Workday Charity Open: Fantasy picks, power rankings and analysis

Justin Thomas, Jimmy Johnson
Justin Thomas, here with caddie Jimmy Johnson, is a wise pick whenever and wherever he tees it up. Credit: Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

The twisting saga of the 2019-20 PGA Tour takes another turn this week at the pristine Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.

For the first time since perhaps the 144-hole World Open in Pinehurst in the 1970s,  the best golfers in the world are playing a doubleheader on the same course, starting with this week’s Workday Charity Open, a new tournament put on the schedule in the wake of the cancellations related to COVID-19. The Memorial, the regular annual stop on Jack Nicklaus’ course, is scheduled for next week (without fans, the Tour announced Monday).

A number of elite players plan to play both tournaments. The passionate golf fans in Ohio hoped Tiger Woods would show up and compete on a course where he’s enjoyed tremendous success throughout his career. He opted out so the Ohioans must settle for Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose and an overall strong PGA Tour field.

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Muirfield Village Golf Club is par 72, 7,456 yards, and the pros are playing for $6.2 million with $1.16 million for the champion.

During the Memorial, the generous fairways have been slightly easier to hit than they are in an average Tour event. Then again, Muirfield Village has often been saturated during that week in May. The forecast this week is more of what we’ve seen in recent weeks — hot, humid, little-to-no wind and a slight chance of thunderstorms on Sunday. So while the course could play slightly firmer, the scoring conditions will again be favorable.

The greens at Muirfield Village are more difficult to hit, compared to Tour average and past champions have gained strokes on approach shots to create the pathway to victory. When players hit the green in regulation, the average proximity is 26 feet compared to 28.6 feet for the average Tour event. At Muirfield Village, players aim for a green quadrant. Precision is rewarded. A good bunker game is also helpful.

As always, best of luck. Feel free to post any questions or concerns in the comments below.

Golfer power rankings

25. Byeong Hun An – Scuffled since the restart, making two of three cuts with a best finish of T-46 because he’s struggled on the greens. Showed progress at the Travelers, skipped the Rocket Mortgage and should be pleased to see Muirfield Village where he’s finished in the top 25 in his last four starts.

24. Kevin Streelman – Rested last week after runner-up effort at Travelers and returns to Muirfield Village, a kind destination in recent years (four top 20s in last five starts). Still, it’s been an erratic season, so tread lightly. In his last 11 PGA Tour events, Streelman has been runner-up twice and missed seven cuts.

23. Collin Morikawa – He finally missed the first cut of his career at the Travelers due to a rare off week with his irons. Took last week off to recover but rest assured he’ll rebound with a solid performance in his first pro tournament at Muirfield Village.

22. Jason Dufner – The putter is always the big question mark for Dufner – he’s lost strokes on the greens in five of his last six starts and he’s 104th in the field in SG: Putting at MVGC over the last 24 rounds. But he also ranks first in SG: Ballstriking with a Memorial win in 2017 and top 10 last year. Ranks 188th in the FedEx Cup, so needs a hot week.

21. Henrik Norlander – Hasn’t played in the Memorial, but led the Rocket Mortgage field in SG: Approach Shots (8.3) and has been solid in all the ballstriking categories over the last three events, post-hiatus. Despite below average putting ranks 77th in FedEx Cup standings. Would be higher if he putted better on bentgrass.

20. Harold Varner III – One of these weeks, the putter will heat up for HV3. The pure surfaces at Muirfield Village could be the ideal place to uncover his touch. His ballstriking has been impressive, gaining an average of 4.2 shots on the field tee-to-green in his last five starts, including 6.2 last week when he finished T-30.

19. Scott Stallings – Made the cut in all three starts since Colonial, gaining strokes each week tee-to-green and at least two shots on the green at Travelers and Rocket Mortgage. Enjoyed success at Muirfield Village from 2011-13 with a trio of top 25s.

18. Ryan Armour – The Ohio native should feel relaxed and confident following consecutive top 10s that vaulted him to 75th in the FedEx Cup standings and secured a spot in the playoffs. He excelled with putting at Travelers and approach shots in Detroit. Finished top 25 in the Memorial the last two years.

17. Patrick Reed – Has missed the cut two of the last three weeks due to the killer combo of poor iron play and mediocre putting. Muirfield Village has always treated him well, though with four cuts made and one top 10. Another of the more unpredictable players on Tour but we’ll ride a hunch here.

16. Gary Woodland – A regular at the Memorial with seven cuts made in nine starts and a pair of top 10s. Has gained 3.7 strokes on approach shots in his last five tournaments in 2019-20 and gained at least two shots putting in each of his last three tournaments.

15. Jordan Spieth – The three-time major champion is 3-for-3 making cuts since the Tour resumed, finished T-10 at Colonial and has two top 10s in seven starts at Muirfield Village. I like Spieth because he gained 3.2 shots on approach shots at Travelers. When you compare his stats from his last 20 tournaments (-1.7 approach) to his career (+1.3 approach) it’s clear why his performance has dipped. He’s putted well here in the past, gaining four shots on the field last year (T-7). In his career, Spieth has 11 wins, 13 seconds, 64 top 10s and has made 84 percent of the cuts. Let’s not bury the 26-year-old just yet.

14. Xander Schauffele – Top-20 finish at Memorial last year. Has made all three cuts since the restart with a near-miss at Colonial. Uncharacteristic poor iron play hurt his scoring at Hilton Head and Travelers.

13. Emiliano Grillo – After missing six consecutive cuts from San Diego to Hilton Head, he’s played the weekend the last two weeks, gaining more than three strokes on the field tee-to-green in each event. Has made the cut in all four starts at Muirfield Village, finishing in the top 11 twice.

12. Rickie Fowler – Returned to form last week with a T-12 at Rocket Mortgage, his best finish since a T-10 at American Express in January. From an aesthetic and technical perspective, his swing looks great. Putts well on bentgrass and has three consecutive top 15s at the Memorial.

11. Jon Rahm – Rest assured Rahm will never voluntarily take a three-month break from competitive golf. The consistent excellence he showed earlier this year faded during the time away and he missed the cut at Memorial in his only appearance in 2017. Still, I like talent and he has a bushel basket full.

10. Maverick McNealy – On a putting tear, gaining 6.5 strokes last week at the Rocket Mortgage en route to a T-8 and has made the cut in eight of nine starts in 2020. He’s 20th on the PGA Tour in birdie average and 13th in sand save percentage. Really like his skill set, solid through the bag.

9. Marc Leishman – Although his results were poor at Colonial (58th) and Travelers (MC), his iron game was sharp, gaining at least three strokes on the field in each event. He loves Muirfield Village, ranking inside the top 25 in every significant SG category relative to the Workday field. Has made the cut in 10 of 11 Memorial starts with two top 10s.

8. Joaquin Niemann – Embraced the challenge of Muirfield Village in his first two appearances, finishing T-6 and T-27. Bentgrass is his favorite putting surface. The long game has been strong through his young career and in recent starts. If you’ve been here before you know my thoughts on his prospects. He’s a star.

7. Matt Kuchar – He’s made a boatload of money at many Tour destinations through a lucrative career. Muirfield Village has been particularly profitable with seven top 10s in 14 starts, $3.3 million in career earnings and a 70.27 scoring average. He’s 11th in the field in SG: Approach and second in SG: Putting over the last 24 rounds here.

6. Brooks Koepka – Nothing outstanding on his resume at Muirfield Village GC, however, he’s trending upward with a T-7 at Harbour Town and should be well rested after two weeks off. His performance during recent summers makes him worthy of a mention.

5. Justin Thomas – Missed the cut at Travelers in what was clearly an off week from the tee box to the green. Should be rejuvenated and ready for a two-week run in Dublin. Has consistently gained four shots tee-to-green and two shots on approach shots throughout his career. Mixed bag at Memorial with two top 10s and three missed cuts in six starts.

4. Viktor Hovland – The ballstriking machine has gained seven shots on the field Tee-to-Green and 4.7 on approach shots over the last five tournaments. He’s finished inside the top 25 in all four post-hiatus starts. The putter is holding him back – he lost more than three shots on the greens each of the past two weeks – but the cash window is open.

3. Justin Rose – Missed the cut at Travelers and skipped last week after a T-3 at Colonial and T-14 at Hilton Head, looking as if the switch back to his old equipment has been beneficial. Since 2010 has a win and four other top 10s at Muirfield Village GC. Leads the field in SG: Tee-to-Green here.

2. Hideki Matsuyama – Few pros rival Matsuyama’s quality ballstriking – he’s excelled Tee-to-Green all season and his irons have been especially dialed over the last five events (3.7 strokes gained on approach shots). Has three top 10s in six Memorial starts with a victory in 2014.

1. Patrick Cantlay – Loves bentgrass and Muirfield Village, comes into town riding a hot putter after gaining 5.1 strokes on the greens in a T-11 at Travelers. Has made only seven starts in 2019-20 but landed in the top 20 in the last six. Won the Memorial last year and finished T-4 in 2018.

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