Memorial Tournament: Course lover Bubba looks a big price
The PGA Tour heads to the course that Jack Nicklaus built this week. Dave Tindall picks out his three best bets for the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village...
"Bubba is a two-time winner this season – Genesis Open and WGC-Dell Match Play. That gives him two more trophies in 2018 than Jordan Spieth and one more than Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas. That celebrated quartet are all at least half his odds."
Each-way terms: 1/5 odds, 7 places
Main Bet: Back Bubba Watson each-way @ 33/1
When Bubba Watson returns to a place he's played well at before, the left-hander should always be on the radar.
And after a tied sixth (2017) and a solo third (2014) on his last two starts to Memorial, he certainly sparks my interest at 33/1.
Bubba is a two-time winner this season - Genesis Open and WGC-Dell Match Play. That gives him two more trophies in 2018 than Jordan Spieth and one more than Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas. That celebrated quartet are all at least half his odds.
Watson followed up that Match Play win with an excellent top five at the US Masters and there's many a link been made Memorial Village and Augusta National - two-tree-lined courses in the Southern states with a premium on approach shots and being able to handle super-quick greens.
Since then, he's finished T28 in the pairs format at the Zurich Classic and an easy-to-forgive T57 in the Players Championship.
Why can we ignore the latter? "I'm no good around this place," said Watson that week. "It's very difficult for me because of the sights off the tee, some of the trees. It makes me fear hitting the shots that I want to hit so it causes me a lot of problems. Nothing wrong with the golf course, it's one of the best we ever play, it's just not built for me."
By contrast, he said this about Memorial Village.
"I love this place. I cut the ball off the tee. Kenny Perry, he did pretty well here, drawing the ball as a righty. That's basically my shot shape.
"This is the closest thing to a major when you're talking about the set-up of a golf course. The rough is really thick. The greens are super fast. The greens are super tricky. It's a second-shot golf course, par-3s, so iron golf course. You've got to hit your irons well. Drivers are pretty generous off the tees.
"Jack Nicklaus tests you in every sense of the word. And it's mostly mental."
Watson took a little while to get to grips with this course and admits some of the par 3s still cause him trouble. But the bottom line is that he was the 54-hole leader in 2014, third with 18 to play last year and has given punters each-way pay-outs in two of his last three starts.
He's eighth for Greens In Regulation this season and topped that category in two of his last four strokeplay starts. Add in a second place in the 2015 WGC-Bridgestone International at Firestone - another tough tree-lined track in Ohio with plenty of good correlations in performance to this one and Watson has a lot going for him. And finally he's also a selection for fellow BB golf contributor, Steve Rawlings.
I'll have some 33s.
Next Best: Back Hideki Matsuyama each-way @ 33/1
When Hideki Matsuyama last teed it up in Ohio, he shot a startling final-round 61 to win the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
A top five at the following week's USPGA and he was ranked No. 2 in the world - a mighty effort in the current era with so many good players around.
He's had some difficulties since with injuries and a dip in form but T19 at Augusta National and T16 on his last start at the AT&T Byron Nelson (66 R4) suggest the Japanese star could be ready to throw in a big one again.
Muirfield Village has to be a likely venue for that to happen.
Matsuyama first saw the course when playing it in the Presidents Cup and he returned the following year to lift the trophy on his Memorial debut in 2014.
He followed that with a top five when defending in 2015 and, despite not making an impression the last two years, it's pretty clear he loves this track.
"It always feels good to be back in Dublin, Ohio. Coming to the course, Muirfield Village, gives me energy. There are some special vibes here and hopefully that will encourage my game to play much better than I have been the last couple of months," he said last year.
"The fairways are a little wider than some of the courses. And it's a real good second shot golf course that plays into my strength."
While his irons haven't been as sharp this year, he's still 43rd in SG: Tee-To-Green and there are other areas showing promise too.
Matsuyama is 6th in SG: Around-The-Green while he gained over five strokes with the putter at the Byron Nelson last time out.
Despite recent comparative struggles, he's still ranked 10th in the world and he's definitely a player who pops up again on the same courses.
There's his win and fifth here, back-to-back victories in the Waste Management Phoenix Open, form of 4-2-3 on the Plantation Course at the season opener in Hawaii and four straight top 20s at Augusta National.
He surely won't be quiet for much longer and 33s on a course where he's won seems a good deal.
For the ultimate course horse, turn to five-time Memorial winner Tiger Woods.
If we think of the other tracks where the great man has most wins, this slots in there alongside Torrey Pines, Bay Hill and Augusta National.
How has the modern version of Tiger fared at those venues this season? T23, T5 and T32.
You can spin those results positively if backing Woods this week and his T11 at Sawgrass when shooting 65-69 on the weekend offered further signs of promise.
But 18/1 in a field this deep? It may not be the worst price ever but I think there are better options elsewhere.
Final Bet: Back Charley Hoffman each-way @ 125/1
At 125s I'll take a risk on Charley Hoffman.
On the face of it, his course form of just one top 20 in just nine starts doesn't give him much appeal.
A more generous summary is that he's made the cut in eight of his nine visits and his PB of T19 came on his penultimate visit in 2014 when he shot bookend 69s.
He's only played the course once since then (T45 last year) but I think there are clues in other Hoffman results that may help argue his case.
Firstly, there's the Augusta link. Hoffman has never finished worse than T29 in five starts at the US Masters and was T12 there last month.
Secondly, he'd had a rather modest record in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational (no top 20s in four starts) but he went to Firestone last year and shot four rounds in the 60s to take solo third.
The World No. 34 is also not coy about wanting to make the Ryder Cup team in September.
After an opening 63 at Colonial Country Club last week, he stated: "I knew the game's close. It's nice to put a good, solid round together, even if it's the first round, final round, no matter what it is. Just get something going for the rest of the year. We've got some big tournaments coming up and, obviously, end the year with a big one at the Ryder Cup and I'd love to be on that team."
Hoffman fell away after that fast start to finish T52 but I suspect there was some disappointment after wasting the good opening lap and the leaderboard slide became exaggerated.
He tried a new putter at Colonial - a heavier Scotty Cameron - and it produced his best SG: Putting stats since last year's WGC-Bridgestone although, as these things do, his iron play decided to dip at the same time.
If Hoffman can put the two elements together, this could be the year where he really steps up on past Memorial efforts. He's a good putter on fast greens and gained over five strokes with the flatstick on these surfaces in on his last but one visit.
Others at three-figure prices that could go well include Houston runner-up Beau Hossler and Zach Johnson (has a past second here).
Emiliano Grillo was T11 at Memorial on debut in 2016 and added to good recent play with a top three at Colonial but it seems crazy that the World No. 52 is just two points bigger than Bubba and Matsuyama.
Dave's 2017/18 PGA Tour P/L (based on £5 ew per selection outrights, £10 win top 5s/10s)
(After the AT&T Byron Nelson)