The Memorial Tournament: Experienced all-rounders fit the bill at Jack's place

Jason Dufner is Steve's main pre-tournament bet on the PGA Tour
Jason Dufner has put together some encouraging form in recent weeks

It's all back to Jack's this week on the PGA Tour with the top 75 on the 2014 Money List invited to the Memorial Tournament at the Jack Nicklaus-owned Muirfield Village...

"I really like the figures put up Jason Dufner last week in Dallas when he finished 8th behind Steven Bowditch. Nobody hit more fairways and he ranked 9th for Greens In regulation. Once again, he didn't putt brilliantly and he certainly needs to find some improvement there, but I thought he was just about worth chancing."

Tournament History
This is Jack Nicklaus' event and it's always played on the course he built and named after his favourite Open Championship venue - Muirfield. Roger Maltbie beat Hale Irwin in a playoff to win the inaugural Memorial Tournament, way back in 1976, so this will be the 40th staging. It's an invitational event, with only the top-75 on the previous year's money list guaranteed a place in the line-up.


Venue
Muirfield Village Golf Club, Dublin Ohio


Course Details
Par 72, 7,392 yards
Stroke index in 2014 - 71.90
Built in 1974, on land acquired eight years earlier, Jack Nicklaus designed Muirfield Village himself and he very often tinkers with it. It's a strong but fair test. The fairways are fairly generous but the rough is pretty penal and it always strikes me how lush the whole place looks. Water comes into play on 11 holes and the smaller than average bentgrass greens are undulating and fast.

In addition to this event, Muirfield has also hosted the 1987 Ryder Cup, the 1998 Solheim Cup and the Presidents Cup in 2013.


Useful Sites
Event Site
Course Site
Course Details
Course Tour
Twitter Link
Tee Times
Weather Forecast


TV Coverage
Live on Sky all four days, starting on Thursday


Last Five Winners
2014 - Hideki Matsuyama -13 (playoff)
2013 - Matt Kuchar -12
2012 - Tiger Woods -9
2011 - Steve Stricker -16
2010 - Justin Rose -18


What Will it Take to Win The Memorial Tournament?

This used to be an event dominated by the bigger hitters but as time goes by their advantage appears to have been negated somewhat. Everyone hits it fairly long now and I would definitely favour an accurate long game over a powerful one. Over the last ten years, the Driving Distance average ranking of the winners has been 36.8 compared with an average Driving Accuracy ranking of 10.6.

It's not just accuracy off the tee that counts - neat and tidy iron play helps, too. Hideki Matsuyama ranked only 22nd for Greens In Regulation 12 months ago but the two winners before him, Matt Kuchar and Tiger Woods, both ranked 1st.

Statistically, the best stat to ponder is Par 4 Scoring, as only two of the last ten winners have ranked worse than 2nd - Kenny Perry ranked 5th in 2008 and Tiger ranked 4th a year later when he won the fourth of his five titles.


Is There an Angle In?

Muirfield is a stern test and concentrating on the in-form players makes sense. This isn't the sort of course where you can get away with being off your game and the vast majority of winners have shown form before they get here.

I've analysed the results going back 20 years and it's obvious that you need to have had a good year before you even get to Muirfield. Matsuyama had finished 4th at the Phoenix Open and arrived at Jack's Place fresh off a top-ten finish at Colonial but that wasn't anywhere near as hot as most of the winners have been...

All 20 had put up, at the very least, a top-ten finish earlier in the year, even the big shock winners like Bart Bryant and Carl Pettersson. Ten of the 20 had already won an event somewhere and only two of the 20 winners had failed to finish inside the top-four.

Three of the last 20 winners had won the week before but you don't have to be red-hot - Tiger, Jim Furyk, Vijay Singh and Bryant have all won having not shown much in their previous three starts but even they had shown form earlier in the year.

I'd favour those that have already shown something in 2015 and a win already in the bag is a big plus.


Is There an Identikit Winner?

Although he already had the reputation of a player likely to go on and win majors, Matsuyama was very much a surprise winner at just 22 years of age and making his event debut.

Muirfield is a tough enough test, course experience is advantageous and most winners are experienced pros. Tiger Woods, Carl Pettersson and Justin Rose (who was a month shy of his 30th) are the only other winners here in their 20s and Matsuyama was the first to win on debut, although he did play in the 2013 Presidents Cup here.

We've had one or two surprise winners over the years and Matsuyama was relatively un-fancied at around 80.079/1 but the five winners that preceded him were all fairly well fancied and between 1993 and 2004, every winner was either a past or future major winner.


In-Play Tactics

Muirfield looks like a place to take on the leaders at every stage. In the event's entire 39 year history, only two men have led or co-led after round one and gone on to win - Ernie Els in 2004 and Rose in 2010. Rory McIlroy led by three after round one last year but finished tied 15th, Paul Casey was three clear at halfway but could only finish tied for 13th and Bubba Watson became the 7th third round leader or co-leader to get beat in the last eight years.

Laying the leaders certainly paid dividends last year with Bubba hitting a low of 1.422/5 and Kevin Na 1.121/8. And Matsuyama looked like he'd thrown it all away with a double bogey at the 16th after hitting just 1.21/5.

Last year's playoff protagonists trailed by seven and nine strokes after round one. Matsuyama was still five back at halfway and he was two back after three rounds, whereas Na still trailed by nine at the halfway stage and he was a whooping seven back after round three. It's clearly possible to come from off the pace but I fancy last year was an anomaly. In the 16 years previous, only two winners, Woods and Furyk, had been further than four strokes adrift after day one.

That said, recent history suggests you definitely want to be just off the pace through three rounds. Matt Kuchar was two clear in 2013 with a round to go but five of the six winners before him were three, four (three times) or five strokes behind after 54 holes.


Market Leaders

Jordan Spieth is a bit bigger than he's been in a while and I'm not surprised. He's been on the go quite a bit since winning the US Masters and his performance in Texas last week, where he only just scraped a top-30 finish, suggested he may be in need of a bit of a break.

The world number two has played Muirfield Village twice, finishing 63rd on debut two years ago and 19th last year so his course form isn't spectacular.

Dustin Johnson is the clear second favourite but I'm not sure he's anywhere near accurate enough off the tee for this place. Anyone that saw his driving display on Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson would be put off and an analysis of his stats just confirms it. He's ranked 60th, 62nd and 63rd for Driving Accuracy in his last three starts and that's definitely off putting, as is his previous course form. He finished fourth in 2011 but that's his only top-ten finish from seven starts.

Although he's missed three cuts here, Justin Rose's form figures are much more appealing. In addition to his win here in 2010, he's finished runner-up, was 4th on debut, and 8th twice. He ticks the winner this year box, having won the Zurich Classic in April, and if he bounces back to form he's a big runner but he's been a bit cold since then. After being knocked out of the WGC Match Play at the group stage and missing the cut at the Players Championship, he failed to break 70 at Wentworth a fortnight ago and I'm going to let him start without me.


Selections

Chris Kirk was top of my shortlist but he looks fractionally too short and his stats when he won the Crown Plaza Invitational two weeks ago have spooked me a bit too. He didn't drive well (61st for Driving Accuracy) or hit too many greens (ranked 64th for GIR) but he putted the lights out, averaging just 1.57. A repeat of that sort of performance probably wouldn't get the job done here so I'm reluctantly leaving him out now.

In stark contrast, I really like the figures put up Jason Dufner last week in Dallas when he finished 8th behind Steven Bowditch. Nobody hit more fairways and he ranked 9th for Greens In regulation. Once again, he didn't putt brilliantly and he certainly needs to find some improvement there, but I thought he was just about worth chancing.

Dufner has had a difficult time of late, having split with his wife, but last week's performance showed his recent weight loss isn't hindering his long game and if he can roll a few more putts in he could be set for a big week.


Selection:
Jason Dufner @ 67.066/1 (current price available on the Betfair Sportsbook)


I'll be back tomorrow with my Nordea Masters preview and if I add any more picks here I'll update the preview and tweet again.

Other golf previews this week:

Nordea Masters 2015 Tips from the betting.betfair Golf team.
Nordea Masters 2015 Betting Preview from The Punter.
Memorial Tournament 2015 Tips from Dave Tindall.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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