The Punter

Memorial Tournament: Telegrapher Tom a great bet at 64/1

The 18th hole at Muirfiled Village

With just one week to go before the US Open, the PGA Tour takes in another Signature event and Steve Rawlings has the lowdown ahead of Thursday's start...


Tournament History

First staged in 1976, the Memorial Tournament is the brainchild of 18-time major winner, Jack Nicklaus.

The Memorial Tournament is the seventh of eight Signature Events on the PGA Tour and this will be the 49th edition of the event.


Venue

Muirfield Village Golf Club, Dublin Ohio


Course Details

Par 72, 7,571 yards
Stroke Index in 2023 - 73.47

Named after his favourite Open Championship venue and set in 240 rolling, wooded acres, Jack Nicklaus designed Muirfield Village himself and regularly tinkers with it. He did so in 2020, before the course hosted back-to-back PGA Tour events, with the Workday Charity Open preceding this event, and again before the 2021 edition, when he claimed it would be the last time that he'd make any significant changes to the layout.

Muirfield was built in 1974 on land acquired eight years earlier and it's a strong but fair test. The fairways are fairly generous but the rough, consisting of a blend of Kentucky bluegrass, fescue and rye, is usually pretty penal (up to four inches high) and it always strikes me how lush the 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 as already mentioned, the once-only staged, Workday Charity Open in 2020.

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.


Weather Forecast


TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 17:00 UK time


Last Eight Winners with Pre-event Exchange Prices

2023 - Viktor Hovland -7 (playoff) 26.025/1
2022 - Billy Horschel -13 90.089/1
2021 - Patrick Cantlay -13 (playoff) 25.024/1
2020 - Jon Rahm -9 25.024/1
2019 - Patrick Cantlay -19 19.018/1
2018 - Bryson DeChambeau -15 (playoff) 48.047/1
2017 - Jason Dufner -13 90.089/1
2016 - William McGirt -15 (playoff) 360.0359/1


What Will it Take to Win the Memorial Tournament?

Last year's winner, Viktor Hovland, ranked 17th for Driving Distance and only 51st for Driving Accuracy but 12 months earlier, Billy Horschel had ranked only 59th for DD and seventh for D.A.

Rory McIlroy who hit it further thananyone else last year and the straightest driver in the field, Si Woo Kim, both finished inside the top eight places but neither driving metric is especially important.

Hovland only ranked 20th for Greens In Regulation last year but Scottie Scheffler in third ranked first, the four course winners before Hovland ranked sixth, third, first and first, and the average GIR ranking for the last 15 winners is 9.5.

Hovland wins Memorial.jpg

Finding these smaller than average greens is clearly important looking at the stats but getting up-and-down when a dancefloor is missed is just as vital and Scrambling is a key stat here.

Hovland only ranked 21st 12 months ago but the top-two scramblers, Jordan Spieth and Andrew Putnam, finished tied for fifth. Billy Horschel topped the Scrambling stats two years ago, the top-five in this event in 2021 ranked sixth, second, 19th, third and first and the first three home in this event in 2020 ranked one, two and three for Scrambling.

After his 2020 success here, Jon Rahm highlighted just how good his short game had been, saying:

"One of the best performances of my life, yesterday (Saturday) was probably one of the best rounds of my life and I finished today with some clutch up-and-downs. And as a Spaniard, I'm kind of glad it happened that way. Every shot counts, and I tried every shot and got those two last up-and-downs, as a true Spaniard would.

"My short game has been unbelievable all week. It's been so good, and I've gotten close to chipping in a couple times. You always hear about people saying champions make it happen, and at that point I made it happen."

Hovland ranked ninth for Putting Average last year but we've seen plenty of winners here rank fairly poorly with the flatstick.

Horschel only ranked 43rd in 2022, Patrick Cantlay ranked 20th in 2021 and the first three home in this event in 2020 had Putting Average rankings of 17th, 32nd and 43rd. Bryson DeChambeau only ranked 27th when he won here six years ago and in 2016, William McGirt managed to win here with a ranking of 55.

The last two winners have ranked third for Par 4 Scoring. Eleven of the 18 Memorial winners have ranked first or second for that stat.

That wouldn't be unusual on a par 70 track, with only two par fives, but given Muirfield is a par 72 with four long holes, it's a stat to consider closely this week.


Course Correlations

It's six years since the PGA Tour visited Firestone so form there is old but gold.

Tiger Woods thrived at both venues and Hideki Matsuyama has won at both tracks on the PGA Tour. Justin Rose has won here and finished runner-up at Firestone, the 2019 runner-up here, Adam Scott, has won at Firestone, and Kyle Stanley and Zach Johnson have both finished second at both venues. Justin Thomas is another Firestone winner to come close to winning at Muirfield.

Several other players have played very well at both venues on the PGA Tour and three of the top-five on the Champions Tour last July - Steve Stricker, KJ Choi and Ernie Els - have all won at Muirfield.

Firestone is also in Ohio, but the form crosses over so well that it can't just be geographical.

The host course for this year's US PGA Championship, Valhalla, is also deigned by Nicklaus and Muirfield form came to the fore there last month so that's a leaderboard to peruse.

The winner there, Xander Schauffele, has never finished inside the top-10 here, but he plays Muirfield consistently well. The three men directly below him on the leaderboard, DeChambeau, Hovland and Collin Morikawa, have all won here.


Will Florida Swing form come to the for once more?

Last year's winner, Hovland, had finished 10th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and third at the Players Championship in March and the 2022 winner, Horschel, had finished second at the Arnold Palmer Invitational before he won here.

They were far from the first Memorial Tournament winners to have played well on the Florida Swing a couple of months previous. Bart Bryant (2005), Carl Pettersson (2006), David Lingmerth (2015), William McGirt (2016) and Jason Dufner (2017), who all went off at huge prices, had all shown up earlier in the year with some decent form before they won here.

All five had bits and pieces of form on the Florida Swing at events like the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Honda Classic and the even the ultra-competitive Players Championship.

Most players weave in and out of form and it's not unusual to see someone win a couple of months after being in form so that's something else to consider.


Is There an Identikit Winner?

Although four of the last five winners have been well-fancied, this has been a good event for outsiders and first-time winners over the years.

Horschel was matched at 110.0109/1 before the off in 2022, Bart Bryant in 2005 and Carl Pettersson in 2006 were very big outsiders and the five winners before Patrick Cantlay broke his duck here in 2019 ranged from fairly tough to find to almost impossible.

Billy Horschel at Muirfield.jpg
Bryson DeChambeau's pre-event odds ranged between 95.094/1 and 46.045/1. Dufner was matched at 100.099/1 before the off but, like the 2014 winner Matsuyama, Dufner went off at between 70.069/1 and 80.079/1, but the two in between that pair were huge outsiders, matched at more than 700.0699/1 before the get-go.

Tom Watson, Hale Irwin, Greg Norman, Jack Nicklaus and Patrick Cantlay have all won the tournament twice, Kenny Perry has won it three times and Tiger has claimed the title five times. Justin Rose came within a whisker of winning it a second time eight years ago so past winners do well here.


Winner's Position and Exchange Price Pre-Round Four

2023 - Viktor Hovland - tied fourth, trailing by one 10.09/1
2022 - Billy Horschel - led by five 1.558/15
2021 - Patrick Cantlay - tied for the lead 2.588/5
2020 - Jon Rahm led by four 1.341/3
2019 - Patrick Cantlay trailing by four 7.613/2
2018 - Bryson DeChambeau led by one 3.55/2
2017 - Jason Dufner trailing by four 11.521/2
2016 - William McGirt one of three tied for the lead 12.5


In-Play Tactics

This has been a great place to trade on a Sunday and last year was no exception.

Having been matched at a high of 980.0979/1, the world number one Scheffler began the final round trailing by five and trading at around 140.0139/1. But he was matched at a low of just 2.3211/8 when he shot an impressive five-under-par 67 that looked like it might be enough.

Si Woo Kim, who began the day tied for the lead alongside David Lipsky and Rory McIlroy, was matched at 3.02/1. Rory hit a low of 2.3211/8 and poor Denny McCarthy, who looked far and away the most likely winner, was matched at 1.182/11.

Rahm was trading at 1.141/7 with a six-shot lead after three rounds in 2021 before having to withdraw following a positive Covid test but Thomas slipped up here having traded even lower than that.

Matched at a low of 1.031/33, the 2020 Workday Open runner-up, Justin Thomas, was matched at less than 1.11/10 on two separate occasions.

There's very often plenty of drama and we've had seven playoffs in the last 11 events here now so taking on short-priced contenders in running on Sunday is often a great way to profit.


Market Leaders

Scottie Scheffler's eighth-place finish at the US PGA Championship last month, following his bizarre arrest outside Valhalla on Friday morning, is the only occasion that the world number one has failed to finish first or second in seven starts since March on the PGA Tour and with course form figures reading MC-22-3-3, he's impossible to discount.

Scheffler finished third 12 months ago despite a deplorable week with the flatstick and it's extremely hard to conceive him not contending.

Scottie is only trading at 4/15.00 but good luck if you're taking him on. He's the very worthy favourite and a fifth win in eight starts would surprise nobody.

Xander Schauffele has consistent course form figures reading MC-14-14-13-11-18-24 and he couldn't be in better form following his second-place finish in the Wells Fargo Championship and his first major victory in the US PGA Championship at Valhalla a couple of weeks ago.

How he'll react to winning his first major title is a complete unknown and it's never easy to win back-to-back anyway so given he's never cracked the top-ten at Muirfield in seven previous visits, I'm happy to swerve him.

After back-to-back victories at the Zurich Classic and the Wells Fargo, Rory McIlroy's finished 12th in the US PGA Championship and fourth last week in Canada but he looks short enough given his victory at Valhalla ten years ago is his only victory around a Jack Nicklaus layout and that he's never bettered fourth in 12 spins around Muirfield.

Having finished fourth in both the US PGA and the Charles Schwab Challenge in his last two starts, Collin Morikawa is in form and he's won at three separate Jack Nicklaus tracks, including this one in 2021, but he's not been entirely convincing in-contention and he's fairly price at 16/117.00.


Selections

Tom Kim shot rounds of 70, 68, 65 and 64 when finishing fourth alongside Rory McIlroy in Canada last week. That was his first top-ten finish since he won the Shriners Childrens Open in October last year and I'm happy to chance him here at 65.064/1.

The prolific young Korean missed the cut here on debut last year but he was out of form at the time and he has a habit of telegraphing his wellbeing before victories.

Kim won seven times in Asia before making the move to the States and his finishing positions before those seven victories were fourth, fourth, fifth, sixth, second, sixth and seventh.

He then moved on to the PGA Tour where he finished seventh in the Rocket Mortgage Classic before winning his first PGA Tour title at the Wyndham Championship, and he finished sixth in the Open de France before winning the aforementioned Shriners title.

He also finished sixth in the Scottish Open last July before finishing tied second in the Open Championship, so we really do need to take notice when the 21-year-old springs into life.

He's far too classy not to be able to play Muirfield well so I'm happy to dismiss last year's weekend off and side with this time around after last week's eye-catching effort in Canada.

I've got three longshots for the Find Me a 100 Winner column but for now my only other selection is the in-form 2022 winner, Billy Horschel, who trades at the same price he went off at when taking the title by the widest margin for 20 years (four strokes).

Horschel is already a winner this year having shot 63 on Sunday to take the Corales Puntacana Championship crown in April. He finished only 24th in the Charles Schwab Challenge last time out but he was eighth at Valhalla in the US PGA Championship and that's not a surprise given his obvious liking for Nicklaus layouts.

In addition to his win here, he's finished 10th at Montreux, third at Annandale and second at the Concession Club so Nicklaus designs appear to suit his eye nicely.


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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