The PGA Tour carnival wanders north to Ohio this week to Muirfield Village Golf Club, home of excellent milkshakes, exquisite turf and aggravating late spring rainstorms.
An outstanding field is on hand for the Memorial Tournament, a 120-man invitational. Jack Nicklaus, tournament host and course architect, will watch 32 of the top 50 players in the world (and 14 of the top 20) compete on the par-72, 7,533-yard layout.
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Prior to last year’s tournament (won by Patrick Cantlay after third-round leader Jon Rahm withdrew with COVID-19), Muirfield Village underwent an extensive renovation. The players agreed that the changes made the course more difficult, putting a premium on accurate driving and distance control with irons.
There’s a chance of rain on Wednesday and Thursday but the rest of the week looks dry. Before we get to the fantasy golf picks, here are a few keys to success and course notes:
- Proximity from 175-200 yards and 100-125 yards out is pivotal this week to handle Muirfield Village’s 3-shot par-5s and long par-4s.
- Strong driving is imperative. The thick, 4-inch bluegrass rough limits options and in the worst cases, forces players to lay up.
- Taking advantage of the par-5s is key. In last year’s Memorial, 23 of the top 25 finishers gained shots on the four par-5s.
- We targeted players who have been hitting a large percentage of greens in regulation in recent weeks. Missing a green at Muirfield Village often results in a bunker shot to an elevated hole location, so scrambling and sand saves factored into the model.
- The greens are among the smallest on the PGA Tour and should be firm, especially on the weekend when there’s little chance of precipitation, sunshine and a 10-20 mph breeze in the forecast. A higher ball flight serves a player well on a Nicklaus designed course.
- There are seven par-4s measuring between 450-500 yards at Muirfield Village, accounting for nearly 40 percent of the golf to be played Thursday through Sunday. Over the last 75 rounds Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy and Cameron Young have the lowest scoring average on holes of that length. Holes 18, 10, 6 and 1 were the four most difficult holes in last year’s tournament.
Fantasy Golf Picks: Longer Shots
25. Aaron Wise. Finished in the top 10 at Memorial last year and enters in good form, having placed in the top 25 in three of the last four tournaments, gaining at least 2.5 shots on approach in each of his last three starts.
24. Cameron Smith. Hasn’t had much luck at Muirifield Village (four MCs, 68th, 65th), but he’s a better player now, rising to the top five in the FedEx Cup and World Rankings and must enjoy the challenge or he wouldn’t be here.
23. Corey Conners. Rare frigid week with his irons led to an early dismissal from Southern Hills but should get on track this week at a place where he’s made the cut in all three attempts with one top-25 finish. Slots top 10 in the field in SG: Off-the-Tee, Good Drives Gained and Greens in Regulation.
22. Keegan Bradley. Quiet in recent years at the Memorial but did finish top 10 in 2015 and 2016 and is on a heater with four top-11s in his last six starts, gaining shots Tee-to-Green in 10 of the last 11 events.
21. Anirban Lahiri. Steady driver has gained shots Off the Tee in eight consecutive events and iron game began trending upward when he was runner-up at the Players. Particularly strong from 175-200 yards.
20. Marc Leishman. Been quiet since he recorded back-to-back top-5s to start the season, but he’s made the cut in all 10 Memorial appearances with four top-15s to his credit. Driver can be fickle but gained 2.8 shots Off-the-Tee in a T-34 at the PGA Championship.
19. Chris Kirk. The models have loved him for months. Now he has the results to match. Has gained shots off the tee and approach in 10 consecutive tournaments, and finished T-26 here last year. Good value.
18. Patrick Cantlay. Poor iron play and putrid putting led to a missed cut for our pick at the PGA. Should bounce back quickly on a course he obviously loves. Top-20 in SG: Off-the-Tee over the last 36 rounds and 47th in Greens in Regulation.
17. Joaquin Niemann. Remarkably consistent through the bag in 2022, recording four top-25s in the last five tournaments to supplement his victory at Riviera. Excellent bunker player, top-20 driver and top-10 Tee-to-Green on longer courses.
16. Patrick Reed. Worth an outright bet. Looks like a new golfer now that he’s ditched the PXG driver, claiming his first top 10 since Halloween last week at Colonial. Elite bunker player and gained 3.5 shots on approach last week.
15. Hideki Matsuyama. Past champion of the Memorial has also finished sixth and 13th in the last five years. Top 15 in SG: Approach (last 36 rounds), SG: Tee-to-Green on Nicklaus courses and longer courses and par-5 scoring. Also 20th in proximity from 175-200 yards over the last 75 rounds.
14. Matthew Fitzpatrick. Checks most of the correct boxes to succeed at Muirfield Village, including par-5 scoring, top shelf bunker play, SG: Off-the-Tee, Good Drives Gained and Greens in Regulation. Playing the best golf of his career with six top-10s since February and finished third in the 2020 Memorial.
13. Viktor Hovland. Contended at Colonial until a sloppy double bogey on the par-5, No. 1—the easiest hole on the course—in the third round, eventually finishing T-21. Still, his elite driving and prowess from 175-200 yards make the Norwegian Forest Cat an appealing option this week.
12. Davis Riley. What a golf swing. Love his motion and the fire he showed last Sunday after a poor tee shot midway through the back nine effectively ended his shot at a victory. But it’s coming. Gained 6.4 shots and 7.7 shots on approach the last two weeks and has three top-10s in the last four events.
11. Max Homa. Feels like his game has reached a stage where he can misfire in one area and still produce good results. Ranks 12th in proximity from 100-125 yards and fifth in par-5 scoring and finished T-6 in last year’s Memorial.
Fantasy Golf Picks: Best Bets
10. Mito Pereira. From the Bargain Bin to the Fantasy Power Rankings Top 10. It’s been quite a couple of weeks for the talented Chilean, posting back-to-back top-7 finishes. Should be a great fit for Muirfield Village, ranking second in Good Drives Gained and GIRs.
9. Cameron Young. Powerful high fades work well at Jack’s Place. Go figure. Not many can hit them better than Young, the frontrunner for PGA Tour Rookie of the Year on the strength of five top-3 finishes. Bunker game is suspect but gaining at least 10 shots Tee-to-Green in three consecutive starts is elite golf.
8. Will Zalatoris. Another former Wake Forest Demon Deacon with the shot shape to shine in Buckeye Country. Write off last week’s missed cut in Fort Worth to exhaustion and a uncharacteristic off week with his irons. Ranks ninth in SG: Off-the-Tee and second in Greens in Regulation.
7. Shane Lowry. One poor stretch of holes ruined his chances at the PGA Championship but his combination of accurate driving, outstanding iron play and world class bunker game should create ample scoring opportunities at Muirfield Village. Finished sixth here last year and T-15 in 2017.
6. Collin Morikawa. Finished runner-up in last year’s Memorial and won the Workday at Muirfield Village in 2020. Has also lost at least 2.5 shots on the greens in his last four tournaments. Ranks 15th in Good Drives Gained and fifth in Greens in Regulation. Just needs to match the field average on the greens.
5. Jon Rahm. Might come out with something to prove after the tournament title slipped away in such strange fashion last year. Short game has been abysmal in 2022 but don’t have to rely on it often when you lead the field in SG: Off the Tee and Greens in Regulation. Won the 2020 Memorial on crazy slick, firm greens.
4. Jordan Spieth. Missed seven putts inside six feet at Colonial and still landed in the top 10. Finished 18th, 13th and seventh in the last three Memorials. Ranks fifth in SG: Approach, 10th in Par-5 scoring and 14th in Scrambling over the last 36 rounds.
3. Xander Schauffele. Top 20 in the two key proximity categories and top 20 percent in all the other key metrics for a strong finish on this course. Landed in the top 15 in five of the last seven tournaments. Finished in the top 15 of his last four starts at Muirfield Village.
2. Sungjae Im. Only a good putting week away from his third PGA Tour victory. Finished 15th at Colonial and 21st at Harbour Town despite losing nearly seven shots on the greens in those tournaments. Hasn’t fared well at Muirfield Village in the past but is the one of three players who ranks top 10 in Good Drives Gained, SG: Off-the-Tee and Greens in Regulation.
1. Rory McIlroy. Has won 20 times on the PGA Tour but never at Memorial, where he’s been a consistent top-20 finisher, sprinkling in a pair of top-10s. Comes in peaking with top-10s in his last three tournaments and leads the field in SG: Tee-to-Green on longer courses. Ranks fifth in SG: Off-the-Tee and fourth in Greens in Regulation.
Fantasy Golf Picks: Bargain Bin
Lucas Glover, Adam Hadwin, Matt Jones, Chan Kim
Matthew NeSmith, Aaron Rai, Alex Smalley
Brendan Steele, Kevin Streelman, Jhonnatan Vegas