We are two weeks out from the penultimate major of the year but before the attention turns to the US Open, we have The Memorial Tournament being held this week. This event is hosted by Jack Nicklaus and is always a special one on the circuit.
Billy Horschel was the one who got greeted by Mr Nicklaus here a year ago and he returns looking to make a successful defence of the title. This tournament always attracts a top notch field and this year is no different.
2022 – Billy Horschel
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
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 still be getting used to 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 two years ago and this will be the third spin with the new layout. There has been a little length added to the course so the par 72 is now 7,571 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 relatively 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.
They have elevated this tournament to designated status but this always attracted one of the better fields of the year and that is no different this time around either. There are one or two players who might not normally tee it up this close to the US Open who are but with the exception of Tiger Woods, anyone who is anyone on the PGA Tour is here, including the defending champion Billy Horschel and the world number one Scottie Scheffler.
Former champions such as Jon Rahm, Patrick Cantlay and Hideki Matsuyama are all in the field this week as are the likes of Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele, Viktor Hovland, Collin Morikawa, who has won around here albeit not in this particular tournament and Jordan Spieth. Recent winners Jason Day and Emiliano Grillo are both in the field here as are the likes of Justin Thomas, Sungjae Im, Cameron Young and the man who will defend the US Open later this month in Matthew Fitzpatrick.
We have a 13/2 favourite this week in the form of the world number one Scottie Scheffler. He hasn’t won this tournament yet so I would imagine it will be on his bucket list to achieve, although he didn’t compete here last season so maybe it isn’t as high on his priority list as I think it could be. He arrived off the back of three successive top five finishes so he is in decent form even if he isn’t quite getting over the line. He is probably the one to beat.
Jon Rahm might have a thing to say about that. It was probably the biggest surprise of the USPGA Championship that the Spaniard was well down the field but he won here in 2020 and would have hacked up again the following year only for Covid to strike when he was miles clear after 54 holes and force him out of the final round. As a student of the game Rahm knows the history of this tournament and that seems to inspire him. I certainly wouldn’t rule him out.
Patrick Cantlay was the beneficiary of the Rahm withdrawal in 2021 as he went on to win this title for a second time and he is 10/1 to pick up the crown for the third odd year in succession. Cantlay hasn’t really been himself since that issue with slow play at The Masters and although his last nine events have resulted in top 25s, there have only been a couple of times where he was in contention, although one of those was at Hilton Head which has very similar characteristics to this place. He definitely can’t be ruled out.
Rory McIlroy has never cracked the code around here in terms of winning the tournament but he is 14/1 to put that right this week. He had an encouraging spin at Oak Hill without ever really threatening to win but that should have perked him up a bit after his open struggles for motivation since The Masters. It just feels like it has been a while since everything in the McIlroy game has clicked and you don’t win around here with only half the tools in the bag.
For some reason this is only the second time that Tyrrell Hatton will appear in this tournament but I would expect the course to fit him like a glove. If there is a weakness in the Hatton game it comes with the driver but the fairways are so wide around here that it shouldn’t cause him too many problems. Once he has found the fairways Hatton can get to work because he is one of the best iron players in the game both in accuracy and aggression at pins and then when he is on and around the greens he is perfectly competent too. Hatton comes in here with top 15 finishes in his last four starts and on a track that should be ideal for him I expect a decent run.
We already know that the deck is perfectly suited to Adam Scott. He has finished in the top five here on four previous occasions and hasn’t missed a cut since prior to this tournament a year ago. He already has a couple of top 10 finishes in the last month so the Australian is hitting the ball very nicely. I’ve seen Stevie Williams on his bag at a couple of events recently so his positivity and work ethic looks to be rubbing off on Scott once again. Scott is pinging his irons beautifully and if his putter is warm from the get go he could take some real beating here.
Kurt Kitayama has been on my staking plan a couple of times in recent weeks and he is again here. He is ranked inside the top 15 on the PGA Tour for strokes gained on approach and that is basically the bulk of the test this week. I was on Kitayama at the USPGA Championship where he delivered me a full place at 225/1. He is half the price this week but I still think that is overpriced for a man who won the other high profile invitational event on the year so far at Bay Hill. Kitayama will lap some of these with the irons and with the test off the tee not that dramatic I think the Arnold Palmer winner could add Jack Nicklaus to his list of legends whose tournament he has won this season.
While it isn’t ideal that it is the debut of Eric Cole around here, that is fully reflected in the price which I still actually think is massive at around the 250/1 mark. He was in the top 15 in the strokes gained on approach discipline at the USPGA Championship where the field was even stronger than it is here given that the LIV players were in that event. Cole lost a playoff at The Honda Classic where you have to be aggressive with the irons and was fifth in Mexico and T15 at Oak Hill where only one of his four rounds was an over par one. He missed the cut last week but still opened up with a 69 which is never a bad score around Colonial so he is clearly swinging the club well and if he can take to this track quickly he could be a big price.
Back T.Hatton to win The Memorial Tournament (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 26.00 with Boylesports (1/5 1-8)
Back him here:
Back A.Scott to win The Memorial Tournament (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 51.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back K.Kitayama to win The Memorial Tournament (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 101.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back them here:
Back E.Cole to win The Memorial Tournament (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 251.00 with Sky Bet (1/5 1-8)