Just a couple of days after Memorial Day, the Memorial Tournament is the next stop on the PGA Tour. It’s a loaded field, highlighted by Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, and Justin Thomas, among others.
With the tournament teeing off Thursday, here’s a little preview of the course, the last several years of the tournament, and some picks to succeed.
As someone who was born and raised in the Columbus, Ohio, area, one of Jack Nicklaus’ dreams was to create a golf tournament in the area that would fulfill his passion and give back to the community. And that’s exactly what he did with the Memorial Tournament, played at the Nicklaus-designed course at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, since 1976. The course is a testament to Nicklaus, as it passes through the large neighborhood of Muirfield Village. In that neighborhood lies a bronze statue of Nicklaus mentoring a young golfer, unveiled in 1999.
As for the course itself at Muirfield Village Golf Club, it is a Par-72 that stretches 7,392 yards that has stayed fairly true to Nicklaus’ original design. The fairways are of average width, and the rough is penal, so straight hits off the tee will be important. The biggest obstacle probably comes in the form of bunkers, 73 of them to be exact, that are scattered all over the course, along with water in play for 11 holes.
There aren’t any three- or four-hole stretches that are drastically tougher than the rest of the course. Rather, Muirfield Village has a full 18 holes that provide an all-around challenge to anyone who plays it. In addition to the annual Memorial Tournament, the course has also hosted the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup.
One year ago, it was Bryson DeChambeau who took down Nicklaus’ course as well as the field. He went into a playoff with Kyle Stanley and Byeong-Hun An after they all tied with a score of -15. After parring the first playoff hole, DeChambeau and An played the 18th hole once again, with Bryson knocking down a birdie putt to win his first of four tournaments in 2018.
In total, six golfers have won the Memorial Tournament more than once. Of course, Jack Nicklaus has won his own tournament twice, along with Hale Irwin, Greg Norman, and Tom Watson. Kenny Perry has won three times, but Tiger Woods has won at Muirfield Village an impressive five times, with the most recent win coming in 2012.
It has been a mixed bag of winners over the last few years in particular. Before DeChambeau, Jason Dufner defeated Rickie Fowler by three strokes to win in 2017. Then you had William McGirt (2016), David Lingmerth (2015), and Hideki Matsuyama (2014) all win in a playoff. Matt Kuchar and Justin Rose have also won in 2013 and 2010, respectively.
After a look at Muirfield Village and the players who have recently conquered it, here are some of the golfers this year who may play well enough to be in the hunt come Sunday.
Rory McIlroy -10/1
With just one finish outside of the top 10 in 10 tournaments this season, McIlroy comes in as the betting favorite once again. Playing at a course where straight, long drives will be key, he leads the entire Tour in driving distance, SG: tee-to-green and SG: off-the-tee. This will also be Rory’s eighth time playing the Memorial, with five top 15s on his resume.
Matt Kuchar – 18/1
Kuchar is someone who has gained some betting traction over the last couple of days and has seen his odds of winning increase. He has four top 20s in the last five years at Muirfield Village, including two T4s in 2016 and 2017. As far as recent form goes, he has two wins, two runner-ups, and three top-10 finishes in his last 14 starts. On a course where great iron play translates to success, Kuchar also leads the Tour in greens in regulation.
Tony Finau – 20/1
Finau has played the Memorial four times, making the cut each time and finishing in the top 15 three times. And while he is known for his ball-striking ability, it is his putter that makes him interesting. Last week at the Charles Schwab Challenge, Finau switched to the claw grip and also changed the set-up of his putter. As a result, he gained 1.80 strokes on the field on the greens en route to a second-place finish and now hopes his newfound putting excellence carries over to Dublin.
Gary Woodland – 30/1
Woodland had a very good showing at the PGA Championship earlier this month, finishing T8 but ranking second in both greens in regulation and SG: tee-to-green. Both of those stats will absolutely be in play at the Memorial, at a course that isn’t quite as difficult as Bethpage Black. Woodland has four top 25s in eight appearances in this tournament.
Other golfers to like are Patrick Cantlay at 18/1, Rickie Fowler at 18/1, and the five-time winner Tiger Woods at 12/1. But I’m going to trust the newfound putting technique of Finau and pick him to win his first Memorial Tournament.
The first round from Dublin, Ohio tees off Thursday morning at 7:20 am EST.