It's one of my favourite stops on the PGA Tour this week as we head to the Jack Nicklaus founded and designed Muirfield Village for the Memorial Tournament. Jack likes to test the best against the rest and one thing is for sure - we'll find out who is on top of their game here. It takes an all-round performance to win at Muirfield, apart from perhaps first class ability with the big stick. Nicklaus likes to give the guys some room for manoeuvre from the tee and examine more so the irons and short game.
Matt Kuchar (17.00) is a Muirfield Village specialist and indeed was one of our headline tips for Unibet last year as he went on to record an almost flawless victory. It looked like it may be a duel between himself and another horse for the course - Justin Rose (19.00), but it was one of my fancies for this week who chased Matt down, and I'll get around to Kevin Chappell later. Rory McIlroy (9.00) and Adam Scott (11.00) tee it up and lead the betting at Jack's place.
The course - Muirfield Village
Playing 7,350 yards in length to a par 72, the first thing to know about Muirfield Village is that it's forgiving from the tee. Length does help but according to three time Memorial Champ and expert drawer of the ball, Kenny Perry, it's "all about the second shot". Kenny emphasizes his key to success here was playing smart, keeping the ball under the hole from approaches and avoiding short siding himself. This is because Memorial boasts arguably the fastest greens all year if you go past the flag, or if you miss in the wrong place, it's even tougher to get up and down than Augusta because of the sticky green-side rough. Surfaces average only 5,000 square feet and there will be plenty of misses so it will help to have your scrambling boots on. Experience is of big benefit around Muirfield Village - arguably the biggest "second shot course" on tour. Taking advantage of the par fives is also key here.
Three from the pack
Ironically the last line I've written is what stopped Gary Woodland from a final day assault last time out at the Byron Nelson. I read a stat saying he was +1 for the 8 par fives over the week. This is not true to form for Gary who is -65 for the season on the long holes. What stands out more so though for the burly American is an eye catching ranking of 7th in par 4 performance, whilst he sits 12th in ball striking and 30th in GIR%. A couple of top 20s in three appearances here add to Woody's profile and he's showing the all important progressive current form trend of 26-18-11-7. He trades at 36.00 or 8.00 to place.
Kevin Chappell (71.00 or 15.00 the top five) was the man I referred to battling against Kuchar down the stretch in 2013 and his ball striking skills are the reason he is included this week. Chappell ranks 11th in total driving and 31st in GIR%, suggesting his tee to green game is impeccable. Indeed, Kevin was 4th in ball striking at Colonial on his way to a top 10 last week. The UCLA man also sits 20th in par five performance so is capable of scoring where needed and it's probably no coincidence then that he finished runner up at Muirfield Village last season.
Now to another course specialist and top ball striker in Bo Van Pelt who has two third places to his name here. In 2010 Bo finished behind only marquee names Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler. Bo has played this course every year for the last decade and owns a host of top 25s. This is a massive advantage over many of the field for a guy finally getting back to some form of old after adopting a new putting stroke. BVP hit a 63 recently at the Zurich Classic to remind us what he can do and trades at 81.00 or 17.00.
I'm going to put up Hideki Matsuyama (71.00 or 15.00) as the slightly better option over my other fancy Michael Thompson (91.00) here. Of course I've backed both but the column in only so long.Hideki has no experience at Memorial but for me his game is a perfect fit for Muirfield Village and he is showing progressive form of 38-23-10. He ranks 1st in scrambling from over 30 yards and 1st in approaches from 50-125 yards and those are hugely relevant stats for me here; Hideki sits 32nd in overall proximity to the hole and on numerous occasions when I've seen him, the commentators are talking up the strength of his irons and wedge. The youngster seems to be a big course player and this would explain why.
Bet on the Memorial Tournament now