Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's Memorial Tournament Tips 2021

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Well played if you were on Jason Kokrak last week at Colonial Country Club at prices up to 60/1 with bet365. I mentioned in the preamble last week that a hot putter would eventually decide the winner and Jason Kokrak ranked Number 1 in Strokes Gained Putting across my 8-week tracker. Link that to 3rd from his 2020 visit to Colonial and bang you found the winner. I more or less covered the week with Charley Hoffman who delivered a full 45/1 each-way return.

On the PGA Tour, very little has more credence than ‘Jack’s Tournament’. The Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide is always a highlight of the PGA Tour given its Invitational status, combined with its reverence to the greatest Major Champion we have ever seen. A high-class field is always guaranteed; 2021 doesn’t disappoint with Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau, Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy all in attendance from inside the OWGR top 10. With a couple of U.S. Open qualifiers in Ohio on Monday, this part of the mid-west United States is undoubtedly the epicentre of the golfing world this week.

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Course Guide: Muirfield Village GC continually develops as a golfing test and 2021 sees a lengthened, renovated design for the very first time. Up by 150+ yards, the course will play as a 7,543 yard, Par 72.

This track has always been a cracker, hosting the 1987 Ryder Cup and the 2013 Presidents Cup, and is an original Nicklaus design, and Jack oversaw recent course development personally. As you’d expect from the pen of an 18-time Major Champion, the format stretches the world’s very best via a combination of attributes: this classical design features tree-lined fairways, tough bunkering, 11 holes with water in play and over 80 acres of primarily Kentucky bluegrass rough. Severely undulating green complexes are a true work of art and, for 2021, 14 greens are completely new. Every green also has new Bentgrass surfaces.

Muirfield Village GC, Dublin, Ohio: Designer: Jack Nicklaus 1974, latest guise established 2021; Course Type: Classical; Par: 72; Length: 7,543 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 13; Fairways: Bentgrass; Rough: Kentucky Bluegrass with ryegrass/fescue 4″; Greens: 5,000 sq.ft average featuring Bentgrass; Tournament Stimp: 11ft; Course Scoring Average 2012: 73.67 (+1.67), Difficulty Rank 6 of 49 courses. 2013: 73.26 (+1.26), Difficulty Rank 6 of 43 courses. 2014: 71.90 (-0.10), Rank 29 of 48 courses. 2015: 71.74 (-0.26), Difficulty Rank 23 of 52 courses. 2016: 70.99 (-1.01), Difficulty Rank 36 of 50 courses. 2017: 72.80 (+0.80), Difficulty Rank 13 of 50 courses. 2018: 71.40 (-0.60), Difficulty Rank 30 of 51 courses. 2019: 72.08 (+0.08), Difficulty Rank 13 of 49 courses. 2020 Workday: 71.85 (+0.15), Difficulty Rank 12 of 41 courses. 2020: 74.01 (+2.01), Difficulty Rank 2 of 41 courses.

Course Designer Links: For research purposes, other Jack Nicklaus designs include:

  • Annandale Golf Club – Sanderson Farms Championship through 2013
  • Glen Abbey – RBC Canadian Open – 2008, 2013, 2015-2018
  • Montreux Golf & Country Club – Barracuda Championship through 2019
  • Old Greenwood GC – Barracuda Championship 2020
  • PGA National – The Honda Classic
  • PGA West – Nicklaus Private – Humana Challenge through 2015
  • PGA West – The American Express through 2016
  • Sherwood Country Club – Thousand Oaks – World Challenge through 2013 + 2020 ZOZO Championship
  • Valhalla Golf Club – 2014 PGA Championship

Course Overview: Muirfield Village has always been a great all-round classical golf test where both ball-striking and short game experts can contend with equal frequency, and I doubt that has changed with the new renovation. A typical Nicklaus design, each hole gets more difficult further away from the tee so those with consistent approach play have always been able to access flatter parts of the green complexes close to hole locations. Birdies are available for those with excellent course navigation, top notch scrambling and naturally a hot putter. A second-shot golf course where those who can find the right layers of the green complexes can make birdies. Put conversely, this classical design still has teeth for the wayward, poor scramblers and poor putters.

But Muirfield Village in 2021 will look significantly different. This quote from Jack Nicklaus himself highlights though the key focus of the renovation and how Muirfield Village will continue to be prepared for his tournament. “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.”

Statistically the Muirfield Village course this week will play to 7,543 yards, up 151 yards. Most of that length has been added to the par-5s with new tee boxes adding 20 – 30 yards to each. The par-4 1st Hole has also had a new tee box added, taking that to 490 yards.

A summary of the renovation which has taken place across 2 phases, either side of the 2020 Workday / Memorial events, includes the fact that all greens have been reconstructed with new Bentgrass, irrigation and Sub-Air Air systems. Most holes had the green complexes 100% re-contoured and rebuilt with significant bunker modifications. Fairway widths, which have always been generous here, have also been pinched on certain holes, with all fairways featuring fresh Bentgrass fairway grass and associated Bluegrass/Ryegrass/Fescue rough.

Only greens on the 12th, 13th, 14th and 17th resemble the old greens. All fairway and greenside bunkers have been rebuilt. The 1st, 15th and 17th sees the fairway bunker complexes being strategically repositioned.

The biggest difference will be noticeable on the par-5 15th which used to play short at 530 yards. Here Number 15 has been rebuilt in entirety from tee to green with new fairway bunkers and extensive grade changes to the second and third shot landing zones, plus a water hazard is now in front of an entirely new green.

How the new course plays and how receptive the greens will be remains to be seen. However Muirfield Village has always been a second shot and in course and that philosophy is unlikely to change too much.

memorial tournament tips

Winners: 2020: Jon Rahm (-9); 2019: Patrick Cantlay (-19); 2018: Bryson DeChambeau (-15); 2017: Jason Dufner (-13); 2016: William McGirt (-15); 2015: David Lingmerth (-15); 2014: Hideki Matsuyama (-13); 2013: Matt Kuchar (-12); 2012: Tiger Woods (-8); 2011: Steve Stricker (-16); 2010: Justin Rose (-18).

Lead Score Progression:

  • 2020: Round 1 -6; Round 2 -9; Round 3 -12; Round 4 -9.
  • 2019: Round 1 -7; Round 2 -9; Round 3 -15; Round 4 -19.
  • 2018: Round 1 -7; Round 2 -11; Round 3 -14; Round 4 -15.

Tournament Stats: We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s event that are well worth a look. Naturally they’ll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Combined Stats | Strokes Gained Stats.

Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Jon Rahm, Charley Hoffman, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Rory McIlroy, Emiliano Grillo, Bryson DeChambeau, Tony Finau and Kevin Streelman.

Recent Player Skill Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to The Masters, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Driving Accuracy: 1) Brendon Todd; 2) Victor Perez; 3) K.J. Choi; 4) Matthew Fitzpatrick / Michael Thompson; 6) Doug Ghim / Jim Herman; 8) Corey Conners; 9) Keegan Bradley; 10) Danny Lee; 11) Collin Morikawa; 12) Rickie Fowler; 13) Sungjae Im; 14) Matt Wallace; 15) Kevin Streelman; 16) Adam Long; 17) Bo Hoag / Tom Hoge / Billy Horschel; 20) Joel Dahmen / Chris Kirk / Martin Laird; 23) James Hahn / Henrik Norlander; 25) Si Woo Kim / Troy Merritt.
  • Greens in Regulation: 1) Collin Morikawa; 2) Keegan Bradley; 3) Doug Ghim; 4) Louis Oosthuizen; 5) Corey Conners / Emiliano Grillo; 7) Shane Lowry; 8) Hideki Matsuyama / Jordan Spieth; 10) Jon Rahm; 11) Padraig Harrington; 12) Russell Knox / Martin Laird / Charl Schwartzel; 15) Sam Burns; 16) Charley Hoffman / Danny Lee; 18) Stewart Cink / Viktor Hovland / Luke List; 21) Kevin Streelman; 22) Rory McIlroy; 23) Justin Thomas; 24) William McGirt / Xander Schauffele / Matt Wallace.
  • Scrambling: 1) Christiaan Bezuidenhout; 2) Cameron Tringale; 3) Louis Oosthuizen; 4) Cameron Smith; 5) Lanto Griffin / Viktor Hovland; 7) Jordan Spieth / Camilo Villegas; 9) Stewart Cink; 10) Emiliano Grillo / Charles Howell III; 12) Keegan Bradley; 14) Bryson DeChambeau; 15) K.H. Lee; 16) Robert Streb; 17) Tony Finau / Alex Noren; 19) Hideki Matsuyama; 20) Troy Merritt; 21) Russell Knox / Jamie Lovemark / Patrick Reed; 24) Byeong Hun An / Lucas Glover.
  • Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Brian Gay; 2) Sam Burns; 3) Billy Horschel / Gary Woodland; 5) Patton Kizzire / Sebastian Munoz; 7) Viktor Hovland; 8) Patrick Reed / Patrick Rodgers / Adam Scott; 11) Charley Hoffman; 12) Collin Morikawa / Xander Schauffele / Matt Wallace; 15) Danny Willett; 16) Nick Taylor; 17) Shane Lowry; 18) Tony Finau / Joaquin Niemann / Scottie Scheffler / Brendon Todd; 22) Talor Gooch; 23) Stewart Cink / Cameron Davis; 25) Tyler Duncan / Louis Oosthuizen / Tyler McCumber.

Recent Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to The Masters, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players’ rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 25 SG Off The Tee: 1) Bryson DeChambeau; 2) Jon Rahm; 3) Bubba Watson; 4) Scottie Scheffler; 5) Corey Conners; 6) Keegan Bradley; 7) Collin Morikawa; 8) Hideki Matsuyama; 9) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 10) Matt Jones; 11) Viktor Hovland; 12) Kevin Streelman; 13) Padraig Harrington; 14) Sam Burns; 15) Danny Lee / Jordan Spieth; 17) Charl Schwartzel; 18) Charles Howell III; 19) Patrick Cantlay; 20) Jim Herman; 21) Charley Hoffman / Matt Wallace; 23) Cameron Champ; 24) Joaquin Niemann; 25) Wyndham Clark / Xander Schauffele.
  • Top 25 SG Approach: 1) Corey Conners; 2) Collin Morikawa; 3) Hideki Matsuyama; 4) Stewart Cink; 5) Sam Burns; 6) Louis Oosthuizen; 7) Shane Lowry; 8) Emiliano Grillo; 9) Jordan Spieth; 10) Charley Hoffman; 11) Doug Ghim / Russell Knox; 13) Rory McIlroy / Charl Schwartzel / Kevin Streelman; 16) Keegan Bradley; 17) Marc Leishman; 18) Martin Laird; 19) Luke List / Justin Thomas; 21) Viktor Hovland / Matthew NeSmith; 23) Joel Dahmen / Padraig Harrington / Joaquin Niemann.
  • Top 25 SG Around The Green: 1) Jordan Spieth; 2) Sam Burns; 3) Camilo Villegas; 4) Tony Finau; 5) Keegan Bradley / Alex Noren; 7) Rafa Cabrera Bello; 8) Kevin Na / Cameron Tringale; 10) Harold Varner III; 11) Jamie Lovemark; 12) C.T. Pan; 13) Byeong Hun An / Wyndham Clark / Charles Howell III; 16) Cameron Smith; 17) Troy Merritt; 18) Jason Day; 19) Viktor Hovland; 20) K.H. Lee / Patrick Reed / Danny Willett; 23) Dylan Frittelli / Denny McCarthy / Matt Wallace.
  • Top 25 SG Tee to Green: 1) Sam Burns; 2) Collin Morikawa; 3) Corey Conners; 4) Jordan Spieth; 5) Keegan Bradley; 6) Charley Hoffman; 7) Viktor Hovland; 8) Hideki Matsuyama; 9) Louis Oosthuizen; 10) Tony Finau / Charl Schwartzel; 12) Shane Lowry; 13) Emiliano Grillo / Luke List; 15) Matthew Fitzpatrick / Scottie Scheffler; 17) Joel Dahmen / Doug Ghim; 19) Stewart Cink / Kevin Streelman; 21) Padraig Harrington / Justin Thomas / Harold Varner III; 24) Jon Rahm; 25) Bryson DeChambeau / Rory McIlroy.
  • Top 25 SG Putting: 1) Christiaan Bezuidenhout; 2) Marc Leishman; 3) Billy Horschel; 4) Stewart Cink; 5) Louis Oosthuizen; 6) Viktor Hovland; 7) Patton Kizzire; 8) Cameron Smith; 9) Joaquin Niemann; 10) Matthew Fitzpatrick / Brendon Todd; 12) Harry Higgs; 13) Sepp Straka; 14) Sebastian Munoz / Adam Scott / Robert Streb; 17) Xander Schauffele; 18) Brian Gay / Adam Long; 20) Matt Jones / Matt Wallace; 22) Nick Taylor; 23) Troy Merritt / Patrick Reed; 25) Charles Howell III.
  • Top 25 SG Total: 1) Jordan Spieth; 2) Keegan Bradley / Collin Morikawa / Louis Oosthuizen; 5) Sam Burns / Charley Hoffman / Viktor Hovland; 8) Corey Conners; 9) Stewart Cink / Matthew Fitzpatrick; 11) Hideki Matsuyama; 12) Emiliano Grillo; 13) Cameron Smith; 14) Xander Schauffele; 15) Joaquin Niemann; 16) Tony Finau / Marc Leishman / Patrick Reed; 19) Alex Noren; 20) Jon Rahm; 21) Justin Thomas; 22) Shane Lowry / Troy Merritt / Matt Wallace; 25) Christiaan Bezuidenhout / Harold Varner III.

Winners & Prices: 2020: Rahm 22/1; 2019: Cantlay 18/1; 2018: DeChambeau 50/1; 2017: Dufner 66/1; 2016: McGirt 200/1; 2015: Lingmerth 500/1; 2014: Matsuyama 66/1; 2013: Kuchar 22/1; 2012: Woods 16/1; 2011: Stricker 28/1; 2010: Rose 80/1. Past 7 Renewals Average: 132/1; Overall Average: 105/1.

Historical Weather:

  • 2020: Thursday: Mostly cloudy, with light rain in the morning. High of 90. Wind SW 15-25 mph. Friday: Mostly sunny. High of 90. Wind W 5-10 mph. Saturday: Mostly sunny, with a high of 93. Wind SW 6-12 mph. Sunday: Mostly sunny with intermittent showers. High of 96. Wind SW 15-25 mph, with gusts to 30 mph. Due to a dangerous weather situation, play was suspended at 3:41 p.m. and resumed at 4:30 p.m. (49-minute delay).
  • 2019: Thursday: Partly cloudy with scattered showers. High of 72. Wind SW 10-20 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy. High of 79. Wind NW 5-10 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy. High of 82. Wind WSW 10-18 mph. Sunday: Cloudy. High of 70. Wind NW 12-22 mph.
  • 2018: Thursday: Partly cloudy. High of 88. Wind SW 10-15 mph, with gusts to 20 mph. Friday: Overcast with scattered showers and an afternoon thunderstorm which caused a 1 hour, 28-minute delay. High of mid-80s. Wind WNW 5-10 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy. High of 80. Wind N 10-15 mph. Sunday: Cloudy. High of 81. Wind W 10-15 mph, with gusts of 25 mph.
  • 2017: Thursday: Mostly sunny skies in the morning became partly cloudy in the afternoon with a high of 77. Wind W 8-16 mph. Friday: Mostly sunny with a high of 80. Wind WNW 6-12 mph. Saturday: Mostly sunny skies with a high of 84. Wind WNW 5-10 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy with a high of 85. Wind WSW 15-25 mph.
  • 2016: Thursday: Mostly cloudy skies with a high of 82. Wind W at 6-12 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy skies with a high of 82. Wind N/NW at 8-12 mph. Saturday: Cloudy skies and periods of light rain with a high in the mid-70s. Wind S/SE at 6-12 mph. Sunday: Mostly cloudy, with a high of 79. Wind W/SW at 15-25 mph.
  • 2015: Weather: Thursday: Cloudy, but drier in the afternoon, with highs reaching only into the lower 60s. North wind at 10-20 mph. A total of 1.3 inches of rain fell overnight and into the morning. Friday: Overcast, with intermittent rain throughout the day. High of 76, with N wind at 7-12 mph. Saturday: Overcast, with a high of 76. Wind SE at 15-25 mph. Sunday: Due to the likeliness of inclement weather, final-round tee times were between 7-9 a.m. Cloudy with rain most of the day and a high of 79. Wind SSW at 10-20 mph.

Weather Forecast: latest weather forecast for Dublin, Ohio, is here.

Turf conditions at Muirfield Village are likely to be similar to those at Colonial last week. 30mmm of rain last week would have been welcomed and there’s a 90% chance of rain on Pro-Am Wednesday and 60% during Thursday. So I would suggest cut in the turf at least over the opening 36 to 54 holes, although how receptive the new greens will be is a true unknown. Wind looks a serious factor on Thursday with south westerly gusts up to 15-20 mph across the full day, but from there scoring conditions look perfect, with a light breeze and temperatures in the late twenty degrees Celsius.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the 11 winners here at The Memorial Tournament since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this:

  • 2020, Jon Rahm (-9). 293 yards (36th), 64.3% fairways (4th), 66.7% greens in regulation (3rd), 34’9″ proximity to hole (17th), 66.7 % scrambling (3rd), 1.71 putts per GIR (17th).
  • 2019, Patrick Cantlay (-19). 298 yards (4th), 67.9% fairways (51st), 69.4% greens in regulation (11th), 29’0″ proximity to hole (10th), 82.7% scrambling (5th), 1.62 putts per GIR (3rd).
  • 2018, Bryson DeChambeau (-15). 306 yards (4th), 62.5% fairways (58th), 72.2% greens in regulation (9th), 27’10” proximity to hole (9th), 80.0% scrambling (1st), 1.69 putts per GIR (27th).
  • 2017, Jason Dufner (-13). 299 yards (29th), 73.2% fairways (7th), 75.0% greens in regulation (1st), 29’9″ proximity to hole (6th), 55.6 % scrambling (30th), 1.67 putts per GIR (7th).
  • 2016, William McGirt (-15). 285 yards (50th), 67.9% fairways (39th), 73.6% greens in regulation (7th), proximity to hole 26’10” (5th), 73.7 % scrambling (6th), 1.74 putts per GIR (55th).
  • 2015, David Lingmerth (-15). 280 yards (61st), 76.8% fairways (11th), 68.1% greens in regulation (16th), proximity to hole 29’2″ (21st), 69.6 % scrambling (9th), 1.59 putts per GIR (7th).
  • 2014, Hideki Matsuyama (-13). 293 yards (39th), 75.0% fairways (11th), 66.7% greens in regulation (22nd), proximity to hole 25’8″ (1st), 58.3 % scrambling (20th), 1.60 putts per GIR (7th).
  • 2013, Matt Kuchar (-12). 283 yards (38th), 69.6% fairways (37th), 75.0% greens in regulation (1st), proximity to hole 32’2″ (31st), 61.1% scrambling (18th), 1.74 putts per GIR (23rd).
  • 2012, Tiger Woods (-9). 287 yards (18th), 76.8% fairways (14th), 73.6% greens in regulation (1st), proximity to hole 31’3″ (20th), 57.9% scrambling (9th), 1.75 putts per GIR (25th).
  • 2011, Steve Stricker (-16). 295 yards (35th), 80.4% fairways (3rd), 65.3% greens in regulation (30th), proximity to hole 26’9″ (2nd), 64.0% scrambling (3rd), 1.60 putts per GIR (5th).
  • 2010, Justin Rose (-18). 263 yards (55th), 82.1% fairways (10th), 73.6% greens in regulation (13th), proximity to hole 27’6″ (13th), 68.4% scrambling (5th), 1.59 putts per GIR (1st).

Tournament Skill Averages:

Driving Distance: 34th, Driving Accuracy: 22nd, Greens in Regulation: 10th, Proximity to Hole: 17th, Scrambling: 10th, Putting Average 16th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Trends:

  • 2020, Jon Rahm (-9). SG Off the Tee: 4th, SG Approach: 8th, SG Around the Green: 1st, SG Tee to Green: 1st, SG Putting: 28th.
  • 2019, Patrick Cantlay (-19). SG Off the Tee: 8th, SG Approach: 5th, SG Around the Green: 2nd, SG Tee to Green: 2nd, SG Putting: 7th.
  • 2018, Bryson DeChambeau (-15). SG Off the Tee: 25th, SG Approach: 24th, SG Around the Green: 26th, SG Tee to Green: 12th, SG Putting: 6th.
  • 2017, Jason Dufner (-13). SG Off the Tee: 10th, SG Approach: 1st, SG Around the Green: 13th, SG Tee to Green: 1st, SG Putting: 47th.
  • 2016, William McGirt (-15). SG Off the Tee: 19th, SG Approach: 10th, SG Around the Green: 38th, SG Tee to Green: 7th, SG Putting: 16th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Skill Averages:

  • SG Off the Tee: 13th, SG Approach: 10th, SG Around the Green: 16th, SG Tee to Green: 4th, SG Putting: 21st.

Let’s take a view from players as to how Muirfield Village sets up and what skill sets the course favours:

Jon Rahm (2020): “Well, this is only the second time I’m playing. My first time was 2017. I don’t remember it being this windy or firm. It’s tough. I mean, there are some holes out there that are really difficult. That 16th green, I actually thought I hit a pretty good shot and couldn’t stop it, so you have to hit an amazing shot to actually keep it on the green. It’s a test out there. It’s more how golf should be. I’m glad for once we’re not having a week where it becomes a putting contest and see who shoots 20-plus under par. Hopefully it keeps being a test and hopefully I can keep playing good golf and make those clutch putts.

I told Adam walking down 18, I said, they should — Adam, my caddie, for people who don’t know, they should just allow people, whoever wants to play, to come tomorrow in the same conditions we did. Cut the greens, make sure they’re the same speed, flags on the same spots, just for people to see. We were thinking the club champion, the scratch club champion might not break 80 here today. It’s that difficult a golf course. And I can say, because of that, today could be one of the best rounds of golf I’ve played in my life. It’s unbelievable, and it’s hard to believe how passively it came compared to how I played usually.”

Patrick Cantlay (2019): “I like this golf course a lot. It’s in great shape. And puts a serious premium of driving the ball in the fairway, which is one of my strengths. I feel comfortable around here, and it’s nice to be here. I feel like I know the lines and what to expect. The golf course suits my game. There’s a huge premium on driving the golf ball long in the fairway. And if you can control your distance coming into the greens, you can have a lot of looks. The greens are really slopey, and there’s a lot of hole locations where the ball gathers to the hole. And being able to know your distance and knowing where to leave it so it will feed to the hole is important. And I feel like being back here my third year I’m getting a better feel of it. And I’m starting to feel really comfortable around the golf course.”

Bryson DeChambeau (2018): ” Yeah, I played really well here (Columbus, Ohio). I love the grass. It’s super familiar. Back home in Fresno, California we have the same type of grass, relatively speaking. You go over to Monterey, it’s kind of the same as well. So I’ve played a lot of golf over there, I’m just comfortable with these types of, this type of grass. For whatever reason it seems to be that, out of this grass relative to Bermuda, it’s just way easier to kind of control the ball out of those types of lies, because in Bermuda you can sometimes get these massive jumpers, like incredibly massive, 30-yard jumpers. And out of this type of rough you only get about 15- to 20-yard jumpers. So in that regard I’m more comfortable and was just able to conquer it this week.”

Jason Dufner (2017): “This is a difficult golf course. The wind can be tricky at times. I’m hoping we’ll have some calmer conditions. But just being underneath the hole is a big thing out here. I find myself – when I play good rounds, I seem to be putting uphill all week. I’m struggling from above the hole. So position into the greens is important. Yeah, these are by far probably the best greens that we play on all year, from the standpoint of consistency on speed from green to green. When I step on 7th green I feel like it’s the same speed as the 14th green or the 17th green. And then also just the consistency of the roll, like you said. You feel like you get a really pure roll. If you start in on your line and your read is right you’re probably going to be holing a lot of putts. And I think they get as fast as any that we play. There’s a lot of pitch, a lot of undulation out there on these greens. You get above the hole you’re just breathing on them when they’re moving pretty good.

William McGirt (2016): “The one thing that I’ve learned, I think this was my fourth time playing here, I think. The biggest thing I’ve learned is where you can and cannot miss it. Most of the week, I missed it in the proper spot and left myself a chance to get it up and down. I mean, that’s the whole key around here is you can’t go attacking pins. Like the pin yesterday on 18. I mean, I’m standing out there in the fairway knowing that, if I hit 7 iron and catch any gust at all and it lands on the front, it’s coming 30 yards back down the fairway, but I’m thinking 6 could potentially go in that back bunker. And I kind of chickened out in the end, but I knew the right bunker was fine. So I kind of chickened out in the end and fanned it over there and got it up and down.

Jordan Spieth (2015): “A couple of things specifically about the course, the greens are arguably tied for first or second only to Augusta National as far as speed and how pure they are consistently each year. I love putting on greens where you have to have imagination, you have to play these ridges, speed control is so vital. And then I enjoy the ball striking part of this course where these pins are located normally three times. They’re located pretty close to each other, and if you hit a really good tee shot, you’re set up to feed into these holes. You can have really short birdie putts and you’ll see some eagles out here, given that the greens are so fast, they’ll just speed off the side and roll down. But if you get yourself out of position off the tee, and all of a sudden you’re left you can’t really take much of a chance because then you get above the hole and you’re out of it. So premium on positioning off the tee, and then imagination putting. And I enjoy those aspects of Muirfield.

Rickie Fowler (2015): “Yeah, most of the driving areas are generous in a way. There are some tight holes where you do have to be careful. But for the most part, it’s a second shot golf course. You have to have control of your golf ball coming to these greens, and you have to be able to put yourself on the right side of the hole on the right section of the green, which can definitely make a difference. It’s a three putt when you’re in the wrong spot. So having that control, coming from the fairway, it could be the proper side of the fairway, too, if the fairway is that big. But having to come in from the right side to change the angle, it can turn it into a little bit of a tighter hole. But it is definitely a second shot golf course. And you’re rewarded with good shots, but it will pick you apart if you’re off your numbers or missing your lines.

Matt Kuchar (2014): “Justin Rose. Kenny Perry. K.J. There’s not a whole lot of similarities amongst that crew. I mean, I think this course demands you to do everything well. These greens seem to get every bit as fast as Augusta National’s. You have to be on your game. And I think when greens are fast, it’s not so much a premium on your putting, but your iron shots is a real premium and positioning your iron shots. Driving is certainly a premium here. You don’t have to hit a lot of drivers. The longer guys, particularly, don’t have to hit a lot of drivers. I tend to hit more than most. I tend to challenge some of the shorter holes knowing those are opportunities for me to turn into real birdieable holes and know that my driving is one of my strengths, so I tend to challenge those a little more than most. I think in order to do well, you just have to have all parts of your game working well.

Bubba Watson (2014): “The course has a major feel, it’s because of the fact that it’s so difficult. It’s an approach shot golf course, I guess you’d say. The fairways are generous. Even I hit a lot of fairways here. So it’s all about your iron shots. It’s all about controlling your distance. It’s all about your mental game, because the par 3s, these have to be the most difficult par 3s on any course, all four of these put together. So it’s all about your approach shots into the greens and approach shots on the par 3s. So the last finishing stretch is you’re going to have a difficult shot over the water on 16, which is one of the toughest holes I’ve ever seen in my life, and 17 you’re going to have tough iron shot. And 18 now, the length, make it even tougher with that green. And so it’s all about your mental focus and what you can do. That’s what we all want. We always feel like if you focus better than the other guys and you think your ability is good enough, you’re going to be there in the end. We want it as tough as possible, or I want it tough as possible so that it weeds out some of the guys that aren’t thinking positive.

Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the winners of The Memorial Tournament since 2010:

  • 2020 – Jon Rahm: Round 1: 5th, Round 2: 3rd, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2019 – Patrick Cantlay: Round 1: 8th, Round 2: 5th, Round 3: 3rd.
  • 2018 – Bryson DeChambeau: Round 1: 16th, Round 2: 4th, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2017 – Jason Dufner: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 3rd.
  • 2016 – William McGirt: Round 1: 44th, Round 2: 22nd, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2015 – David Lingmerth: Round 1: 5th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2014 – Hideki Matsuyama: Round 1: 21st, Round 2: 4th, Round 3: 3rd
  • 2013 – Matt Kuchar: Round 1: 7th, Round 2: 4th, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2012 – Tiger Woods: Round 1: 11th, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 4th.
  • 2011 – Steve Stricker: Round 1: 5th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2010 – Justin Rose: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 4th.

Shots Off the Lead: Below are the shots from the lead during the tournament of The Memorial Tournament winners since 2010:

  • 2020 – Jon Rahm: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 4 ahead.
  • 2019 – Patrick Cantlay: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 4 back.
  • 2018 – Bryson DeChambeau: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 3 back, Round 3: 1 ahead.
  • 2017 – Jason Dufner: Round 1: level, Round 2: 5 ahead, Round 3: 4 back.
  • 2016 – William McGirt: Round 1: 6 back, Round 2: 6 back, Round 3: level.
  • 2015 – David Lingmerth: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 1 ahead, Round 3: 3 back.
  • 2014 – Hideki Matsuyama: Round 1: 7 back, Round 2: 5 back, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 2013 – Matt Kuchar: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 3 back, Round 3: 2 ahead.
  • 2012 – Tiger Woods: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 4 back.
  • 2011 – Steve Stricker: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: 3 ahead, Round 3: 3 ahead.
  • 2010 – Justin Rose: Round 1: level, Round 2: 3 back, Round 3: 4 back.

Incoming Form of winners since 2010:

  • Jon Rahm: 27th Workday/37th Travelers/33rd Heritage/MC Colonial.
  • Patrick Cantlay: 3rd PGA Championship/3rd Heritage/9th Augusta/MC Sawgrass.
  • Bryson DeChambeau: 42nd Colonial/37th TPC Sawgrass/4th Quail/3rd Heritage.
  • Jason Dufner: MC Colonial/12th TPC4S/60th Sawgrass/5th TPC Louisiana.
  • William McGirt: 47th Colonial/43rd Sawgrass/17th Quail/37th TPC San Antonio.
  • David Lingmerth: MC TPC4S/33rd Colonial/MC Quail/MC TPC Louisiana.
  • Hideki Matsuyama: 10th Colonial/23rd TPC Sawgrass/38th Quail/MC Heritage.
  • Matt Kuchar: 2nd Colonial/33rd TPC4S/48th TPC Sawgrass/35th Heritage.
  • Tiger Woods: 40th TPC Sawgrass/MC Quail/40th Augusta/1st Bay Hill.
  • Steve Stricker: 12th TPC Sawgrass/13th TPC Louisiana/11th Augusta/4th Houston.
  • Justin Rose: 71st Colonial/10th Wentworth/MC TPC Sawgrass/43rd TPC Louisiana.

First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score since 2010. Full First Round Leader stats are here.

  • 2020 – Finau – PM -6/66 – 66/1.
  • 2019 – Moore – AM -7/65 – 100/1.
  • 2018 – Ancer / Niemann / Matsuyama – 2AM/1PM -7/65 – 175/1, 100/1 & 45/1.
  • 2017 – Dufner / Lingmerth – AM/PM Split -7/65 – 55/1 & 90/1.
  • 2016 – D Johnson – AM -8/64.
  • 2015 – Matsuyama / Van Pelt – Both PM -8/64.
  • 2014 – McIlroy – PM -9/63.
  • 2013 – Schwartzel – AM -7/65.
  • 2012 – Stallings – PM -6/66.
  • 2011 – McIlroy / Riley – AM/PM Split -6/66.
  • 2010 – Fowler / Rose – AM/PM Split -7/65.

For the record, here’s the breakdown of pure Bentgrass green PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:

  • 7 – Rory McIlroy.
  • 5 – Jordan Spieth.
  • 4 – Jason Day, Kevin Na, Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson.
  • 3 – Bryson DeChambeau, Matt Kuchar, Hideki Matsuyama.
  • 2 – Keegan Bradley, Patrick Cantlay, Stewart Cink, Jason Dufner, Rickie Fowler, Chris Kirk, Martin Laird, Marc Leishman, Troy Merritt, Patrick Reed, Xander Schauffele.
  • 1 – Dylan Frittelli, Padraig Harrington, Jim Herman, Charley Hoffman, Billy Horschel, Jason Kokrak, Danny Lee, K.H. Lee, David Lingmerth, William McGirt, Joaquin Niemann, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Vijay Singh, Kevin Streelman, Michael Thompson, Brendon Todd, Camilo Villegas, Danny Willett.

The winners’ list over the past 5 years at the Memorial Tournament reads David Lingmerth (500/1), William McGirt (200/1) Jason Dufner (66/1), Bryson DeChambeau (50/1), Patrick Cantlay (18/1) and Jon Rahm (22/1). And with the U.S. Open just 2 weeks away, the top players are positioning themselves for the season’s third Major Championship, in Dublin, Ohio this week.

The Memorial is often a tournament where you don’t want to hit the front too early, but undoubtedly quality players have generally topped the leaderboard come close of play on Sunday. Tiger’s wins in 2009 and 2012 came at 3/1 and 16/1 respectively. Justin Rose’s first PGA Tour victory in 2010 came at 80/1 a fortnight after a 10th place finish at Wentworth. Steve Stricker won at 28/1 in 2011. Matt Kuchar and Hideki Matsuyama victories here in 2013 and 2014 both followed contending performances the week prior at Colonial, with both players being priced at 22/1 and 66/1 respectively. 2018 and 2019 also saw Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Cantlay win at 50/1 and 18/1 respectively. And 2020 was slightly different as The Memorial, followed the week after the Workday Charity Open won by Collin Morikawa. Jon Rahm won The Memorial at 22/1, after shooting a -8/64 on Sunday at the Workday, which was the best final round in the field.

All-in-all. this plethora of sub-100/1 winners is hardly a surprise when you consider that every winner of The Memorial since 2003 apart from 2 (Lingmerth 2015 & McGirt 2016) have ranked in the Official World Golf Ranking top 75.

Let’s look into those bigger price wins as well. Nicklaus course specialist David Lingmerth landed his maiden title here in 2015 with inbound form of MC-33-MC-MC-MC. You won’t be surprised to read that the Swede was a 500/1 chance. Fast-forward to 2016 where Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland were all in the mix, but eventually it became a shoot-out between Jon Curran (400/1) and William McGirt (250/1) in a play-off, both of whom were chasing maiden PGA Tour titles. World Number 102 McGirt captured his first title since he played the Tarheel Tour in 2007 and came off immediate form of 47-43-17-37. He had though delivered 3 top-9 finishes and a further 2nd in the season prior to winning in Ohio. 2018 saw World Number 65 Jason Dufner beat Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar and Justin Thomas to take his 5th PGA Tour victory at 66/1. Jason showed grit and resolve on a fast Sunday golf course, taking on the likes of 54-hole leader Kuchar, Bubba Watson, Thomas and playing partner Rickie Fowler to comfortably win in the end by 3 shots.

And this column has some success over the past 3 renewals of The Memorial, with a couple of winners. 2018 saw Bryson DeChambeau capture his second PGA Tour title at 50/1. His inbound form line read 42-37-4-3 with 4th coming at the classical Quail Hollow and 3rd coming at Harbour Town. Prior to that he’d gone very close in March at the classical Bay Hill finishing runner-up to Rory McIlroy. His maiden win had come in Connecticut at the 2017 John Deere Classic and he had also won the web.com 2016 DAP Championship in Ohio.  Patrick Cantlay in 2019 was a hot-hand with 3rd at the PGA Championship, 3rd at Harbour Town and 9th at Augusta National preceding his 2nd – and by far biggest – PGA Tour title. No luck last year with Jon Rahm, who tamed wild conditions and a firm golf course to win with the highest score seen at The Memorial since 2012.

Tony Finau 2.25pts EW 25/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfred

Tony Finau rolls into Ohio with the driver and irons in fine fettle and in a market that is super pressurised price-wise at the very top, I thought his price was just about ok, especially in relation to the average odds of recent winners which over the past 3 renewals averages out at 30/1.

‘T4’ has trouble getting over the line, we know that, but I have always said that when he gets that next victory, it will be at a high-quality tournament, with a top field and at reasonable odds – not 14/1 at something like the 3M Open. So The Memorial Tournament undoubtedly works in that regard. 8th here at Muirfield Village on course debut in 2015, 11th (2016), 13th (2018) and 8th here last year is a super level of consistency, and many will remember that Tony shot 65-69 to lead here after 36 holes on his last visit and was still very much in the mix prior to Sunday.

Marry that with recent form which reads 10th at The Masters and 8th at the PGA Championship and it’s certainly not all doom and gloom for the Utah man, and there is a definite narrative with winners of The Memorial Tournament of late. Rahm, despite being World Number 2, had only won 2 singles victories on the PGA Tour since January 2017. Hardly prolific, he scored at 22/1.

We were on board Cantlay in 2019 at 18/1, with Patrick arriving in Ohio with only a single PGA Tour victory to his name and that had been 19 months prior. And when we scored on Bryson DeChambeau in 2018 at 50/1, he again had a single PGA Tour victory to his name. For all 3, The Memorial Tournament was their biggest PGA Tour win to that point and backed-up previous wins across the CareerBuilder Challenge, Shriners Open and John Deere Classic respectively. So Tony’s sole – almost embarrassing – 2016 victory at the Puerto Rico Open kind of works – I’m clutching at straws I know!

2021 though has undoubtedly shown progress when it comes to Finau and contending performances. 1st after 54 holes at The American Express became 4th. 2nd after 36 holes at The Farmers Insurance Open ended with Tony finishing runner-up to Patrick Reed. 3rd in the Saudi International after 54 holes became 2nd at the finish, and Tony’s closing 64 at the Riviera Country Club hosted Genesis Invitational was brilliant stuff. He started 5th on Sunday and made it to a playoff, where he lost to Max Homa.

20th last week at Colonial was ok and notable for the fact he ranked 2nd for Total Driving, 3rd for Greens in Regulation and 2nd for Ball Striking. From Tee to Green it was a rewind to late January and early February, and if the putter warms on new to all Bentgrass greens this week, I can see him being a real factor. RESULT: T32

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Shane Lowry 1.25pts EW 40/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Ladbrokes

A revived Shane Lowry for me is worth an investment this week. I can remember backing him at the 2019 RBC Canadian Open at 40/1. Back then he was on a mega run, finishing 3rd at the RBC Heritage and 8th at the PGA Championship, played that year at Bethpage Black, where he had ranked 12th for Strokes Gained Approach and 15th for Tee to Green. Shane certainly gave me a run for my money that week, finishing 2nd to Rory McIlroy who closed with a 61 to take the title by a mere 7 shots. Lowry though finished with his own 68, beating the likes of Webb Simpson, Sungjae Im and Matt Kuchar into the bargain. Of course he then went on to win the 2019 Open Championship the following month.

Fast forward to 2021 and Shane seems in a similar motivated state. It’s Ryder Cup year and Lowry would like nothing more than to get into Padraig Harrington’s team. It was noticeable how they bounced off each other on Sunday at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. Now Lowry won’t be the most fashionable pick this week – others will have better statistics and will pop far more in models. But I like the Florida-based 34 year old for a number of reasons.

Firstly in this field across my 8-week trackers he ranks 7th for Greens in Regulation, 17th for Putting Average (Putts per GIR), 7th for Strokes Gained on Approach, 12th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green and 22nd for Strokes Gained Current Form. There are others with way shorter prices who would like those kind of short term statistics. And although Shane is famous for his coastal performances, it’s worth noting that the County Offaly man has played beautifully in Up-State United States on some of the best parkland courses. The winner of the 2015 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, just a 90 minute drive away in Akron, Ohio, Shane also finished 2nd at the 2016 U.S. Open hosted at Oakmont in neighbouring Pennsylvania. 12th at Bellerive (2018), 8th at Bethpage Black (2019), 12th at Glen Abbey (2018), 15th (2017) here at Muirfield Village on course debut, plus the aforementioned 2nd at Hamilton G&CC in 2019, highlight a player who has had success in these parts.

4th (2011), 2nd (2014), 6th (2015) and 6th (2017), plus another 4 top-15 finishes on Wentworth’s West Course, highlight a player who goes well enough on parkland golf courses, which feature Bentgrass-base greens. 7th for Total Driving, 12th for Greens in Regulation and 5th for Ball Striking at Kiawah Island, from a Stokes Gained perspective he was 1st for Off the Tee, 14th for Around the Green and 5th for Tee to Green. I reckon that Shane, with Padraig in attendance this week, will want to keep the positive momentum trucking. RESULT: T6

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Keegan Bradley 1.25pts EW 50/1 (8EW, 1/5) with William Hill

A look at Keegan Bradley and where he’s performed well in the United States opened my eyes. A winner of the 2012 WGC Bridgestone at Firestone South, Keegan always loved visiting that course set in Akron, Ohio, landing 2nd in 2013 when defending and 4th in 2014. All in all he earned $2.584 million on the Firestone South Course.

2018 was the last time he won on the PGA Tour, landing the FedEx Cup Playoff BMW Championship at the classical, Bentgrass-greened test at Aronimink in neighbouring Pennsylvania. And visits to Connecticut for The Travelers Championship have also been profitable of late, with 8th in 2017 and 2nd in 2019 behind Chez Reavie, plus you can throw 4th at the RBC Canadian Open, hosted on the Nicklaus design at Glen Abbey, in Ontario into the mix as well. 4th in neighbouring West Virginia at the 2014 Greenbrier Classic also highlights a player that has plenty of positive results and contending performances in this neck of the woods.

And that kind of transfers to results here at Muirfield Village. 8th here in both 2015 and 2016, Keegan was also right in the mix in 2018, being 11th after 54 holes before finishing 23rd. That was the year where he went on to finish 13th at the Greenbrier (WA), 4th at Glen Abbey (Ontario) and 1st at Aronimink (PA).

Bradley also rolls into Ohio this week in superb nick. 2nd after 36 holes at TPC Scottsdale (finished 22nd), 4th after 54 holes at Bay Hill (finished 10th), 7th after 54 holes at PGA National (finished 30th), Keegan actually took a fast start and a great position forward at Copperhead where he finished 2nd at the Valspar to Sam Burns. 17th last time out at the Kiawah Island-hosted PGA Championship was his best Major finish since the 2014 U.S. Open and that must boost his confidence, especially as he was 4th for Total Driving, 4th for Greens in Regulation, 3rd for Ball Striking, 4th for Strokes Gained Off the Tee and 12th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green. RESULT: MC

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Gary Woodland 1.25pts EW 60/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfred

I, like many of you, was disappointed with Gary Woodland at the PGA Championship, where he dropped like a stone when he got to within 2 shots of the lead on Sunday, especially when many of us were on at triple-digit prices. From there it was a trail of destruction, but when you look at things once the disappointment has subsided, Gary got himself into the heat of battle at a tough Major Championship and that shows where his game is at right now.

Forget season-long stats on the basis that the 37 year old had a nightmare early doors, but Gary is playing some outstanding stuff right now. 6th at TPC San Antonio, 5th at Quail Hollow and 14th last week at Colonial. Gary’s only focus right now is that he’s pain-free and enjoying playing some great golf. A first win since the 2019 U.S. Open would be nice to of course! And that for me makes him a massive danger at Muirfield Village this week.

A look at Gary’s Jack Nicklaus design record is fascinating for a start. 6th (2011), 2nd (2017) and 8th (2020) at PGA National; 1st (2013) and 2nd (2016) at Montreux; 4th (2017) at Glen Abbey. Not too shabby, especially when you see he’s also finished 6th (2011), 16th (2013), 4th (2016) and 5th (2020 Workday) here at Muirfield Village. In Woodland’s own words “This is one of my favourite stops of the year.”

And that makes logical sense. Long off the tee and with the power to club down whenever required, Woodland in his pomp is a superb ball-striker. Last week at Colonial saw him finish with a confidence boosting 67; across the week he was 3rd for Total Driving, 8th for Greens in Regulation and 2nd for Ball Striking. For those who like their Strokes Gained numbers, he was 6th for Off the Tee and 22nd for Tee to Green. Undoubtedly in good nick and will be looking forward to his week in Ohio. RESULT: MC

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