Pat Mayo provides a quick preview and makes his early 2021 Memorial Tournament Picks in his first look and research for the PGA TOUR event.
2021 Memorial Tournament: Field
120 Players | Top 65 & Ties Make The Cut
First Tee: Thursday, June 3
Defending Champion: Jon Rahm
Jon Rahm returns to defend his title against a stacked field including Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele, Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau, Rory McIlroy, Patrick Reed, Cameron Smith, Viktor Hovland, Tony Finau, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Louis Oosthuizen, Patrick Cantlay, Collin Morikawa, Hideki Matsuyama, Sungjae Im and Shane Lowry.
Jason Day, Billy Horschel, Scottie Scheffler, Bubba Watson, Kevin Na, Marc Leishman, Adam Scott, Matt Wallace, Charley Hoffman, Max Homa, Gary Woodland, Matt Kuchar, Victor Perez, Corey Conners, Joaquin Niemann, Max Homa, Sam Burns and Emiliano Grillo round out the field. Oh, Rickie Fowler got into the field through his appearance on the last Presidents Cup team.
Lucas Herbert, Takumi Kanaya and Antoine Rozner all earned an invitation through performance on international tours. Sahith Theegala, Joe Long and Tyler Strafaci all got their spot based on their amateur play over the last year. Long remains an amateur.
Much like last week at Colonial, where 6/6 DraftKings were accomplished between 20-30% in most GPPs and over 60% in cash games, unless one of the big names absolutely flames out (which is possible at Muirfield Village), with only 120 players in the field and the Top 65 and ties making the cut, The Memorial should boast a 6/6 in that same neighborhood.
Si WOOOOOOO Kim is still listed in the field right now but is coming off a second-round withdrawal from last week’s event in Fort Worth. It could have been because he was playing so poorly, however.
2021 Memorial Tournament: Key Stats
Strokes Gained: Approach
Par 4s 450-500 Yards Gained
Sand Saves Gained
Proximity Gained 175-200 Yards
Mayo’s Key Stats powered by FantasyNational.com
2021 Memorial Tournament: Course
Course: Muirfield Village
2021 Memorial Tournament: Past Winners
2020: Jon Rahm -9
2019: Patrick Cantlay -19
2018: Bryson DeChambeau -15
2017: Jason Dufner -13
2016: William McGirt -15
2015: David Lingmerth -14
2014: Hideki Matsuyama -13
2013: Matt Kuchar -12
2021 Memorial Tournament: Notes
Renovations began last year, as we saw on the broadcast. The greens, fairways and tee boxes have been regrassed, and around 100 extra yards have been added to the course. How much will that affect the players who’ve become accustomed to Muirfield Village over the years? Impossible to know, but it’s likely the most significant to those who’ve had a ton of success on the greens. The greens weren’t just reconstructed with new bentgrass, irrigation and Precision Air systems, but they’ve recontoured as well. Per the info booklet sent to the players and caddies, only holes 12, 13, 14 and 17 resemble the old greens.
All green side bunkers have all been modified as well. Let’s just assume they didn’t get easier and prepare for the worst. Since the PGA loves a random sponsor for everything along, with their constant promotion of dick pills, Memorial would be a perfect place for the “Cialis up and down bunker cam”. And, if you’re like Jason Kokrak in the sand Sunday at Colonial, you should probably call a doctor. Or don’t, and be constantly camping. Anyway, generating sand saves from the 74 bunkers spread across the grounds is essential. The greenside sand traps at Muirfield Village have annually resulted in the longest proximity lengths of any course in regular PGA TOUR rotation. Coupled with the tiny and lightning-fast greens, The Memorial sits inside the top-five courses with the lowest scrambling percentage (53%). It’s doubtful that will change.
Of the other changes, some holes have been lengthened with new tee boxes littered across the front nine, and there has been a shift in some of the strategic placement of the fairway bunkers. Hole 15, meanwhile, was almost completely redone from tee to green. Still, most of the classic elements of Muirfield remain: High driving accuracy with the wide fairways, low GIR with the smaller-than-average greens.
Beyond the new course elements, there’s also the two cracks the players got here a year ago, neither of which should resemble what happens this time around. Expect it to play somewhere in the middle of last year’s events. The Workday setup was shorter and a lot slower, while the Memorial setup overreacted to the Workday and was one of the toughest tournaments of the season. The final-round scoring average of 75.96 was the highest in a round on the PGA TOUR since the 2018 U.S. Open (76.47/R1) and the highest at a non-major since the 2016 Farmers Insurance Open (77.90/R4). The 2020 Memorial setup was completely baked out, then the winds started to pick up and ravaged Sunday. It was a perfect storm of difficulty.
When trying to look at common links between the winners it’s always imperative to remove Tiger Woods from the equation. As was the case at The PGA Championship, scanning the leaderboard outside of Rory McIlroy’s outlier performance was far more instructive in finding top performers at the 2021 edition. What help does five-time Memorial winner Tiger give you? Target players like Tiger? OK. Now that I’ve finished my search and there are none, what next?
Well, approach widely outweighs driving at Muirfield Village, attributed to the girthy fairways. Eleven of the past 13 winners have ranked inside the Top 10 of Strokes Gained Approach for the week.
Strangely, despite being a longer Par 72, shorter hitters, who still gain strokes off the tee and smack a crisp long iron, can very much compete. Any place which can boast Matt Kuchar, David Lingmerth, Steve Stricker and Jason Dufner as past champions can attest to this.
Being in Ohio, the clear crossover event is the former WGC played at Firestone CC. Firestone was replaced on the schedule a few years ago, but not before seeing a lot of success shared between the two courses. Tiger has 12 combine victories between the two courses and Hideki Matsuyama has also won at both courses. Then there are Jason Dufner, David Lingmerth, Marc Leishman, Keegan Bradley, Patrick Cantlay, Bubba Watson, Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Rose and Jim Furyk who’ve all experienced success at both tracks. A lot of those same names have navigated TPC Sawgrass pretty well in their careers, too. Not sure how those courses correlate, though.
There’s one addition to last week after doing a deep dive and scanning the leaderboard. PGA National (Honda Classic), is another Nicklaus-designed course that features some crossover success. Since PGA National has so much water, one-year success or failure makes it hard to judge because one awful shot can take you out of that tournament. However, players with multiple quality results at PGA National tend to have a decent feel for Muirfield Village. Not as much as Firestone, but enough to factor it in.
The key this week is to tread water on the long par 3s and par 4s and don’t waste the opportunities on the par 5s. Obvious, I know. Six par 4s measure from 450-500 yards, all of which are inside the nine most difficult. Three of four par 3s are inside the six most difficult holes. The only one that isn’t, No. 8, has just been lengthened up to 200 yards. In fact, three of the four par 3s are at least 200 yards. It’s not required to score on any of these holes, it’s all about refusing to pencil in some hockey sticks on the scorecard. Things can get away from the field pretty quickly with all the weird creeks and bunkers hiding everywhere.
Overall, Americans have won seven of the past 10 years, and the Memorial has produced a playoff four of the past seven years. Rose (2010) was the last winner to miss the cut in his previous appearance at Muirfield Village, while Matsuyama (2014) won in his first attempt.
2021 Memorial Tournament Picks
Patrick Cantlay ($9,500)
Do we believe he’s back to normal? If so, you’re getting a slight discount on a former winner who has historically crushed Jack Nicklaus courses. The triple bogey on the 71st hole at the PGA Championship skews his results (T23), but in the ball striking department, few were close to Cantlay (second in driving, sixth in approach). He just happened to close strokes with his putter for the sixth straight event. If you can convince yourself the ball striking has truly returned, you’re getting Cantlay at a slight discount where he no longer needs to be the first man on your roster.
Corey Conners ($9,300)
It’s always fun to jump on a player because you thought they’ve taken a leap in a certain aspect of their game only to watch them revert back into what they’d previously been. That’s Corey Conners. The ball striking was elite, again, at Colonial. The putting and chipping … not so much. While around the green work is critical this week at Memorial, there’s a huge spilt between Conners’ around the green work overall and his work out of bunkers. He’s actually 30th in this field over the past 24 rounds in sand saves versus 100th ATG. Maybe that can cover up some of his flaws. Or he just hits so many greens in regulation he’s not forced to scramble all that much. But at a venue that has rewarded breakthrough ball strikes in the past, Conners is on the shortlist.
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Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. (Subscribe for video or audio). Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2020 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Sports Betting Analyst award, and was a finalist for four FSWA Awards in 2020 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 21 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo has been recognized across multiple sports (Football, Baseball & Golf), mediums (Video, Writing & Podcasting), genre (Humor), and game formats (Daily Fantasy and Traditions Season Long). Beyond sports, Mayo covers everything from entertainment to pop culture to politics. If you have a fantasy question, general inquiry or snarky comment, ship it to Mayo at ThePatMayoExperience@gmail.com and the best will be addressed on the show.
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