.
Kyle Stanley was on my team last week at the Charles Schwab Challenge and he placed for me. Unfortunately he placed in a huge group so we didn’t make what we might otherwise have done but there was enough in there to suggest he is worth another go here. The eye catching thing was that he led the field in strokes gained from tee to green and on approach but once again his putter didn’t cooperate enough. Stanley has three top 10s in his last six starts here though so there is something about the greens at Muirfield which tend to bring the best out of him. I’ll pay again to see if that happens this week.
Stewart Cink has already gone in once for me this season when he landed the RBC Heritage on a Harbour Town track in which Jack Nicklaus has had a hand in the design, just like he has here. I actually think Jack’s courses set up well for Cink. He isn’t brilliant off the tee but he certainly isn’t the worst but the slight ease in the test in that department here will play into his hands. Cink has wonderful statistics in terms of strokes gained on approach this season and has gained at least 4.4 strokes on the field in his last four starts. That means if he can get the job done on the greens then he is entitled to be a live danger here.
There was enough in the run of Padraig Harrington at the USPGA Championship to suggest he might be worth taking at a monster price here. I say that because tee to green he was very good that week, his putting let him down overall although he did finish fourth so even that wasn’t exactly a weakness. He might have been a little closer to Phil Mickelson had that cooperated a little better though. In a lot of ways this is a similar test in that it is a second shot and short game golf course, the areas where Harrington has excelled for going on 20 years. If he can hit the ball as well as he did at Kiawah Island and just get a few more putts to drop he could be a leading contender here.
Back H.Matsuyama to win The Memorial (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 26.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back K.Stanley to win The Memorial (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 101.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back P.Harrington to win The Memorial (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 201.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back them here:
Back C.Hoffman to win The Memorial (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 41.00 with Coral (1/5 1-8)
Back S.Cink to win The Memorial (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 101.00 with Sky Bet (1/5 1-8)