The TOUR travels out of Fort Worth, Texas, up north to Dublin, Ohio, for The Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club. The course is a par 72, measuring 7,543 yards. The greens this week will be bentgrass.
Muirfield Village is one of Jack Nicklaus’ most iconic courses, attracting the best golfers in the world. Like last week, The Memorial was one of the first tournaments back after the COVID-19 shutdown last year and saw an increase in field size at 150. This year, it’s back to its usual number of 120 golfers, including Rory McIlroy (+1400; $10,600), Justin Thomas (+1600; $10,200), Bryson DeChambeau (+1600; $10,900), Collin Morikawa (+1800; $10,400), Xander Schauffele (+1800; $9,700) and defending champion Jon Rahm (+800; $11,100).
One of Nicklaus’ signature design features is forgiving fairways but challenging greens. Over the previous five years, the Fairway Hit in Regulation averaged 69%, while the TOUR average is eight points lower, around 61%. Still, Jack’s courses are like looking through a funnel, wide at the beginning and narrow as you get closer to the hole. He mitigated the golfers’ ability to hit it far down the wide fairways by implementing forced layups. He strategically placed bunkers and water hazards throughout the fairways, causing players to hit less-than-driver. There are 68 bunkers and 13 water hazards that come into play on 13 holes.
Like all Nicklaus courses, Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green is priority No 1. Over the previous five years, the winners gained almost three times more strokes with their approach than Off-the-Tee, even though it’s a long course. Most of the course’s distance resides in these long par 4s, seven measuring between 450 to 500 yards. Similar to Pete Dye courses, Muirfield Village is more about being in the correct position Off-the-Tee rather than sheer distance. Golfers do not want to be hitting into these fast bentgrass greens out of the thick rough.
With the field heading back to 120, chances of getting all your golfers through to the weekend are higher than the normal 156-golfer fields. In 2017, the average DraftKings salary of the six highest-scoring golfers was $7,900, with Matt Kuchar (+12500; $7,400) being the most expensive at $9,400 and Anirban Lahiri the cheapest at $6,400. In 2018, the average was $7,500, and all six golfers were in the $7,000 range. In 2019, the average was the highest of the three years at just over $8,800. All this translates to potentially approaching this week with a balanced lineup construction in mind. The depth of the field makes the Memorial Tournament ‘feel’ like a major, with good players at lower prices than we’re used to each week.
Tony Finau (+2000 to Win, $9,200 on DraftKings)
Last week’s T20 came from a beautiful ball-striking week, gaining 3.99 strokes with his irons and 3.77 strokes Off-the-Tee. Another poor putting week, losing 4.42 strokes on the greens, capped his upside, but Finau’s had some of his best putting performances here at Muirfield Village, with two of his three best career putting weeks happening here in 2016 and last year, gaining 6.3 strokes both times. He’s a fantastic putter on bentgrass greens and hasn’t finished worse than 13th here since 2015. Finau’s success on courses like Riviera CC (Genesis Invitational), finishing with a couple of runners-up, and a recent eighth-place at the PGA Championship should serve as evidence that Tony plays well when the course plays difficult in scoring relative to par. He also ranks fourth in Strokes Gained: Total on Jack Nicklaus courses over the previous 24 rounds.
Matthew Fitzpatrick (+3500 to Win, $8,700 on DraftKings)
His 23rd-place finish at the PGA Championship could’ve easily been a top 5 if he didn’t triple bogey the 17th on Sunday (I was there and was following his group). Fitzpatrick is playing well this season, ranking 17th in Strokes Gained: Total over the previous 50 rounds. Top 5s at Harbour Town GL (RBC Heritage) and Rivera CC (Genesis Invitational), as well as a top 10 at TPC Sawgrass this season, prove he’s playing well on courses similar to Muirfield Village. He also finished third here last season.
Marc Leishman (+6600 to Win, $7,800 on DraftKings)
Like Finau, another golfer who plays well in tough conditions is Leishman, who ranks 34th in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green over the previous 24 rounds. Leishman’s been inconsistent Off-the-Tee and has three missed cuts in his past five events. Still, good finishes follow when he makes the weekend like he did at The Masters and the Byron Nelson. His top-5 finish at Augusta National and solid finishes at The Sony Open (fourth) and Genesis Invitational (32nd), as well as two top-5s at this tournament, can be reasons to back the Aussie this week.
Si Woo Kim (+12500 to Win, $7,300 on DraftKings)
Rostering Kim is a bit risky this week and should only be considered for GPPs, but his WD last week doesn’t seem to be injury-related, which is a good sign he’ll potentially be ready to go and at a low projected roster percentage. Ball-strikers tend to play well here, similar to how they would play on Pete Dye courses, and few are better than Kim when the course calls for approach at this level of importance. Lightning fast, bentgrass greens are his best surface, ranking first in putting over the previous 24 rounds. Kim’s win earlier this season came at The American Express, which this year featured a Nicklaus course in two of the four rounds.
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