The Memorial Tournament 2023 Preview: Everything To Know About Muirfield Village

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Written By John Haslbauer | Last Updated

It’s finally here, the day we’ve been counting down towards since the start of the year. The “Succession” series finale is imminent, airing at 9 p.m. EST, streaming on Max. There is also a prestigious, elevated event on the PGA TOUR, the 2023 Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio. The next several thousand words will be dedicated towards that topic, but please do reach out to discuss all of your Succession finale theories. On to Memorial Tournament odds in the mean time.

The Memorial Tournament is one of the most storied non-majors on the TOUR schedule. It dates back to 1976 and sits upon one of the most breathtaking backdrops in golf outside of Augusta National. Muirfield Village sternly tests golfers and has produced a diverse cast of winners over the past decade. More recently, we’ve seen the cream start to rise to the top here, with winning scores in the low teens under par.

Firm, fast and tight Bentgrass greens signify this course. Players must be precise with their approaches and hit their landing areas in order to hold these greens. That consequently puts an emphasis on playing from the fairway. Muirfield Village features some of the most penal rough on TOUR. It’s nearly impossible to hold these tight greens from the rough, so strength around the greens will be a must for players to contend.

With all that said, similar to major conditions, it will take a strong all-around game to contend for four days at Muirfield Village. I’m looking for well-rounded players who are elite in terms of SG: APP, SG: ARG, and above average OTT. We’ll run through the key facts and info about Muirfield Village ahead of the 2023 Memorial Tournament.

THE MEMORIAL TOURNAMENT ODDS: THE FAVORITES

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THE FIELD AT A GLANCE

The ninth elevated PGA TOUR event of the 2023 season, Jack’s Place holds an esteemed position on the schedule each year. It is the type of tournament the elite build their schedules around and covet to win. That’s especially true this week with pristine conditions expected (not always the case here!) and a heightened purse of $20M.

All of the OWGR top-six players — Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele and Viktor Hovland — will play this week. That was the expectation for all elevated events this season. But, a packed schedule has kept all the best players from coming together in a non-major since THE PLAYERS.

Of those qualified, only Max Homa and Tony Finau of the OWGR top-50 have elected to skip, prioritizing the Charles Schwab Challenge. Homa’s absence comes as a bit of a surprise, considering he has finished T6 and T5 at this event over the last two years. In any case, this should be the strongest field this event has seen in decades.

Billy Horschel returns to defend his dominant 2022 victory. He has fallen off a precipitous cliff since then and will likely sports 100-1 odds for his title defense. On the merit of course history alone, he may be worth a flyer, as Horschel has three top-15 finishes over his last four appearances here. In addition to Horschel, Cantlay, Rahm, Jason Dufner, William McGirt, David Lingmerth, Hideki Matsuyama, Matt Kuchar and Justin Rose represent the list of past champions in the field.

INTRODUCTION TO MUIRFIELD VILLAGE

The more things seem to change, the more they stay the same. That’s the name of the game at Muirfield Village, as the last four years have produced dramatically different playing conditions. Yet, they still produced remarkably similar leaderboards.

The 2019 conditions took place in Muirfield Village’s business-as-usual setup at 7,392 yards. Patrick Cantlay made the course look easy winning at -19. But, only eight players reached double digits under par.

In 2020, due to COVID scheduling weirdness, Muirfield Village hosted back-to-back events in July. First, at the Workday Charity Open, Collin Morikawa defeated Justin Thomas in a playoff at -19. For the Workday, staff grew the greens out to play slower and more receptive than what we’d usually see at the Memorial.

For the following week at the Memorial, the greens had completely changed. They played extremely firm and fast, nearly impossible to hold with any long iron approach. Jon Rahm dominated, winning by three strokes at -9, despite a questionable two-stroke penalty assessed after the Sunday round. The conditions Sunday produced the most difficult scoring of any non-major since 2015, with an average of 78. Only Matt Fitzpatrick recorded a round in the 60s.

An Extensive Renovation

As the 2020 Memorial came to a conclusion, staff immediately began an extensive renovation. By 2021, Muirfield Village played a full 100 yards longer at 7,543. It featured brand new greens complexes amongst other modifications. Rahm tallied -18 through three rounds, six strokes clear of the field and in position to coast to victory. Then, he withdrew due to a positive COVID test. Instead, Cantlay emerged victorious over Morikawa in a playoff at -13.

And, in last year’s contest in calm conditions, a winning mark of -13 remained constant as Billy Horschel cruised to victory over Aaron Wise, Cantlay and Max Homa.

So, after course overhaul, the next two leaderboards post-renovations still included each of the last three winners at Muirfield Village.

How It Breaks Down

One of the most visually stunning properties on the PGA TOUR schedule, the identity of Muirfield Village’s perfectly manicured set up lies in its length, generous fairways, long and penal rough, and firm and fast Bentgrass greens.

After renovations, Muirfield Village now stands 100 yards longer, playing as a 7,571-yard par 72. Unique to Muirfield Village compared to most other PGA TOUR tracks, the four par 5s are the only holes which feature a scoring average below par. That makes Par-5 Scoring and Bogey Avoidance crucial to contend this week.

The Memorial Tournament has produced some of the largest outliers between winning scores and median scoring over recent years. Despite 2.5 winning scores over the last five years pushing beyond -15 (half credit for Rahm), the median four-day score has fallen under par just once over the same span. Credit that to the unpredictable weather conditions in Dublin.

For Muirfield Village course specs, hole-by-hole breakdown with yardages, and past Memorial Tournament winners with their pre-tournament odds, visit our Memorial Tournament page.

Editor’s Note

COURSE HISTORY AND COURSE COMPS

Memorial has produced an eclectic cast of champs. For every elite winner (Cantlay, Rahm, DeChambeau), we’ve also had some inexplicable ones (McGirt, Lingmerth, Dufner). Looking further back, elites have dominated. Tiger Woods has won five times. Jack Nicklaus, Hale Irwin and Tom Watson have also won multiple times. That group features plenty of variety, but the trend suggests those who can consistently find the fairway for four days will find the most success.

An adjustment of the tee boxes back to beyond 7,500 yards should give the course even more of a major feel and start to weed out some of the more random players. I’ll look for a tighter card of favorites this week, as I would at an actual major.

Looking at Course History, nine players have multiple T15 finishes over the last five years. That list includes Patrick Cantlay, Si Woo Kim, Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler, Kevin Streelman, Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele, Hideki Matsuyama and Billy Horschel. 

Seventeen players have avoided missing the cut over each of the last five years (min. three appearances): Cantlay, Streelman, Kim, Adam Scott, Corey Conners, Chris Kirk, Lucas Glover, Viktor Hovland, CT Pan, KH Lee and Joel Dahmen.

The top-10 players in terms of overall course history at Muirfield Village are Cantlay, Matt Kuchar, Spieth, Collin Morikawa, Jon Rahm, Streelman, Scottie Scheffler, Schauffele, Scott, and Horschel.

Jon Rahm & Patrick Cantlay

When it comes to performance at Muirfield Village, there is Jon Rahm and Patrick Cantlay, and then there’s everyone else.

From a Strokes Gained standpoint, Cantlay holds the honor as the top course horse. Over six career appearances, Cantlay has finished no worse than T35 with four top-four finishes and two wins. He has gained strokes both off the tee and on approach in all six past appearances, and has always been at his best putting on fast Bentgrass greens.

Cantlay’s 2021 victory comes with a bit of an asterisk. Rahm had established a possibly insurmountable lead through 54 holes the positive COVID-19 test. Through three rounds, Rahm scored -18, a full six strokes clear of second place. He’d gained an even 21 total strokes on the field through three rounds, statistically the most dominant stretch of golf since Woods’ heyday.

Rahm was equally as dominant in his 2020 win at the Memorial, winning by three strokes including a bogus two-shot penalty on Sunday due to a questionable video replay ruling.

Both Rahm and Cantlay enter amidst the best statistical seasons of their careers, and will be expected to contend at the 2023 Memorial Tournament.

Course Comps

As a long, challenging par 72 with penal rough and fast, Bentgrass greens where the par 5s offer the only respite, there are several comparable venues for projecting success at Muirfield Village.

Torrey Pines and Bay Hill rate as the most obvious and sensible comps. They are each top-tier, non-major events that annually host deep, strong fields. Each measures over 7,400 yards and features thick, penal rough around both the fairways and greens. Rahm, Scheffler, McIlroy, and Scott each have consistently strong results across the three courses to further that point.

Beyond those obvious comps, an interesting overlap exists with TPC Potomac leaderboards. Kyle Stanley, Ryan Armour and David Lingmerth  stand out as names we would not expect to see at the top of the leaderboard but who have found repeated success at both courses. Francesco Molinari and Max Homa join Stanley as winners at TPC Potomac. Each has posted T10 finishes at the Memorial. Both courses feature penal rough and long-term exposure to difficult windy conditions. That emphasizes positioning off the tee and scrambling on Bentgrass greens.

More tertiary comparisons exist to Caves Valley, another massive property with thick rough and fast Bentgrass greens. I expect scoring to be about half of what we saw at the 2021 BMW Championship, however. Olympia Fields is another recent BMW Championship venue on similar agronomy which features Rahm as an overlapping champion.

As this is an elevated field, it’s fair to pull in performance at recent major venues which share similar characteristics. Oak Hill, Bethpage Black, TPC Harding Park, and Augusta National stand out as the top comps amongst major venues over the last five years. Though Augusta lacks the element of penal rough, it rewards patience, conservative approach shots, creative shot shaping, and places a premium on par-5 scoring.

Combine performance across this list and the top-10 players in Comp Course History here are Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay, Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland, Shane Lowry, Matt Fitzpatrick, Sungjae Im, Corey Conners and Jordan Spieth.

KEY STATS TO CONSIDER

  • Recent Form (SG: T2G)
  • SG: APP
  • SG: OTT / Driving Distance
  • Par-5 Scoring / Par 5: 550-600
  • Par 4: 450-500
  • Prox: 175+
  • Good Drives Gained (In Long Rough)
  • SG: ARG (Fast Greens, Long Rough) / Scrambling Gained
  • Bogey Avoidance
  • SG: Putting (Bent)
  • Course & Comp Course History

Looking at off the tee specifically, history has shown that driving distance matters more than driving accuracy. Players who recklessly spray driver into the rough will struggle to generate scoring opportunities, though. Although this can be described as a second-shot course with generously wide fairways, I’m still looking for players above-average in SG: OTT and Driving Distance.

Expected pristine conditions should swing the pendulum towards a premium on approach and a lower winning score below par than we’ve seen over recent years. Strong iron players will have more opportunity to hold these greens. The top-10 players in SG: APP entering this week are Scottie Scheffler, Collin Morikawa, Wyndham Clark, Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Tom Hoge, Rickie Fowler, Viktor Hovland, Gary Woodland and Rory McIlroy.

In 2022, 51% of approach shots came from beyond 175 yards. Honing in more specifically on the top long-iron players in this week’s field, we find Nate Lashley, Gary Woodland, Jon Rahm, Chez Reavie, Rory McIlroy, Collin Morikawa, Keegan Bradley, Cameron Young, Viktor Hovland and Xander Schauffele.

If we continue to see the par 5s present the only scoring opportunities on this course, then Par-5 Scoring will play a premium. Each falls in the 550-600 yard range. With some designed to not be reached in two, they’ll play differently from your TOUR average in that range. Par-5 Scoring provides a broader picture of the players best equipped to capitalize. That top-10 list includes Jon Rahm, Patrick Cantlay, Scottie Scheffler, Sungjae Im, Jordan Spieth, KH Lee, Xander Schauffele, Collin Morikawa, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas.

If we narrow the list down to above-average players in terms of SG: APP, SG: OTT, SG: ARG, Driving Distance and Par-5 Scoring, then 11 remain: Scheffler, Ram, Schauffele, McIlroy, Tyrrell Hatton, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Byeong Hun An and Joseph Bramlett.

Performance In Long Rough

Although only about 25% of tee shots find the rough here, it’s still a defining characteristic of Muirfield Village which sets itself apart from other PGA TOUR events. We can’t model SG: APP from the rough in Fantasy National. The best approximation is Good Drives Gained on courses with long rough. That simulates which players hit the highest percentage of Greens In Regulation at courses where long rough threatens. That top-10 includes Collin Morikawa, Aaron Rai, Hayden Buckley, Emiliano Grillo, Chez Reavie, Sungjae Im, Xander Schauffele, Stewart Cink, Matthew NeSmith and Taylor Moore.

Similarly from an around-the-green standpoint, the complexes at Muirfield Village provide a big test compared to TOUR average. No tight lies exist around these greens, so players will need soft touch to scramble from thick rough. The top-10 players in SG: Short Game in these conditions are Sam Burns, Denny McCarthy, Alex Noren, Sungjae Im, Andrew Putnam, Matt Fitzpatrick, Kevin Kisner, Tyrrell Hatton, Ben Griffin and Xander Schauffele.

Correlation

Looking at the correlation charts this week, we see many of the same characteristics to TOUR average, with a notable increase in the importance of Par-5 Scoring and a sizable decrease in the importance of Par-3 Scoring. This makes sense considering all of the scoring on the par 5s. The par 3s are difficult enough to take birdie out of play for a majority of the field.

SG: APP rates at notably at more of a premium. While outside the top 10, Driving Distance makes a major jump in importance, going from a bottom-10 stat on average to top 20 at Muirfield Village.

Top-10 Correlated Stats with SG: TOT
Top-10 Correlated Stats with SG: TOT at Muirfield Village

Twelve players in the field rank above average in each of the above 10 key stat categories: Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Rory McIlroy, Sungjae Im, Justin Thomas, Viktor Hovland, Keegan Bradley, Collin Morikawa and Shane Lowry.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: SCOTTIE SCHEFFLER

It’s rare to find a “buy-low” spot for the No. 1 player in the world. But if there were ever a case for it, we may see that this week in the shadow of Jon Rahm’s and Patrick Cantlay’s spectacular course history. So while the case to back the best player in the world may write itself, it is worth acknowledging Scheffler as the over-looked elite at the Memorial Tournament, with this loaded field creating some expected value on his outright price.

Scheffler’s record at the Memorial (a T22 and T3 finish in two prior appearance) is reminiscent of his Augusta National track record prior to his Masters victory, in the sense that his history is very good, but not the best in this field. His T3 finish in 2021 was nearly his first career PGA TOUR victory, as he missed a birdie putt inside 10 feet that would have placed him in a three-way playoff with Morikawa and Cantlay.

The trajectory of Scheffler’s game must be terrifying for the other mortals in the field this week. He’s now blossomed into the No. 1 player across the key stats of SG: TOT, SG: T2G, SG: OTT, SG: APP, and SG: Ball Striking over the last 36 rounds. More specifically for Muirfield Village, he also ranks No. 1 in Comp Course History and Par-4: 450-500.

It’s rare to find Scheffler available at longer than 8-1 odds to win a tournament these days. But, with a deep field in store and Cantlay and Rahm hogging tons of win equity, I’ll consider a short betting card with Scheffler at the helm if he does in fact drift beyond that mark.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR AT THE 2023 MEMORIAL TOURNAMENT

With so much said about the impact of elevated events on premium, non-major PGA TOUR events, the 2023 Memorial may serve as the best example yet of all of the TOUR’s best coming together with heightened stakes in the weeks in between majors. I’m really looking forward to watching the best players in the world square up one last time before the U.S. Open.

With all the course-fit profiles in mind, I’m leaning early towards the below player pool. Naturally, I’m looking their way in the 2023 Memorial Tournament odds as well. I’ve broken the list down by projected pricing/odds tier for DraftKings.  

2023 Memorial Tournament Model Breakdown

In my model, I’m emphasizing Comp Course History and SG: APP first and foremost, followed by a more balanced mix of SG: T2G (L12), Par-5 Scoring, Prox 175+, SG: OTT, SG: ARG, Driving Distance and P4: 450-500, and SG: P (L36, Bent).

Model Favorites

To little surprise, Scottie Scheffler emerges in the No. 1 spot of my model this week. As mentioned earlier, I don’t expect Scheffler to be the favorite despite the No. 1 Model rank or No. 1 world ranking. But, he may deserve those top favorite honors considering his elite statistical ranks.

After Scheffler, the rest of my model’s top 10 is rounded out by: Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Rory McIlroy, Tyrrell Hatton, Sungjae Im, Jason Day, Justin Thomas and Viktor Hovland. Hardly any surprises there in a week where the best all-around players should shine.

When 2023 Memorial Tournament odds open Monday, I’ll look to Scottie Scheffler first and foremost if available in the 8-1 to 10-1 range, with interest in longshots like KH Lee, Byeong Hun An, or Matt Kuchar to round out the card. If Scheffler’s odds remain at a premium, I would also eye Collin Morikawa, Tyrrell Hatton, and Shane Lowry in the middle tier of the odds board. 

Check back in later this week for more updates. Best of luck navigating 2023 Memorial Tournament odds!

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