The Memorial Tournament: Keep the faith in Fowler

Rickie Fowler can turn around his recent fortunes at Memorial
Rickie Fowler can turn around his recent fortunes at Memorial

After a 30/1 winner and an 80/1 T2 with his three tips last week, Dave Tindall is back to preview this week's Memorial Tournament in Ohio...

"Fowler sits a very healthy 7th in Strokes Gained: Approach-The-Green while he’s 12th in Approaches from over 200 yards."

Main Bet: Back Rickie Fowler @ 31.030/1

Each-way terms: 1/5 odds, 6 places

Main Bet: Back Rickie Fowler e.w. @ 30/1

When a player has missed his last three cuts at the same venue, it's probably time to think it isn't for them. And when that same player shot a 79 in his last competitive round, surely the combined evidence is enough to make you stay well clear.

The above all applies to Rickie Fowler and yet I cannot get away from him at 30/1 this week.

The hard, cold facts are that the American has MC-MC-MC here from 2014-2016 but, to me, it just doesn't make any sense.

Jack Nicklaus built Muirfield Village as a second-shot course where the fairways are wide and strong long iron play is key.

It's quite clearly a nod to Augusta National where he won six times and hence another key skill is to be able to putt well on ultra-quick greens.

Fowler has the necessary young man's nerve to shine on lightning-fast putting surfaces and for the third time in his career he ranked 1st in Putts Per Round at the Masters last month.

As for iron play, Fowler sits a very healthy 7th in Strokes Gained: Approach-The-Green while he's 12th in Approaches from over 200 yards.

Also 7th in Strokes Gained: Putting this season, Fowler boasts some impressive form at the other PGA Tour stop in Ohio. That's the WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone CC, a long par 70 with testing par 4s, and Fowler has cracked the top 10 in his last three appearances there.

In short, he would appear to have the perfect game to shine at Muirfield Village.

Perhaps, you might say, there is something about the par 72 that just doesn't suit his eye and those three missed cuts would appear to back that up.

However, I refer the jury to his second place in this event on debut in 2010 when he shot 65-66-69 to lead after 18, 36 and 54 holes.

Fowler was also third at halfway in 2012 while he shot a second-round 69 there last year to show that he can still score well at Jack's place.

In 2015, his MC came just days after he'd had his swing buffeted around in the Irish Open while his weekend off last year was also the filling in a missed cut sandwich which included halfway exits at the Players Championship and U.S. Open so clearly his game was off.

Perhaps I'm offering him excuses but he did say ahead of the 2015 Memorial: "I've had a lot of good play here, a couple of good finishes. So see if we can pick up where we left off."

And in 2013: "I really enjoy playing here. For some reason I enjoy a lot of Jack's courses. I'm not sure if it's a visual thing or what it is. But I've definitely made a lot of putts here."

Back to Sawgrass, a closing 79 there isn't a good look but he still had title thoughts after 53 holes before a triple at the 18th in round three after his ball got stuck up a tree. When that happens, it probably isn't your week.

Prior to the Players Championship, Fowler was a serious contender for a long way at Augusta (T11), third at Houston, a winner of the Honda Classic and fourth in Phoenix. And those are just the highlights.

Mistakes have cost him at Muirfield Village before but he's 18th in Bogey Avoidance this season so, all in all, he looks real value at the industry-high 30/1.

Next Best: Back Jon Rahm e/w @ 12/1

I've never tipped Jon Rahm before but that has to change soon given that he keeps on churning out tremendous finishes.

It's easy to turn your nose up at 12/1 in a field containing DJ, Spieth and Day (more on them shortly) but after finishing joint runner-up at Colonial last week, the Spaniard now secured backers a win and five each-way payouts in his last 10 starts.

He's done that on a variety of courses so there's absolutely no reason why his sensational rookie season can't take another upward turn here.

Built rather like Jack Nicklaus himself, the immensely powerful Rahm was second in Driving Distance, sixth for greens in regulation and the leader in Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green last week.

On the season-long stats, he's 3rd in Strokes Gained: Approach-The-Green, 5th for Birdie Average, 5th for Scoring Average and has banked $4.491m (3rd on Money List). I could go on but you get the point.

Speaking after his final round at Colonial when he came up just a shot shy of winner Kevin Kisner, Rahm said: "Today I absolutely striped the whole back nine. Just too bad I couldn't get advantage of a couple other good putts that I had for birdie. I kept hitting good shots. Having putts from 10, 15 feet for birdie on pretty much every hole besides 10 on the back nine. I wish I made a couple more.

"Ah, it's just golf. It will sting for a little while, but next week is a new tournament, and, you know, look forward."

I'd argue that Memorial is a better course for him than Colonial given that he'll be able to hit driver more and the longer holes (it measures nearly 7,400 yards), especially the par 4s, will test those irons which he hits so well (2nd in approaches from 175-200 yards).

As for the other market leaders, I'd expect Dustin Johnson to have managed better than he has (made the frame just twice in nine appearances) although third place last time could be the stepping stone from which he gets that first win.

Perhaps T12 (Players) and T13 (Byron Nelson) suggests he's still revving up a little for the summer of majors and still not quite back at peak DJ following his fall down the stairs at Augusta.

Jordan Spieth sounded very positive about his play at Colonial where he outscored everyone over the final 45 holes.

However, perhaps that course is a better fit for him than this one. Spieth is 57-3-19-63 here at Muirfield Village whereas he's now 2-1-2 at Colonial.

Jason Day now calls Ohio home but he's never made the top 25 in eight appearances in this event. It looks as if he's coming back to form but something clearly doesn't work for him at this venue and it appears ingrained.

Final Bet: Back Adam Scott e/w @ 25/1

If working through the checklist of good form at Augusta, good form at Firestone and strong long iron play, you'd be ticking Adam Scott in all those categories.

And the logic becomes reality when you check his record at Memorial.

The Aussie has missed the last couple of editions but his last appearance resulted in a top four in 2014, he was T13 the year before and you'll also find top fives in 2006 and 2007. Overall, he's landed the each-way cash in three of his last seven appearances at Muirfield Village.

With a win and three other top 10s at Firestone in his last seven appearances at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational added to those exact same figures at Augusta National, we're very much in Adam Scott territory this week.

After such a quiet start to the year, you get the sense he's extra keen to show his best golf and it's certainly coming after T9 at the Masters and T6 at the Players Championship in two of his last three starts.

We last saw him being interviewed at Sawgrass when he noted: "Overall there was lots of good stuff for me. My putting was really solid, bit shaky on the front nine today but then I putted well on the back nine.

"Overall, I'm fairly pleased, but I am going to go away and work on how to solidify my long game. There's 14 holes of good stuff tee to green and then there's four every day that are below my standard, and I would like to lift that up consistency-wise to get it solid for the U.S. Open so I feel I can feature there."

As for Muirfield Village, he said in 2014: "It's a course I like very much. I feel like this course sets up well for me. One of the best rounds I've ever played was here in 2006. On Friday's round I shot 62 and left a few out there. I really thought I could have got to that magic number."

Scott looks a danger on any suitable course right now and this must count as one of them. Take the 25s.

I've not looked too far beyond the favourites this week and it's true that there have been a lot of top-class winners. But recent wins for William McGirt and David Lingmerth give hope to those chasing a big-priced winner.

Looking a bit further down, Ryan Moore at 90s interests me given his love for fast greens (he has six top 20s at Memorial including a second and a fifth) while Steve Stricker (winner here in 2011) is still playing well enough (T7 Colonial) to run into a place.

Shane Lowry bounced back to form at Wentworth and won the WGC-Bridgestone in Ohio while Sean O'Hair is a real form horse after 5-2 in the two Texas events (he has a fifth and two T12s here).

Tony Finau deserves respect too after finishes of T11 and T8 in his two knocks here. Finau is T6 in Par 4 Scoring which is a good pointer at this venue.

Looking back through the records, Fowler (T28), Rahm (T2) and Scott (T37) are well placed in the Par 4 scoring category so I'm confident our three picks can make a big mark and follow up Kevin Kisner's 30/1 success in last week's column.

Dave's 2016/17 PGA Tour P/L (based on £5 e/w per selection outrights, £10 win top 5s/10s)

Staked: £810
Returned: £1894.06
P/L: +£1084.06

(After the Dean & Deluca Invitational)

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