The countdown to the US Open at the controversial Chambers Bay venue is well and truly on and we have a major type test to warm up for it this week at Jack's place. Muirfield Village is the venue for The Memorial Tournament and Tiger Woods - who owns a stellar record here - tees it up in a strong market at 36.00. Jordan Spieth - 8.50 - and Dustin Johnson - 15.00 - take a big slice out of the betting pie and in truth I'm very happy to oppose these two here at a venue which requires certain attributes in abundance. Patience is key at Muirfield Village and neither would be renowned in that area.
We witnessed an exciting finish in last year's renewal as Unibet tip Hideki Matsuyama - 19.00 - eventually got the better of Kevin Na after a Bubba Watson implosion down the stretch. Hideki ranked 1st for proximity to the hole that week and that was key in a strong all round performance for the Japanese on a track that tests most compartments of the game.
The course - Muirfield Village
The true "second shot course" on the PGA Tour, as always with Jack Nicklaus designs, there's a little room for manoeuvre off the tee despite treelined, lush conditions. Key around Memorial is on approaches into small greens protected by bunkering and usually thick rough. Surfaces are generally the fastest on Tour, especially from above the hole so accuracy and leaving yourself under the cup is vital. Short siding yourself around Muirfield Village is a huge error, often leaving impossible up and downs from penal the greenside rough. Course specialist and multiple Memorial winner Kenny Perry - 251.00 - was a big hitting draw specialist who regularly ranked high in the total driving department. Par fives must be taken advantage of on a course that regularly ranks as one of the toughest outside of the majors.
Three from the pack
Justin Rose - 21.00 or 5.00 - seems excited to be coming back to Memorial as an Instagram post of his containing a trophy picture would suggest. The former champion is one of two course specialists on the radar this week and for me there's some juice in his price with the aforementioned Spieth and DJ so popular. Quite simply Rose has the perfect game for Muirfield Village. In a season where Rose has only just hit form, he's 33rd in driving distance, 32nd in GIR%, 8th in sand saves and 1st in scrambling from the fringe. More importantly he's smart and knows where to miss around Muirfield Village. Justin also has the added advantage of a high ball flight with his irons and he owns a win, a runner up and two other top 10s in his last six starts here.
A man with an even better record around Muirfield Village than Rose is Matt Kuchar - 26.00 or 6.00 - and arguably he's being a little bit overlooked here this week. The season has yet to get going for Kuch but that's often the way according to his own views. Matt has some sneaky form hidden in the recent stats: After a top five at Harbour Town, the American's results look quite ordinary but rounds of 67-64 on day 1 and 2 at the Byron Nelson suggest he's about to fire again. At Memorial the form figures read 13-10-5-8-2-1-15 for Kuchar who sits 5th in scrambling and 1st in one-putts on the PGA Tour in '15. Kuch birdied all four par 5s on the Sunday in 2013 enroute to victory.
Graham DeLaet - 126.0 or 23.00 - has the perfect profile for Muirfield Village and was 21st here in his last strokeplay tournament visit in 2013 where he warmed up for the Presidents Cup. Graham opened with two 67s at Shell Houston to return to contention and he's been showing progressive form since, reading T56-T53-T22. He actually closed with two 67s at TPC Four Seasons and hit all four rounds in the sixties so the form is there even though he's been off the radar. The Canadian is a tee to green machine: In 2014 he finished the season ranked 3rd in GIR%, 9th in proximity, 9th in total driving and 2nd in ball striking. He seems to be just finding that game again and if he brings it to Muirfield Village, a triple figure quote could look silly. Delaet was also the star of the show for the International team at Muirfield Village in the aforementioned 2013 Presidents Cup. The Canadian hauled 3.5 points for his team, beating Jordan Spieth in the singles:" I definitely have more confidence in myself after this,” DeLaet said. It’s been super exciting." Only Tiger Woods eclipsed Graham in the scoring.
Kevin Chappell - 101.0 or 19.00 - has been doing some work on his game of late and according to interviews is happy as to where it's heading. He's secured top 20s in his last two events at Wells Fargo and Colonial. Kevin has previous at Jack's place having been the one to chase Kuchar home in 2013. It's a very vivid performance for me still and he's a must back at the price given how he coped with the course and being in contention that week. Chappell fired a bogey free 68 on the Sunday.
Simmering with form of T18-T52-T42, Matt Every - 126.0 or 23.00 gets the nod due mainly to his putting stats and his ability to turn it on out of nowhere at a big price. Matt has gone back to back at a difficult venue and in tough fields at Bay Hill. He ranked 4th in strokes gained putting last year and sits 10th in 2015. He owns a 6th place finish at Muirfield Village back in 2012, book-ending with a pair of 69s.