Jason Kokrak took down Jordan Spieth in the final round Sunday to claim his second career PGA Tour win, and his second win of the season. We have another great week of golf in store for us this week. The PGA Tour travels to Dublin, Ohio to “Jack’s Place” for the Memorial Tournament. This is one of the premier events of the season, and always attracts a strong field. This will be the last time we see some of the top-tier names until Torrey Pines in two weeks for the U.S. Open.
Muirfield Village Golf Club is a Par 72 and has been almost completely renovated over the past year. The course will now measure over 7,500 yards as about 150 yards have been added. The green complexes have been recontoured and rebuilt with significant changes to the greenside bunkers. I do not believe the changes will lead to any vast differences in what style of golfer will find success. For the most part, as with most Nicklaus course, golfers will be challenged as they get closer to the hole. The fairways are rather generous, and the real difficulty is scrambling to save par if golfers have an errant second-shot. The second-shot nature of the course puts a premium on strong approach players, or strong around-the-green players. Golfers who miss the green will need to navigate tricky greenside bunkers, and capitalize on their short-game to avoid bogeys. Muirfield Village is a classical, second-shot golf course with undulating bentgrass greens, so it is fair to say that Augusta National is the most obvious comparison. High class players tend to rise to the top, and an overall complete performance will be needed to contend this week.
Former winners of this event are Jon Rahm, Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau, Jason Dufner, and William McGirt. Collin Morikawa claimed victory at Muirfield Village last summer during the Workday Charity Open, which was hosted the week prior to the Memorial Tournament. The five previous winners of this event have shown the ability to score on the Par 5s. Over the past five years the winners have an average score of -9.2 on the Par 5s while the overall winning score has only been an -14.2 on average. More than half the scoring will come on the Par 5s so it is worth looking at golfers who are aggressive on Par 5s and go for the green in two shots. With seven Par 4s slated to play between 450-500 yards, I will be looking for golfers are efficient on these longer Par 4s. The previous five winners have played exceptionally well Tee-to-Green and have put together strong performances on both Approach and Around-the-Green. I will be looking for golfers who are good scramblers, and good iron-players. Finding a blend of these two stats will be the blueprint for a successful week at Muirfield.
I have already mentioned Augusta as a comparable course but The Concession and Sherwood are two other courses that were played in the past year that resemble Muirfield. The Concession is a Jack Nicklaus design that requires golfers to be precise with their irons and plays as a true second-shot golf course. Golfers who found themselves off of the green fell victim to tricky runoff areas and big numbers presented themselves to poor scramblers. Sherwood was the host of the 2020 ZoZo Championship and saw a leaderboard littered with stud players who excel with their Approach.
Key Stats: Approach, Tee-to-Green, Around-the-Green, Scrambling, GIRs Gained, Proximity 175-200 yards
Scoring Upside: Birdies-or-Better, Par 5 Birdies-or-Better, Bogey Avoidance, Par4 Efficiency 450-500 yards
Memorial Betting Tips
Hideki Matsuyama 30-1
I have already mentioned the similarity between Muirfield and Augusta so it makes sense that this year’s Masters winner has my attention. Hideki is a great Approach player and he has great touch around-the-green. He is up to 14th in the Official World Golf Rankings and has been in great form this entire season. Since the start of the 2021 PGA season, Hideki has played in 19 events and has made 16 cuts. During that span, Hideki won the Masters and finished T13 at the November Masters, and he also finished T15 at the Concession. The six-time PGA Tour winner also got his first ever PGA Tour victory at this course back in 2014. This classical style golf course fits Hideki’s game perfectly, as he has played here eight times and notched five Top 25 finishes, including the win.
Matsuyama is a great ball-striker and is particularly good on Approach where he ranks eleventh among this field this season. The strong approach game, in addition to his touch around the green is the perfect combination I am looking for this week. Over his last 24 rounds, among this field Hideki ranks: ninth in GIRs gained, 12th in Birdies-or-Better Gained, 12th in Approach, 14th in Total Strokes Gained, and 20th in Tee-to-Green. Matsuyama’s biggest weakness is his putter, and former winners have not needed to rely on a spike week with the flatstick in order to win. Hideki will utilize the strengths of his game to give himself plenty of birdie opportunities and I expect a big week from him.
Patrick Reed 35-1
A long course with a need for short-game excellence sounds like the perfect recipe for Patrick Reed. While Reed is not a long hitter, he has found a great deal of success on longer courses. Reed’s three best finishes this season have been a win at Torrey Pines, T6 at Quail Hollow, and T8 at Augusta. Reed also has a T9 at the Concession, a T10 at the November Masters, and a T14 at Sherwood which indicates he has a propensity for classical courses that challenge each facet of a golfer’s game. The generous fairways at Muirfield should allow Reed to avoid trouble with his worse clubs. In six trips to Muirfield Village, Reed has never missed a cut and has recorded two Top 10 Finishes.
Among all PGA Tour players, Reed ranks third in Putting, eighth in Par 4 Efficiency from 450-500 yards, ninth in Total Strokes Gained, 12th in Par 5 Birdies-or-Better Percentage, and 24th in Around-the-Green. Reed is a short-game specialist and this is the type of course where he should excel. The former Masters winner, has won nine times on the PGA Tour and has won against elite fields at very tough courses. 35-1 is a great number for a proven winner who has also played great at similar courses this season.
Keegan Bradley 50-1
Keegan Bradley is playing some of the best golf of his career and he has no hardware to show for it. If Bradley continues to live at the top of leaderboards, he will find himself with chances on Sunday to win a tournament. Bradley has made ten consecutive cuts, eight consecutive Top 30s, and five consecutive Top 25s. Bradley has experience at Muirfield, where he has played the course eleven times in his career and has netted two Top 10 Finishes.
For someone who is so bad with his putter, Keegan is actually pretty solid with his Around-the-Green game. Over his last 32 rounds, Bradley has gained .54 strokes per round Around-the-Green, while also gaining 1.54 strokes per round Tee-to-Green. That is the exact blueprint I am looking for this week. At a really basic level, if you are looking for the player who has the best blend of Tee-to-Green and Around-the-Green it is Keegan Bradley. Over his last 24 rounds, among this field Bradley ranks: fourth Tee-to-Green, seventh in Total Strokes Gained, eighth in GIRs Gained, ninth Around-the-Green, 15th on Approach, and 15th in Birdies-or-Better Gained. I am embracing TeamNoPutt this week because I believe ball-striking and overall completeness will be the most likely path to a win.
Cameron Smith 55-1
Cameron Smith is another short-game specialist who excels on classical courses. Smith comes into this event in tremendous form, where he has recorded four Top 10 Finishes over his last eight starts. During that span, Smith won the Zurich Classic with his teammate Marc Leishman. Smith finished runner-up at the November Masters, and followed it up with a T10 at Augusta back in April. A fourth-place finish at Sherwood, another fourth-place finish at Riviera, along with a T11 at the Concession paints an encouraging picture for the 27-year-old Australian. Smith plays these tougher classical courses very well because of the overall completeness of his game.
Cameron Smith is the best Par 5 scorer on the PGA Tour. Among all players, this season Smith is number one in Par 5 Birdies-or-Better. Smith’s ability to score is appealing this week and I particularly like his short-game abilities. Over the last 24 rounds, among this field Smith ranks: sixth in Total Strokes Gained, eighth in Birdies-or-Better Gained, and tenth in Around-the-Green. I love Smith’s ability to contend at these styles of courses and finding him at this price is a bet I will make every time.
Si Woo Kim 100-1
Si Woo Kim is a very volatile golfer and coming off of a withdrawal at Colonial has bumped his outright odds into the triple digits. Si Woo has mediocre course history at Muirfield, where he has never missed a cut in his six tries but has never contended. The argument for Si Woo lies with his high ceiling. The 25-year-old South Korean has already won on Tour this season, and has played well at Augusta. Kim’s win this season was at the American Express which does feature the Nicklaus Tournament Course. His last two starts at Augusta have resulted in a T12 and T34 Finish. Among all PGA Tour players, this season Kim ranks: 10th in Par 4 Scoring Average, 10th in Par 4 Efficiency from 450-500 yards, and 11th in Scrambling. Si Woo is a good Around-the-Green player and has the volatility to find himself at the top of a leaderboard come Sunday afternoon.