The Memorial Tournament returns to the schedule this week after being one of the first events players competed in after the COVID-19 restart in 2020. The venue here remains the same (Muirfield Village), but it will look significantly different after extensive renovations were done on the course. The players competed here two weeks in a row in 2020 — the Workday Open was contested here the week prior — but will be facing a slightly different-looking course this time around. The field this year will also look different since the Memorial is reverting back to its Invitational status and will only feature 120 golfers. Seven of the top 10 in the OWGR will play though, making it one of the stronger regular season events of the year.
Defending Memorial champion Jon Rahm will be making his first start since a T8 at the PGA Championship two weeks ago, as will Rory McIlroy, who finished T49 there. Charles Schwab Challenge runner-up Jordan Spieth will be in attendance, and so will Collin Morikawa, who finished T14 at Colonial. Morikawa won the Workday championship held at Muirfield Village the week before the Memorial last year and can almost be considered the co-defending champ with Rahm. Despite the reduced field, the cut aligns with the standard PGA rules as the top-65 and ties make the weekend after Friday’s round.
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Muirfield Village—Dublin, Ohio
Par 72, 7,456 yards, Greens: Bentgrass (some poa)
Muirfield Village is a true championship course. It was built in 1972 and named after Jack Nicklaus’ favorite Open Championship venue (Muirfield); it also shares some design similarities with Augusta National. Like Augusta, Muirfield Village is a par 72 and carries four par 5s that are quite reachable in two by many of the players, with the longest being only 567 yards. However, outside of these holes, scoring opportunities do become limited and playing the par 5s in well under par for the week is often crucial to success at Muirfield.
The venue was played twice on TOUR last season but played much harder, for the Memorial than it did for the Workday. Muirfield ranked as the second-toughest venue on TOUR last season for the Memorial, with players averaging 74.007 scoring average for the week. Since then, the venue has undergone massive renovations, which include reconstruction of the bentgrass greens. Some length was also added to the course, and it can now play close to 7,600 yards, while lots of trees were also added — some in spots to make fairways a little tougher to hit. The layout isn’t going to change drastically, but it will give the players a different look and could make the traditionally easy to hit fairways harder to find.
The winners here last season were tops in the strokes gained: tee to green category and both players also gained over +3.0 strokes around the greens, showcasing just how important greenside play can be here. While ball-striking is obviously important, it is worth noting that the top-10 finishers here also all gained at least +1.0 stroke or more putting for the week. Saving bogies and being consistent on and around the greens can often be just as vital at an all-around test like Muirfield.
While solid Off the Tee play is an added bonus, the top 10 here last season featured a solid mix of big hitters, like Rahm and Tony Finau, and short game specialists, like Matthew Fitzpatrick and Kevin Na, so no one style should really be preferred. Look to players trending well with their irons and those who have some confidence in their ability to navigate what should be fast and tricky greens — which could play even faster than in the past given the recent renovations.
2021 outlook: The weather this week could start out bumpy but seems likely to give way to sun and warm temperatures by the weekend. Rain is slated to pelt the course all of Wednesday, which should mean soft conditions for Thursday morning starters. The issue is rain is also expected Thursday morning, with winds of up to 15-17 mph in and around the course. If thunderstorms hit the area, we could see some delays. It’s impossible to tell how this will work out since stoppages could push starting times back, but as of now, the later starters on Thursday may be able to avoid the worst of the opening day weather. The rest of the week should see the course firm up with highs into the 80’s and low winds. Keep an eye on Thursday, though — late starters could hold an advantage if the current forecast holds.
Last 5 winners
Jon Rahm (-9 over Ryan Palmer -6)
Patrick Cantlay (-19 over Adam Scott -17)
Bryson DeChambeau (-15 over Byeong Hun An playoff)
Jason Dufner—2017 (-13 over Rickie Fowler and Anirban Lahiri -10)
William McGirt—2016 (-15 over Jon Curran playoff)
- Eleven of the last 12 winners had a T5 finish or better on TOUR in the year of their victory before winning the Memorial.
- Course History: five of the past six winners of the Memorial had made the cut at Muirfield Village in their previous appearance at this event.
Winners Stats and Course Overview
2020 Winner: Jon Rahm (9-under par)
2020 lead-in form (T27-T37-T33-MC-T3)
· Six par 4s range between 450-500 yards, making par 4 efficiency from 450-500 yards something to consider, along with bogey avoidance. The top four finishers at this event last season also all ranked top four in bogey avoidance, with Rahm (winner) ranking first in this stat.
· The most popular grouping of approach shots here over time has been from 175-200 yards, but 150-175 yards is also very popular. Two of the par 3s also fall in this shorter range.
· The course features wide fairways, so driving accuracy numbers here are higher than a regular TOUR event, with cut-makers hitting 68% of fairways. We could see those numbers drop though with the renovations and added trees — there have been 140 trees added since last year.
· Greens are smaller than normal, so they’re difficult to hit and hold. The average cut-maker here has hit 62% of GIR vs. 65% at other TOUR stops.
· Solid approach stats and around the green play should be emphasized the most — since 2018, only one top-five finisher here (Matthew Fitzpatrick in 2020) has lost strokes ATG for the week. The last two winner-runner-up combos have gained at least +5.0 strokes on their approaches. Solid iron play and scrambling are a must at this very difficult all-around test.
Finding Values (DraftKings Sportsbook)
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value comparative to their DraftKings Sportsbook odds of winning this week.
- Rory McIlroy +1650 and $10,600
- Collin Morikawa +1650 and $10,400
- Bryson DeChambeau +1850 and $10,900
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
HORSES FOR COURSES
1. Patrick Cantlay ($9,500; best finishes: win-2019, fourth-2018): Cantlay will be making his sixth ever start at Muirfield Village this week. He finished T6 at the Workday last year and T32 at the Memorial. The 28-year-old has now landed three top-10 finishes and a win at this venue, and he leads the field in SG: Total stats here over the last five seasons. Like Spieth last week, Cantlay is hard to fade at a course he seems to always show up at.
2. Kevin Streelman ($7,500; best finishes: T4-2019, T8-2016): Streelman continued his good run at Muirfield Village last year, finishing T7 at the Workday and T54 at the Memorial. The veteran also finished T4 here in 2019 and hasn’t missed the cut at this venue in any of the last six times he’s played it. With a low DraftKings price tag, his consistency at this venue is likely to make him a popular target in DFS.
3. Rickie Fowler ($8,000; best finishes: T2-2017, T8-2018): Fowler missed the cut at the Memorial last season but did post a T22 at the Workday in 2020. He’s now gained at least +5.0 strokes tee to green in four of his last five appearances at Muirfield Village and has finished inside the top 15 three times here over his last five visits to the course. Coming off a strong PGA Championship, Fowler could be primed for a run this year.
4. Matt Kuchar ($7,400; best finishes: win-2013, T2-2011): Despite being in poor form around this time last season, Kuchar did make the cut at this venue at both the Workday (T39) and the Memorial (T32). He’s now made the cut at the Memorial 12 of the last 13 years, a run which included a win and runner-up finish. His 2021 season has been filled with peaks and valleys, but he shouldn’t be overlooked at one of his favorite courses with his form returning.
5. Marc Leishman ($7,800; best finishes: T5-2019, T5-2015): Leishman has handled the test of Muirfield Village quite well throughout his career, picking up multiple top-five finishes here over the last decade. While his missed cut at the PGA Championship won’t inspire confidence, the fact he’s never missed the cut at the Memorial in nine appearances could gain him some steam as a DFS play this week.
1. Jordan Spieth ($11,300; second-T30): Spieth comes into this event off a runner-up finish at the Charles Schwab Challenge, where he gained +7.7 strokes putting for the week. He’s now finished inside the top 10 in four of his last five starts on TOUR.
2. Charley Hoffman ($8,300; T3-T17): Hoffman continued his marvelous run last week at Colonial, moving into a top-5 position by the end of the tournament with some great weekend play. He’s now gained +6.6 strokes on his approaches in three straight events and has finished in the top 20 in five straight starts.
3. Patton Kizzire ($7,300; T3-T3): Kizzire has seemingly come out of nowhere to post two straight top-5 finishes — both of which came in Texas. The two-time TOUR winner has gained over +6.0 strokes on his approaches now in two straight starts and remains elite with his putter.
4. Troy Merritt ($6,900; T7-T7): Like Kizzire, Merritt has risen from the ashes of a poor 2021 start to now post top-10 finishes in three of his last four starts on TOUR. He’s gained over +2.0 strokes putting and around the greens in his last two starts and looks ready for the tough test Muirfield Village always presents.
5. Louis Oosthuizen ($8,500; T2-T8): Oosthuizen was again the unlucky loser in a major as he finished the PGA Championship T2 to Phil Mickelson. He has recorded top-10 finishes now in his last two starts and also gained +5.0 strokes or more on his approaches in each of his last two events.
DRAFTKINGS DFS STRATEGY
Cash Games: Thomas and Streelman good upper and mid-tier values
Justin Thomas ($10,200) comes into this event off a couple of lackluster starts but is priced at one of the cheapest points we’ve seen him at in quite some time. He finished second here at the Workday last season and likely will be looking for some revenge after losing out in the playoff at that event. Kevin Streelman ($7,500) has been on a nice run of late, with a top-10 finish at the PGA and a T20 last week. He’s got a fantastic record at this venue and rates out as great value here, too. Some other names to consider for core or cash game lineups this week include the likes of Charley Hoffman ($8,300), Emiliano Grillo ($7,700), and Patton Kizzire ($7,300).
Tournaments: Don’t forget about Hideki
Hideki Matsuyama ($9,400) was right in contention at the PGA after the first couple of rounds and still gained +10.3 strokes TTG there despite finishing in T23 place. He’s gained over +3.0 strokes on his approaches in each of the last five events and won at this venue back in 2014 during his first visit to the course. Xander Schauffele ($9,700 – see below) is another upper-tier target I like who could have low sentiment in GPPs this week. While he may start getting some love after a solid PGA, Rickie Fowler ($8,000) gained over +4.0 strokes on his approaches and putting at the PGA. He has a fantastic record at this event and course, making him a big-field target. Other potential GPP targets for me this week include Shane Lowry ($8,400), Gary Woodland ($7,900), Christiaan Bezuidenhout ($7,600 – see below), Adam Hadwin ($6,700) and Russell Knox ($6,100).
MY PICK: Xander Schauffele ($9,700)
While there’s some great mid-tier names to take a look here, like Lowry (8,400) and Oosthuizen ($8,500), I’ll stick to the top of the board with my main pick of Schauffele. He enters this event off a missed cut at the PGA Championship, a disappointing result but not one we should be overly worried about. The 27-year-old never could get to grips with the tricky Dye-designed Ocean Course and likely benefitted from extra rest while the rest of the elite players dealt with an extra couple days of play in tough conditions. Schauffele could certainly use the time off since he’s been in contention a lot since the restart last June and already has four top-5 finishes on Tour in 2021.
It’s easy to forget, but this is a player who was one crisp iron shot away from coming to the final hole tied for the lead in the Masters in April, and he’s already followed that result up with another solid outing at the Wells Fargo where he finished T14. His record at Muirfield Village is also eye-catching after grabbing T13 and T14 finishes here the last two seasons. His 2020 result here doesn’t look overly impressive, but he gained +12.7 strokes tee to green here last year and was only waylaid by a terrible putting performance (his worst in over a year), losing -5.1 strokes on the burned-out greens. Now available under $10K and with potentially low sentiment thanks to a MC at the last major, I like taking advantage that this week in DFS.
MY SLEEPER: Christiaan Bezuidenhout ($7,600)
Bezuidenhout continued his solid run of US showings at the PGA Championship as he was able to play himself into a top-10 position at the Ocean Course after three rounds. He had a Sunday to forget there, but his overall performance at one of the toughest courses of the year shouldn’t be forgotten as we head to another tough venue. Despite being a relative newcomer to the PGA, Bezuidenhout has put up remarkably consistent results in 2021 and comes into this event on a nine-event made-cut streak. As a shorter hitter who relies on his sharpness around the greens and precision putting that would rival the best in the world, he does set up well for a higher-scoring event where avoiding bogies is key.
The 27-year-old ranks 20th in bogey avoidance, second in SG: Putting and 10th in SG: Around the Green play over the last 50 rounds, putting him in elite company in those categories. While he’s going to need a solid week with his irons, the fact he gained strokes on his approaches in his last event — for the first time in six events — is a sign that perhaps he’s improving there, as well. I like targeting him on this championship course this week at an event where he managed a solid T22 last season, despite some of the toughest conditions of the year.
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