THE MEMORIAL: Though it’s now sandwiched between two majors, which may change how the tournament is viewed over time, Jack Nicklaus’s Memorial Tournament has long been one of the most eagerly anticipated stops on the PGA Tour schedule. It’s an invitation-only field consisting of 120 players, and the Golden Bear’s fingerprints are all over this event, as it was originally conceived by him and has always been held at what is commonly referred to as “Jack’s Place”– Muirfield Village Golf Club, just outside Columbus.
Designed by Nicklaus in the mid-70s and renovated several times over the past 40 years, Muirfield Village is a parkland-style course that measures nearly 7,400 yards and is generally a stern test, as only twice in the past ten years has the winning score been lower than 15-under, and it hasn’t happened since 2011. The rough is typically long and lush, and the undulating, lightning-fast bentgrass greens require one’s full attention. The fairways are spacious and the landing areas are generous– that’s really the course’s one saving grace from a scoring perspective– but if you get a little crooked off the tee, Muirfield is an absolute bear.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the list of recent champions is full of dependable fairways-and-greens types, players like Jason Dufner (2017), David Lingmerth (2015), Hideki Matsuyama (2014), and Matt Kuchar (2013). You simply have to put the ball in the fairway to succeed at Muirfield, and there are certain spots around the greens where you can’t miss it. Water comes into play on several holes and much of the course is set up to favor a left-to-right ball flight, but the number one priority is finding the fairway. This can’t be stressed enough.
Bryson DeChambeau is the defending champion and can currently be had at 37.0 at BETDAQ, but going back-to-back at Muirfield is tough– no one has done it since Tiger reeled off three straight 20 years ago– and DeChambeau is coming off three consecutive missed cuts, so I’d advise you to look elsewhere this week. With a field of this caliber, there’s no shortage of options. Here’s what I’m thinking:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Matt Kuchar (21.0)- Nobody knows this tournament, or this golf course, better than Matt Kuchar. In his last 11 Memorial appearances, Kuchar has found the top-15 an astounding 10 times, including his victory in 2013. Over the last decade, he’s gained 122 strokes on the field in this tournament, while the next closest, Dustin Johnson, has gained 74 strokes in the same span. This is the quintessential “course horse” situation, except that Kuchar has played well just about everywhere this year, recording four top-10 and six top-25s since his win at the Sony Open in January, so a strong performance this week would just be more of the same for him. A victory, however, would be something special, and there’s no reason he can’t pull it off. Great course history, great current form, decent price.. what more could you want? Kuchar is a must-bet for me this week.
Billy Horschel (68.0)- Horschel has always been a bit streaky, and after a rough patch earlier this year he seems to have found his stride again, logging top-25 finishes in each of his past three starts. He struck the ball well at Colonial last week, bouncing back from a 2-over 72 on Thursday with three straight sub-70 rounds, and his putting stats have been tremendous all year. Though he’s never had any super close calls at this tournament, he has had some nice results over the years, including a T11 in 2015 and a T15 in 2014, so he certainly knows his way around Muirfield Village. Plus, Horschel has always been one to rise to the occasion– most of his best results have come in big tournaments with strong fields. This feels like his kind of week– the course fits his style, he’s had some nice results over the past month, and his putting in particular has been stellar lately. He’s a nice value at a price like 68.0.
Tyrrell Hatton (102.0)- Things can change quickly for professional golfers– often, a minor swing or setup adjustment is all that’s needed to transform mediocre golf into championship-level golf. Hatton hasn’t spent much time on the first page of leaderboards so far this year, but he’s coming off his best performance of 2019, an 8th-place showing at last week’s Charles Schwab Challenge, so it’s quite possible that he’s recently found something or made an adjustment that will propel him to a strong summer. He’s shown the ability to succeed at the highest levels, and though this will be his first time seeing Muirfield Village in competition, there’s reason to believe it will be a good fit for him, as he’s had tremendous success on bent/poa greens and is quite strong with the mid-to-long irons. Hatton is simply too good to be offered at better than 100/1, particularly when he’s coming off a top-10 performance. Happy to take a chance on him here.