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The Memorial Tournament: Preview & DFS Picks

A stacked field heads to Dublin, Ohio for the 43rd edition of The Memorial Tournament, hosted by Jack Nicklaus. Muirfield Village Golf Club was designed by Nicklaus in 1966, and held its inaugural Memorial Tournament in 1976. The current design is over 7,200 yards, with just over 70 bunkers and water coming into play on 11 of it’s 18 holes. The course has also hosted the 1986 U.S. Junior Amateur, the 1987 Ryder Cup Matches, the U.S.G.A’s 1992 United States Amateur Championship, the 1995 Wendy’s Three-Tour Challenge, the 1998 Solheim Cup and the 2013 Presidents Cup. Muirfield and The Greenbrier in West Virginia are the only courses to have hosted both a Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup. It’s accolade list is impressive as well- as it has consistently been named Ohio’s best golf course and regularly ranks inside the top-20 best courses in the United States. The course was named after Nicklaus’ famous 1966 British Open victory at Muirfield in Scotland.

The buildup this week has centered around preparations for the 2018 US Open, which will be held in Southampton, NY at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, as well as the upcoming PGA Tour schedule overhaul for 2019. In August of 2017 the PGA of America and the PGA Tour announced that the PGA Championship, traditionally golf’s last major, would move to May. In doing so, the Players Championship, which was touted as golf’s 5th major, would move to March. PGA of America Chief Executive Officer Pete Bevacqua said that the move would help engage recreational golfers earlier in the season- especially following publicity from The Masters in April.

“We are excited about this move to May. It provides our PGA Championship a strong landing spot on the calendar and a consistent major-championship rhythm that golf fans can embrace. For nearly 85 percent of our Membership, May is also on the front-end of the golf season. This date change will allow them to engage new players and introduce various Growth of the Game initiatives entering the heart of the golf season across much of the country.”

The deal was met with opposition, especially from tournaments in between majors that might see reduced participation from highly ranked players. Skeptics also argued that following the British Open in July, there’d be a considerable drop off in high stakes golf till the FedEx Cup Playoffs in mid to late August. Jack Nickalus faced questions about next year’s schedule change earlier this week, saying he wasn’t concerned with major shuffling because the Memorial will always be a great tune-up for the US Open.

“Sitting two weeks after the PGA Championship and two weeks before the U.S. Open, I can’t imagine anybody who really is serious about wanting to win the U.S. Open not being here. I mean they’re going to have to play golf some time and I don’t think, of course that’s just me, I never liked to play the week before or the week after. So the Memorial Tournament sits in a great spot. We’re still in the same place we were, and the Tour’s respected our wishes and worked with us on the scheduling,” Nicklaus told reporters earlier this week. The Golden Bear also mentioned that several big European players aren’t playing in Ohio this week because they’re teeing it up at the Italian Open, which holds some significant Ryder Cup points up for grabs. Notables like Tommy Fleetwood (11th in the Official World Golf Rankings), Alex Noren (17th), Francesco Molinari (20th), Tyrrell Hatton (22nd), Rafa Cabrera-Bello (25th) and Ian Poulter (27th) will all be in Italy this week, despite several of them teeing it up at Muirfield in 2017.

The field this week at Jack’s course is an elite one, featuring 8 of the top-10 players in the world, and the top-7 in FedEx Cup points. Last year, Jason Dufner won by 3 strokes over second place finishers Rickie Fowler and Anirban Lahiri. After shooting a pair of 65s in his opening 2 rounds, Dufner nearly blew it all on moving day, shooting a Saturday 77. He ultimately recovered to shoot 68 on Sunday and win comfortably. Dufner will go off at 8:26am on Thursday, paired with Ft. Worth Invitational winner and 2010 Memorial champ Justin Rose and 5-time Memorial winner Tiger Woods. Rickie Folwer will go off just before at 8:15am with 2018 Masters champ Patrick Reed and newly crowned world number 1 Justin Thomas. 2013 Memorial champion Matt Kuchar will go off at 8:37am with Marc Leishman, who had a runner-up finish at the AT&T Byron Nelson a few weeks ago, and Louis Oosthuizen, who tied for 5th place this past week in Dallas.

The afternoon also has several star-studded groups- namely the 1:05 tee time of Jason Day, who won the Wells Fargo Championship in early May, Dustin Johnson, winner of the January Sentry Tournament of Champions, and Arnold Palmet Invitational winner Rory McIlroy. Following that group will be the 1:16pm lineup that includes veteran lefties Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson, as well as Jordan Spieth, who finished 3rd at the 2018 Masters.

Las Vegas Odds

Dustin Johnson 12-1
Jason Day 12-1
Justin Rose 14-1
Justin Thomas 14/1
Rory McIlroy 14-1
Jordan Spieth 16-1
Rickie Fowler 20-1
Tiger Woods 20-1
Henrik Stenson 25-1
Bubba Watson 28-1
Hideki Matsuyama 33-1
Patrick Reed 33-1
Phil Mickelson 40-1
Emiliano Grillo 40-1
Marc Leishman 40-1
Adam Scott 45-1
Matt Kuchar 45-1
Branden Grace 45-1

Power Rankings

5. Tiger Woods

How a 14-time major winner and 5-time Memorial Tournament champion is a “darkhorse” this week just speaks to the fact of how good this year’s field is. Woods recently got the magic back at the Players Championship a few weeks ago- tying for 11th as he shot 65-69 over the weekend. As a winner of Jack’s event from 1999-2001 plus 2009 and 2012, he certainly knows the golf course and what it takes to win. Overall, Woods has played well this year in his first full season in what seems like ages. As usual, his short game has been fantastic- he’s 32nd in strokes gained: putting and 7th in strokes gained: around the green. What’s holding him back right now is greens in regulation, and his ability to take advantage of par 5s. This season he is 137th in greens in regulation percentage (64%) and 70th in par 5 scoring. Muirfield has opportunities to score, but they come through taking advantage of the four par 5s and short par 4s. Woods needs to hit that next gear, where he is trying to shoot 64s instead of his current mode, which appears to be more cautious (in the 30 2018 rounds he’s played this year Woods has broken 68 just twice).

4. Matt Kuchar

Following a missed cut at the Byron Nelson, Kuchar recovered well last week at the Fort Worth Invitational, finishing T32 at -5. A Friday 73 prevented him from catching the lead pack, a common thread over his past 6 starts (he hasn’t broken the top-15). But the 2013 Memorial champion should feel a bit more comfortable this week at a course where he has had great success- in 12 starts at Muirfield he has 9 top-15s and sports back to back T4 finishes over the past 2 seasons. It’s been a decent season for Kuch, making 9 of 10 cuts this year, but he only sports one top-10 in 2018- a T8 finish at the Houston Open over 2 months ago. He’s particularly struggled off the tee, ranking 152nd in driving distance and 7oth in accuracy, overall ranking 76th in strokes gained: off the tee. Fortunately, his short game, particularly his sand play, has allowed him to score well enough to rack up FedEx Cup points. The 35th best scorer this season will look to gain some confidence at a familiar place this week in preparation for his 14th appearance at the US Open, where he finished T16 last year.

3. Dustin Johnson

Once again the current world #2 is quietly having a fantastic season and shows no signs of slowing down. Following a win at the Sentry TOC in January, Johnson hasn’t missed a cut nor finished outside T17 this season. And despite playing on a limited schedule this season, he’s 9th in FedEx Cup points and 8th on the money list in 2018. At 69.198 Johnson leads the PGA Tour in scoring average, including ranking 1st in eagles per hole and 3rd in birdie percentage. As a long hitter (14th in driving distance) his only true struggle this year has been accuracy off the tee, ranking 125th out of just over 200 qualifying players. However, he has recovered well, standing at 16th in GIR for the season at just over 70%. He missed the cut in 2017 but sports two top-5s in his last seven trips to the Memorial Tournament. Johnson sets up well for Muirfield Village this week as he ranks 1st 5th and 24th in par 5, par 4 and par 3 birdie or better scoring respectively. If DJ can score well on Sunday (he ranks 60th in final round scoring) he could win it all this week

2. Justin Thomas

After a few missed cuts at this event, Thomas contended last year and finished tied for 4th, just 4 strokes less than winner Jason Dufner. In stroke play events this season Thomas has never finished worse than T22 and sports a victory at The Honda Classic from February. He played well at his last event, The Players Championship, shooting 68-66 over the weekend to finish tied for 11th. Thomas overall has played great this year, ranking first in FedEx Cup points after playing just 13 events. He’s 2nd in scoring average, 3rd in strokes gained: tee to green and 4th in strokes gained: total. For Muirfield, Thomas sets up perfectly as a greater driver of the golf ball and players with the ability to take advantage of par 5s. He’s 2nd in par 5 birdie or better and 3rd in par 4 birdie or better- only Jon Rahm and Justin Rose score better at a higher rate. The only doubts with Thomas this week will be his ability to handle the #1 title and how he fairs on a course that he’s only played a handful of times in his career. Regardless, Thomas is still a threat any given week and if he has a good week putting, should be able to gain some momentum heading into the US Open.

1. Justin Rose

Rosey is going to be at the top of power rankings for every tournament he plays in for the foreseeable future, as he is having just a terrific season thus far. Second in FedEx Cup points and 3rd in scoring average this season, there seems to be nothing the 37-year-old Brit can’t do as of late. Only Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas have a better scoring average than him this season. This past week Rose won the Ft. Worth Invitational at -20, defeating Brooks Koepka by 3 strokes. Rose led the field by hitting nearly 80% of greens in regulation and was 5th in putting average. This season he is 18th in GIR, 7th in strokes gained: tee to green and 13th in strokes gained: putting. He hasn’t missed a cut in 2018 and sports 4 top-10s, and finished in the top-25 at both The Masters and The Players. Going against an elite field this week at a major-level course, expect Rose to contend once again at a tournament where he won his first PGA Tour event back in 2010.

DFS Picks

Rickie Fowler -> $9,500

Tiger Woods -> $9,400

Matt Kuchar -> $8,500

Bryson Dechambeau -> $7,700

Kevin Na -> $7,600

Rory Sabatini -> $7,500

Remaining Salary -> $0

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