The Memorial Tournament PGA Preview
THE MEMORIAL TOURNAMENT PGA PREVIEW – We were so close I could taste it to getting a win with Harris English last week, but a rough final round dashed any hope of that happening. Nevertheless, it was an exciting tournament in which Emiliano Grillo melted down on the 18th hole with a two-stroke lead. Ultimately, he prevailed in a playoff over Adam Schenk, who lost his second playoff of the season as he pursues his first win.
We’re back this week to the familiar ground of Muirfield Village – home to world class golf and world class milkshakes, by all accounts.
Designed by Jack Nicklaus, this course has been tweaked and renovated over the years, and we’ve really only seen two spins around it since its latest large-scale overhaul in 2020. Since the renovation, Patrick Cantlay and Billy Horschel have won here. Although, the Cantlay victory is a little bit of an asterisk because it came after Jon Rahm withdrew after testing positive for Covid-19 with a monster lead of six shots after 54 holes.
Muirfield Village is pretty much the type of course you’d expect from Jack Nicklaus. This is his design, his home course, and his tournament. That’s the bottom line.
It’s been lengthened some, so it will stretch out to 7,500 or so yards while playing to a par 72. It’s a course that demands strong play off the tee and precision with approach shots. You can recover and make par if you miss a green, but it’s difficult to make a birdie without landing an approach in the correct spot.
The rough is going to be thick and penal so accuracy off the tee is more of a necessity than a luxury here. The fairways aren’t overly narrow, but the water and rough will hurt guys who stray too far off of them. There are past winners of all shapes and sizes here. Bombers have won here and a lot of precision players have managed good results, as well.
The size of the greens is smaller than the Tour average, so players need to be dialed with their irons. Typically, when greens run towards the small side, the course is relatively short. That’s not the case at Muirfield Village. This is a course that demands precision with mid and long irons, a strength of Nicklaus in his prime.
Slick bentgrass greens that are juiced up to around 13 on the stimp meter provide the final bit of resistance on holes. Thus, you should look to guys who tend to perform better on this surface, particularly as we get to get a more reliable sample size for the surface after the last couple of weeks where bentgrass greens have been utilized.
In short, this is a very difficult golf course, and can play about as hard as the organizers (or Jack Nicklaus) desire.
This is a designated event, so almost all of the big guns from the PIP list are here and accounted for. The only notable absences this week are Tony Finau and Max Homa who both opted to take this event off. Will Zalatoris and Tiger Woods are both recovering from their surgeries earlier in the season, so they’re also out.
What we are left with is an absurdly stacked field: Rahm, Scheffler and Rory are the clear headliners. But don’t overlook Patrick Cantlay who has a downright absurd record here to go along with a pair of wins.
This isn’t necessarily a tournament that is dominated by complete studs. David Lingmerth and Will McGirt both have a win here where they popped up one week and then faded back into being journeyman professionals.
That being said, usually it’s a player of pretty decent pedigree that wins here: Cantlay, Rahm, DeChambeau all have wins in recent memory.
Putting it all together
As far as handicapping goes, this place is pretty boring. Broadly speaking, look to target players who are strong off the tee and solid on approach. Just doing that, however, is probably going to yield you a lot of looks at short prices because pretty much everyone in the top-20 in the world has an elite tee to green game.
If you want to dig a little deeper on stats that could be important, think about players who excel on longer approaches (think: 175 yards and out), who play par fives particularly well, and guys who tend to perform better on tougher courses.
These greens are slick and tricky. I’m not putting a ton of stock in short game stuff or putting. In fact, I’ll be looking very hard at some players who haven’t been putting well this season in hopes that they can finally match up some average putting with their elite ballstriking, but more on that tomorrow.