The PGA Tour remains in Ohio for the second of two consecutive events at Muirfield Village. Steve Rawlings looks at what it might take to the win the Memorial Tournament in his comprehensive preview...
"The greens will definitely run faster, the rough will be taller and hole locations and tees will vary to last week but I’d wager that having got a feel for the venue so recently is a plus. Anyone that lined up last week won’t have travelled this week and they would have acclimatised nicely by now."
First staged in 1976, the Memorial Tournament is an invitational event with only the top-75 on the previous PGA Tour season's money list guaranteed a place in the line-up.
The brainchild of 18-time major winner, Jack Nicklaus, the Memorial Tournament always attracts a seller field and this year's edition is no exception with Adam Scott the only player in the world's top-ten not in attendance. Tiger Woods is playing for the first time since the restart and this will be the 45th edition.
Muirfield Village Golf Club, Dublin Ohio.
Stroke Index at the 2019 Memorial Tournament with a yardage of 7,392 - 71.32
Named after his favourite Open Championship venue and set in 240 rolling, wooded acres, Jack Nicklaus designed Muirfield Village himself and he very often tinkers with it. As he has prior to last week's Workday Charity Open and this year's edition of the Memorial Tournament.
New tee boxes on holes eight, 11 and 15 have seen the three holes lengthened fractionally and bunkering has changed on holes six, seven, ten, 13 and 18.
Muirfield was built in 1974 on land acquired eight years earlier. It's a strong but fair test when prepared for the Memorial Tournament. The fairways are fairly generous but the rough, consisting of a blend of Kentucky bluegrass, fescue and rye, is usually pretty penal and it always strikes me how lush the whole place looks.
In addition to the Memorial Tournament, Muirfield also hosted the 1987 Ryder Cup, the 1998 Solheim Cup, the Presidents Cup in 2013 and last week's event.
Water comes into play on 11 holes and the smaller than average bentgrass greens are undulating and usually set at around 13 on the stimpmeter. That's quite a bit faster than they were last week and the rough won't be cut between now and Thursday either so we can expect a tougher test than experienced last week.
Live Featured Group coverage on Thursday and Friday from 12:15 (UK and Ireland time) and full live coverage from 19:30 on Thursday and Friday, and from 17:30 over the weekend.
Last Six Muirfield Winners with Pre-event Exchange Prices
2020 - Collin Morikawa -19 [30.0] (last week's Workday Charity Open)
2019 - Patrick Cantlay -19 [19.0]
2018 - Bryson DeChambeau -15 (playoff) [48.0]
2017 - Jason Dufner -13 [90.0]
2016 - William McGirt -15 (playoff) [360.0]
2015 - David Lingmerth -15 (playoff) [640.0]
What Will it Take to Win the memorial Tournament?
The last two Memorial Tournament winners, Patrick Cantlay and Bryson DeChambeau, have both ranked fourth for Driving Distance but length off the tee isn't as advantageous as it once was around Muirfield.
Conditions were different to the usual Memorial Tournament set-up last week but as highlighted in this morning's De-Brief, five of the top-six ranked higher for Driving Accuracy than they did for Driving Distance and with the rough allowed to grow in-between tournaments, the chances are we'll see a similar story this week. Sunday's winner, Morikawa ranked ninth for D.A and 19th for DD.
Martin Kaymer traded at a low of [1.42] at the Memorial last year, before eventually finishing third, and he only ranked 51st for DD. Kyle Stanley was beaten in the playoff two years ago, having ranked only 57th for DD and the first and second three years, Jason Dufner and Anirban Lahiri, ranked only 28th and 35th for Driving Distance. The two playoff protagonists four years ago, William McGirt and Jon Curran, ranked 50th and 68th and in 2015, three of the top-five and ties, including the winner, David Lingmerth, ranked in the 60s for DD.
The last two Memorial Tournament winners have ranked only 51st and 58th for Driving Accuracy, but up until 2018, avoiding the rough off the tee had been much more important than whacking it miles.
The first two home in 2017 ranked seventh and first for Driving Accuracy and the DA ranking of the ten winners before DeChambeau in 2018 was 14.9. The average DD ranking of the 10 winners before Bryson was 35.4.
The 2012 and 2013 winners, Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar, both ranked first for Greens In Regulation and so did the 2017 winner, Jason Dufner. Byeong Hun An ranked first for GIR when beaten in extra time two years ago and last year's winner, ranked 11th. Adam Scott, who finished second, ranked second for GIR. The 2016 winner, William McGirt ranked seventh for GIR and the two players that ranked first and second for GIR five years ago, Francesco Molinari and Jim Furyk, both finished inside the top-five. The average GIR ranking of the last ten Memorial winners is 11.2 and the two playoff protagonists on Sunday ranked sixth and ninth.
Morikawa only ranked 31st for Scrambling but that's been a key stat. Thomas ranked second and the first three home in this event last year ranked fifth, sixth and seventh. And the two best Scramblers, Jordan Spieth and Marc Leishman, finished seventh and fifth. Bryson DeChambeau topped the Scrambling stats when he won here two years ago.
The first two home ranked tied second for Par 4 Scoring last year and ten of the last 14 Memorial winners have ranked first or second for Par 4 Scoring. That wouldn't be unusual on a par 70 track, with only two par fives, but given Muirfield is a par 72 with four, it's a stat to consider closely this week. Morikawa ranked 11th and Thomas second for Par 4 Scoring last week.
Although four of the last six Memorial winners have had a Putting Average ranking of seventh or better, and Morikawa ranked first last week (when the greens were slower than normal) this is one of those rare venues where putting isn't the most important stat to consider and players that aren't renowned for their flat-stick prowess have won or contended. DeChambeau only ranked 27th when he won here two years ago and McGirt managed to win with a ranking of 55th!
Is There an Angle In?
The WGC-St Jude Invitational replaced the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in 2019 but a look back at the old leaderboards at Firestone should provide a few clues.
Tiger Woods has thrived at both venues, Hideki Matsuyama has won both events, Justin Rose has won here and finished runner-up at Firestone, last year's second here, Scott, has won at Firestone, Kyle Stanley and Zach Johnson have both finished second at both venues, and a number of other players have played very well in both tournaments.
Firestone is also in Ohio but the form crosses over so well that it can't just be geographical - both venues clearly correlate nicely.
And after yesterday, Thomas is another Firestone winner to come close to winning here.
Was Playing Last week a Plus?
It's going to be interesting to see how differently Muirfield plays this week and it's hard to know whether playing there last week will transpire to be advantageous or not.
The greens will definitely run faster, the rough will be taller and hole locations and tees will vary to last week but I'd wager that having got a feel for the venue so recently is a plus. Anyone that lined up last week won't have travelled this week and they would have acclimatised nicely by now.
Adjusting to the different green speeds may be a slight issue but as the old strapline used to preach, these guys are good, and they're all more than capable of getting a feel for a faster putting surface very quickly. An appearance last week is a plus.
Is There an Identikit Memorial Winner?
Cantlay was fairly well-fancied and he and DeChambeau were both winning for the second time on the PGA Tour but it's been a good event for outsiders and first-time winners.
Bart Bryant in 2005 and Carl Pettersson in 2006 were big outsiders but the next seven winners were all very plausible candidates The five winners before Cantlay ranged from fairly tough to find to impossible...
DeChambeau's pre-event odds ranged between [95.0] and [46.0], Dufner was matched at [100.0] before the off but like the 2014 winner, Hideki Matsuyama, he went off at between [70.0] and [80.0] but the two in between that pair were huge outsiders, matched at more than [700.0] before the get-go.
Tom Watson, Hale Irwin, Greg Norman and Jack Nicklaus have all won the tournament twice, Kenny Perry has won it three times and Tiger has claimed the title five times. And Justin Rose came within a whisker of winning it a second time five years ago so past winners do well here. Although again, it's a bit of a mixed picture as three of the last six winners were all breaking their ducks on the PGA Tour here.
Muirfield Winner's Positions and Exchange Prices Pre-Round Four
2020 - Collin Morikawa trailing by three [8.4]
2019 - Patrick Cantlay trailing by four [7.6]
2018 - Bryson DeChambeau led by one [3.5]
2017 - Jason Dufner trailing by four [11.5]
2016 - William McGirt one of three tied for the lead [12.5]
2015 - David Lingmerth trailing by three [20.0]
The Memorial Tournament has been a fantastic tournament to trade and as highlighted in the De-Brief, so was last week's Workday Charity Open. We've had five playoffs in the last seven events here now and taking on short-priced contenders is a great way to profit. Sunday's runner-up, Thomas, was matched at less than [1.1] on two separate occasions and he was matched at a low of [1.03]!
Jason Dufner was the only player to go odds-on three years ago but three other players traded at less than 2/1 (Rickie Fowler [2.02], Bubba Watson [2.7] and Daniel Summerhays [2.82]) and it's very unusual not to see at least one player trade at long odds-on and get beat. This has been a great place to trade over the years.
The runner-up, Scott, was matched at [2.5] last year and the third-round leader, Kaymer, who finished third, traded at just [1.42]. A year earlier, Cantlay, who came back to win last year, was the first man to make a big move in round four and when he raced to the front with a four-under-par 32 on the front-nine, his price dipped to just [1.32]. He lost his way completely after that and it was left to DeChambeau to assume command but that wasn't the end of the drama.
Bryson was also matched at [1.32] as the challengers seemingly fell away but Kyle Stanley birdied 14, 15, 16 and 17 and that late charge saw DeChambeau drift right out to odds-against again as Stanley's price plummeted to just [2.02]. Less than an hour earlier it had spiked to [400.0]!
As if all that wasn't enough, Byeong An, who had birdied two of his last four to post -15 - which had looked highly likely to be a shot too short - was also matched at odds-on in the playoff. Just like Stanley, the Korean had looked dead and buried deep into the back-nine but he was matched at a low of [1.66] in extra time.
In addition to the winner, McGirt, four years ago, Matt Kuchar traded at [1.95] and the runner-up, Jon Curran, hit a low of [1.4] in regulation play and [1.28] in extra time.
Justin Rose was trading at around [1.65] when he led by three with a round to go five years ago and he hit a low of [1.3] in-running. And there were all sorts of shenanigans in 2014 when Bubba Watson failed to convert a two-stroke 54 hole lead. Bubba hit a low of [1.42] and Kevin Na, who had begun round four trailing by seven, was matched at just [1.12] before losing in a playoff to Hideki Matsuyama. And Matsuyama had hit a low of [1.2] in regulation play before he looked like he'd thrown it all away with a double bogey at the 16th.
Dechambeau led by a stroke through 54 holes two years ago but Cantlay, last year, and Dufner in 2017, both trailed by four and five of the six winners between 2007 and 2012 were three, four (three times) or five strokes behind after three rounds so it's also a venue where closers can steel the title. I'll be looking for a few closers at decent prices with a round to go.
One of the reasons we see so much drama here is the finish to the course. The six hardest holes are all positioned between holes nine and 18 and the last three holes ranked as the fifth, fourth and first hardest on the property in last year's edition. The par four 14th averaged below par last year and the five 16th is a chance to score but the last three holes are all tough.
Having taken a week off following victory at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, the 2018 Memorial winner, Bryson DeChambeau, returns to the fray and as he did in Detroit two weeks ago, he heads the market.
Much has been made of DeChambeau's body transformation but this isn't a course that can just be overpowered. If he's going to win his second tournament in-a-row, or even just file his eighth top-ten in-a-row, he'll need to putt as well as he did in Detroit and in what is a very competitive tournament, he looks a little short to me. Winning back-to-back is never easy.
Justin Thomas has tweeted the right words but it's going to take a monumental effort for him to pick himself up after Sunday's disappointment.
His second place on Sunday followed a missed cut in this event 12 months ago but given he finished fourth and eighth and in his first two starts here, this is clearly a course that suits. The thicker rough will be against him (it was his inability to find the fairway that cost him last week) and he too looks short enough at the same price he went off at last week.
With form figures reading 32-41-11, Rory McIlroy hasn't quite recaptured his pre-break form but this is certainly a venue that suits. He's put in a few iffy performances, including last year when he missed the cut, but his overall course form, reading 10-5-MC-57-15-4-8-MC, is decent.
Taking a couple of weeks off may well have refreshed the world number one and victory at Jack's Place must be high on his list ambitions yet to be achieved.
I'm far from a huge Patrick Cantlay fan - as he just doesn't win often enough - but the defending champ has to be respected. As detailed above, he traded at long odds-on in the 2018 edition when finishing fourth and he finished seventh yesterday, thanks largely to a final round 65.
That seventh followed an 11th place finish at the Travelers Championship three weeks ago, in his first outing since the restart, and he might just be nicely primed. His stats were poor last week though and that's off-putting. He ranked 54th for Driving Accuracy, 34th for Greens In Regulation and only 40th for Putting Average.
I'll take another look closer to the off and if I add any more selections, I'll update Twitter but this is extremely competitive so for now I'm going with just one - Jason Day.
Now languishing outside the world's top-50, Day's in need of a few good weeks to climb the rankings. He was a big eye-catcher last week though, when he finished seventh thanks to a good overall game and a decent week with the putter. That was the 32-year-old Ohio native's best effort to date around Muirfield so I thought he was worth chancing for small stakes at a decent price.
Jason Day @ [75.0]
I'll be back later with my Euram Bank Open preview.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter
New on Betting.Betfair – Betslip
You can now bet without leaving Betting.Betfair with our brand new on-site betslip for Exchange markets. You'll see the Exchange back and lay prices at the end of articles - simply login and place your bets as you would do on the main Exchange site