The Memorial Tournament: Fantasy picks, power rankings and analysis
OK, Memorial Tournament, top that.
The upstart Workday Charity Open debuted and delivered the best finish of the 2019-20 PGA Tour season on Sunday as Collin Morikawa outlasted Justin Thomas on the third hole of sudden death.
The players enjoyed a kinder, gentler Muirfield Village Golf Club and the scores reflected the set up with 19-under 269 required to reach the playoff. The par-72, 7,456-yard Jack Nicklaus creation will be presented in full regalia this week as the Memorial field fights for a $9.3 million purse and the precious FedEx Cup points. The winner receives $1.674 million.
Hopefully, this week the officials will move the tee up during at least one tournament round on the par-4 14th. What a fascinating risk / reward opportunity the hole presents, driveable and perilous with any score from a two to a five possible. With no spectators to accommodate, the playoff should have been held there but the extra holes provided ample drama anyway. Winning is hard. Only Tiger made it look easy.
Speaking of Mr. Woods, he’s back in action this week at one of his favorite haunts. It’s his first PGA Tour start in five months, so temper expectations. Although his swing, in particular the tee ball, looked great when we saw him last, Woods probably has his intention set on Harding Park and next month’s PGA Championship, the first major of the year and his next opportunity to inch closer to this week’s host.
The leaders last week excelled tee-to-green, proving once again that Muirfield Village, low scores be damned, remains a legitimate examination. The pros have to be firing in all facets and we’ve heavily weighed the ballstriking categories with an interest in par-3 scoring and sand-save percentage. The bunkers are the best miss in many cases at Muirfield Village and escaping with par or better is a clear path to Sunday glory.
The weather is going to be warm with light winds, as expected and of course, there are thunderstorms in the forecast from Thursday – Sunday.
At the Memorial, the milkshakes make the afternoon storms taste better.
Golfer power rankings
25. Corey Conners – Possesses the tee-to-green game to thrive at Muirfield Village and he excelled until he reached the putting surfaces (5.2 strokes gained Tee-to-Green) last week in a Workday T-39. Love the Canadian’s upside as he becomes more comfortable on the Tour.
24. Keegan Bradley – Two top 10s in nine career Memorial starts. Obviously the ban on anchored putting hasn’t helped him. His recent putting chart evokes sadness but he’s striking the ball like George Knudson. Gained 10.9 shots on approach last week, only to lose 6.7 on the green and finish T-39. Faster greens suit him.
23. Lucas Glover – The 2009 U.S. Open champion rested last week after resuming the 2019-20 season with four consecutive top 25s. In two of those tournaments, he even gained strokes on the greens! One of the game’s best on approach shots 175 yards or less, he’s made six Memorial cuts in a row.
22. Viktor Hovland – Could be a slight hangover after his third-place showing at the Workday and the faster greens will challenge his short game and putting. Prowling the fairways like a Norwegian Forest Cat, his superior strike and compression has generated five consecutive top 25s, gaining at least three strokes on approach shots in each one.
21. Paul Casey – Among the field, he’s first in SG: Approach over last 24 rounds on fast or lightning greens per Fantasy National. Also third in par-3 scoring, which is always a key ingredient for success at Muirfield Village. Finished T-32 at Travelers in his only appearance since the restart.
20. Rory Sabbatini – We hopped off the Great Slovakian Train last week and paid dearly as the walking ATM recorded his third top 25 since Colonial. Swinging nicely with 4.5 strokes gained off the tee last week and 3.2 gained on approach shots.
19. Kevin Streelman – Back-to-back top 10s (T-7 at Workday) and gets a second week on a course that fits his eye (T-4 at Memorial last year). Our statistical model doesn’t love his chances this week, but recent form and course history (four top 20s in last five Memorials) matter.
18. Tiger Woods – Not counting the quarantine exhibition with Phil and the football players, we’ve seen the five-time Memorial champion only twice in 2020 – a T-9 at Torrey Pines and a horrific putting display on the lumpy poa annua at Riviera. There will be rust, but nobody hits better iron shots and Muirfield Village demands it.
17. Daniel Berger – Opted to take a three-week break after winning Colonial and finishing third at Hilton Head. Has a 67th and MC in two Memorial appearances, though and bentgrass is his weakest putting surface, so proceed with caution.
16. Jon Rahm – Have to believe the final-round 64 will propel the young Spaniard back to form this week after a lackluster restart during which he’s yet to crack the top 25 in four starts. Gained four shots on approach last week, which is promising.
15. Rickie Fowler – As good as anyone in the field when the greens are slippery and confidence is blossoming after consecutive top 25s. Driver has been an asset the last two weeks and if he can sharpen his iron game, could provide value this week at Memorial, where he’s finished top 15 each of the last three years.
14. Tony Finau – A video circulated last week of Finau swinging the driver to parallel (at least) and cranking out a 206 mph ball speed. Oh, he also shot 59. Lost strokes on the greens in his last three events but the rest of his game suits Muirfield Village, where he’s made the cut in four of five starts.
13. Gary Woodland – Made the cut in each of his last four starts at Memorial and has a good feel for the greens (third in SG: Putting last week to finish T-5). He’s 12th in SG: Approach-the-Green and 22nd in SG: Putting on the season.
12. Collin Morikawa – Such a thrilling victory may impart an emotional toll on the youngster but he shouldn’t fall too far. Not with the beautiful golf swing, which gained 12.3 strokes Tee-to-Green and 9.2 strokes on approach last week. He’s a superstar, obviously.
11. Rory McIlroy – Showed signs of progress at Travelers with a T-11 and the numbers are rock solid as expected, even if the results have been disappointing since the restart. Loves the plush green grass of Muirfield Village, though, with four top 10s in eight starts. Would love a virtual handshake from Jack on Sunday afternoon.
10. Justin Thomas – Those last three holes Sunday won’t be easy to shake and a sizzling putter masked the missed tee shots to the right. Those were a legitimate issue down the stretch. But he has a T-8 and T-4 at Memorial in two of the last three years and other than par-3 scoring (69th in the field) everything else points to another good outing.
9. Abraham Ancer – Made the cut but finished back in the pack in his first two looks at the Memorial but he’s a much more confident player now. Hasn’t finished outside the top-15 since the restart and should be fresh after two weeks at home. His ballstriking has been magnificent all season (he’s gained 6.1 strokes tee-to-green in the last five tournaments).
8. Hideki Matsuyama – Watched the Wizard of Oz with the kids recently as Dorothy and friends were wandering along the yellow brick road, I couldn’t help but think of Hideki – if he only had a putting stroke. He lost strokes on the green for the fourth consecutive tournament at Workday, yet still finished T-22. Loves it here with three top 10s and a win.
7. Dustin Johnson – Returns to the Tour after taking two weeks off to enjoy his winning performance at the Travelers. Has made the cut in nine of 11 starts at the Memorial with a trio of top 10s.
6. Jason Day – Thrived at home last week, finishing T-7 at the Workday, his best result since a fourth at his annual honey hole of Pebble Beach. Has driven the ball well since the restart and those towering iron shots have nestled closer to the flag in his last two events.
5. Webb Simpson – Skipped the Memorial the last two years and has only one top 10 in seven prior appearances. Still, the perfect surfaces at Jack’s Place and his fearless stroke should be a good match. Has gained 3.9 strokes or more on approach in six of the last eight starts.
4. Joaquin Niemann – Finished 31st at the Workday last week and I was as disappointed as he was, trust me. Has a T-27 and T-6 in two Memorial starts, though and I’m going to keep believing in my favorite Chilean since Gustavo Fring until he gives me reason to think otherwise. He’s ranked second in the field in our Fantasy National model.
3. Xander Schauffele – Trending upward and enjoyed his best putting round since the 2019 U.S. Open last week at Muirfield Village, to tie for 14th. Also where he finished in last year’s Memorial. Putts well on bentgrass and thrives when the conditions are calm, which is generally the forecast for the week.
2. Patrick Cantlay – The defending champion has played only 20 competitive rounds in 2020 and has yet to finish outside the top 20. Examine his stats and it’s easy to understand why he’s been so consistently good. He’s good at everything and will scare a repeat this week.
1. Bryson DeChambeau – Why not? Nobody has played better in 2020 and he won the Memorial in 2018. He’s the favorite to win everything until he doesn’t and after watching him belt one 350-yard tee shot after another for the last month, it makes sense to me, I must confess.