Course: Muirfield Village (Dublin, Ohio)
Yardage: 7,392 – Par 72
Purse: $8.9 M
Field: 120 players
*Past Memorial Tournament Champions
Strokes Gained: Approach
Sand Save %
Strokes Gained: Off-the-tee
Approach Proximity 175-200 yards
Par 5 Scoring
Justin Rose breezed through the Fort Worth Invitational last week for his ninth career PGA Tour win. Rose shot symmetrical rounds of 66-64-66-64, leaving him just one shot shy of the tournament record of 21-under set by Zach Johnson in 2010. Rose began Sunday four shots clear of runner-up Brooks Koepka. They would go on to have a little Texas showdown, matching birdies on the first two holes, but Rose laid the pedal to the metal making six birdies on the front nine, extending his lead to five shots with nine holes to play. Koepka put up all he could muster finishing with a final round 63, but could never get any closer than the three shot deficit he finished with.
From invitational to invitational, the PGA Tour heads to Dublin, Ohio for another event in which players must be extended an invitation in the 2018 Memorial Tournament. Known as “Jack’s Tournament,” the event was founded by Jack Nicklaus in 1976, and is played on the Nicklaus’ designed Muirfield Village Golf Club. Unrelated to the actual golf, the tournament has a yearly induction ceremony honoring a past golfing great with a plaque installed near the clubhouse. The first honoree was Bobby Jones, the most recent was Greg Norman and this year the honoree will be golfing great Hale Irwin.
The invitational status means that we’ll be watching a 120-man field, and a very strong one at that. This field is basically a major with eight of the Top 10 golfers in attendance, and 15 of the Top 25 making the trip to Dublin to get ready for the U.S Open at Shinnecock in two weeks. Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas will both be there, as DJ will have his first chance to reclaim the number one spot in the world. Last week’s winner Justin Rose, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Hideki Matsuyama are the eight golfers teeing it up from the Top 10 (Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm are the two Top 10 members missing this week). Other top-priced players in the field this week include the one and only Tiger Woods along with Henrik Stenson, Marc Leishman, Patrick Reed, Branden Grace, Bubba Watson, Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar, Emiliano Grillo, Phil Mickelson and Tony Finau. The talent continues deep into the field, with last year’s champion Jason Dufner, Aaron Wise, Bryson DeChambeau, Louis Oosthuizen, Kevin Kisner, Kevin Na, Beau Hossler, Ryan Moore, Adam Hadwin, Patrick Cantlay and Luke List. With prices deflated this week, there are some great options in the 7K range to choose from including a few listed above.
As mentioned earlier Muirfield Village is a Nicklaus-designed course. The CareerBuilder Challenge (PGA West), Honda Classic (PGA National) and RBC Heritage (Harbourtown) were all played at Nicklaus-designed courses this season, so you can use those examples to look at who’s done well at Jack’s tracks in 2018. As is the theme with the professional golf game, golfers here must play well with their irons at Muirfield and pick up strokes in strokes gained: approach. Losing shots here will inevitably mean they are finding the giant bunkers that surround the greens. The bunkers are some of the toughest in the world at this course as a result of their size and proximity to the greens. Being in a greenside bunker at Muirfield could mean still being 35-40 yards from the hole, AKA, double-bogey for us regular golfers, but more often than not, bogey or worse even for a pro. Finding players with good Sand Save% will be a factor this week.
The fairways are wide, but missing them is bad news. The Memorial has the rough let its hair down and eat up player’s balls in U.S Open fashion. Long hitters will have a slight advantage with the ability to bomb it around on most holes, but I prefer strokes gained: off-the-tee to driving distance this week. Muirfield is a par 72 that plays out to nearly 7400 yards, so length does help (when does it not?). There are seven holes playing between 447 and 484 yards, and all four par 3s measure between 184 and 201 yards. Golfers will be finding themselves in the mid-long iron range time and time again this week, making approach proximity from 175-200 yards the most valued distance to key in on. The Par 5s are the place to score this week, with none of the four measuring longer than 560 yards. In other words, they are all reachable, and making a bunch of birdies and/or eagles on them is a must for contention. Scratching out mostly pars on the Par 3s and 4s is acceptable, but Par 5 scoring is where the pros must go low to compete this week.
Justin Thomas ($10,300 on DraftKings) Justin Thomas is playing his first tournament where he’s entering as the number one golfer in the world, and yet he’s only priced as the fifth most expensive golfer. That’s a steal if there ever was one. Thomas had a tough time his first few go-arounds at this tournament, but he proved that he could handle this course last year when he came in fourth place. Thomas will destroy the par 5s, as he’s third on Tour in Par 5 scoring, he’s 7th in strokes gained: approach, 16th in strokes gained: off-the-tee, and has a solid sand game (31st) which is necessary here. DailyRoto’s win probability model has Thomas at a 4.89 percent chance to win this tournament, fourth highest amongst anyone in the field.
Marc Leishman ($9,000) Marc Leishman loves playing at Muirfield Village. The last time he missed the cut at this tournament was in 2010, and he’s finished T15, T11 and T5 in his last three Memorial starts. Leishman is coming off of a runner-up finish at the Byron Nelson two weeks ago, where he shot four rounds in the 60s including an opening round 61, so his current form is right where you want it to be.
Emiliano Grillo ($8,400) Grillo is another player in terrific form lately. Grillo has three Top 10s in his last five starts with two of those being third place finishes. The young Argentinean is quickly rising up the ranks to become one of the best in the world. His game has no weaknesses as he ranks highly in all of my key stats. Grillo is 33rd in approach proximity from 175-200 yards, 28th in strokes gained: off-the-tee, 24th in sand saves and 17th in strokes gained: approach. Until Grillo starts headed towards 9-10K range, I will continue to roster him, and depending on his form, he may still be worth it.
Tony Finau ($8,100) Tony Finau is a Top 10 value play this week according to DailyRoto’s value optimization. Finau has proven he can hang in the strong-field tournaments this season. He finished 10th at the Masters after famously dislocating his ankle celebrating a hole-in-one at the Par 3 contest. He also finished runner-up at the Genesis Open, and sixth at the Farmers Insurance Open. All of those tournaments had a great group of guys playing in it, so there’s no reason to think Finau can’t post some solid results this week. He’s had a solid record at Muirfield in his young career making the cut all three times including a T11 finish in 2016 and a T8 finish in 2015.
Keegan Bradley ($7,200) The name of the game at Muirfield Village is iron play, and Keegan Bradley can give that to his owners in spades. Bradley is the third best on Tour in strokes gained: approach, gaining an even 1.0 shots per round on his approach shots. He’s the 11th best value of the week according to DailyRoto’s value optimizer. He missed the cut last year the Memorial, but he’s seen success at Muirfield recently when he finished T8 in 2015. His recent form is looking promising as well, finishing T7 at the PLAYERS Championship, a tournament with a strong field and a course that puts an emphasis on ball striking from the fairway, similar to Muirfield.
Kevin Streelman ($7,000) Streelman has been the classic sleeper pick this season, and he’d been paying dividends to his owners up until recently. He had a very poor May. However, that should work well for you in GPPs, as his ownership should be very low, and if there’s ever a tournament to plug Streelman in for, it’s this one. Streelman has finished T13, T8 and T18 in his last three starts here. Something about this course seems to work for him. He’s incredibly accurate off the tee, so he’s almost never in the thick rough that’s lurking at Muirfield and makes very few bogeys. That’s a great combination to have for Jack’s tournament. Streelman should have a nice bounceback week and pay off those who believe in him.
Main Image Credit: AP Photo/John Raoux