Grab yourself a milkshake. We are off to Jack’s place for the 2022 Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio. As always, we’ll start the week’s previews by looking at the Memorial Tournament odds.
This is one of the most storied non-major tournaments on the TOUR schedule each year. 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 2022 Memorial Tournament.
THE MEMORIAL TOURNAMENT ODDS: THE FAVORITES
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THE MEMORIAL FIELD AT A GLANCE
Like the Charles Schwab Challenge, the Memorial is another 120-man invitational with a top-65-and-ties cut line.
A regular stop on TOUR the week after Memorial Day each year, this event has done well to attract the game’s best. That despite taking place now two weeks between the PGA Championship and U.S. Open. As we look ahead to the 2022 U.S. Open at The Country Club, the difficult rough around the fairways and greens at Muirfield Village should serve as perfect prep.
As we’ve come to expect, another great field lies in store for the Memorial. Seven out of the top-10 OWGR players — excluding Scottie Scheffler, Justin Thomas and Sam Burns — will tee it up this week. Jon Rahm highlights the field as world No. 2, seeking redemption after a WD with a commanding six-stroke lead through three rounds in 2021. I’m sure that won’t be brought up at all this week.
Patrick Cantlay, winner of two of the last three Memorial Tournaments, returns once again to defend his title after edging past Collin Morikawa in a playoff last year. The win came with a Rahm-sized asterisk, so it’ll be interesting to see how he responds in his title defense. In addition to Cantlay, Rahm and Morikawa (winner of the 2020 Workday Charity Open at Muirfield Village), we’ll also see Bryson DeChambeau, Jason Dufner, David Lingmerth, Hideki Matsuyama and Matt Kuchar return to the field as former champions.
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 three years have produced three dramatically different playing conditions. Yet, they still produced remarkably similar leaderboards.
The 2019 conditions took place in Muirfield Village’s business-as-usual set up at 7,392 yards. Patrick Cantlay made the course look easy winning at -19, but he was one of only eight players to reach double digits under par.
In 2020, due to COVID scheduling complications, Muirfield Village hosted back-to-back events in July. First was the Workday Charity Open where 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 bogus 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.
As the 2020 Memorial came to a conclusion, they 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.
So, after course overhaul, the first leaderboard post-renovations still included each of the last three winners at Muirfield Village.
Diving a bit further in the renovations, Jack Nicklaus described the impetus as not to necessarily make the course harder, but to make it better. The one-year project was a massive undertaking, beginning before the 2020 Memorial even wrapped. Some of the major adjustments to the course include reconstructing all 18 greens with new Bentgrass, irrigation, and Precision Air Systems. They re-contoured most greens with redesigned bunkers, pushed back new tee boxes for about 100 yards in added length, and resurfaced the fairways and surrounding green areas for better drainage.
Find full details on the changes here.
This time last year, speculation mounted about how much we should weight course history. I approached the 2021 Memorial Tournament odds by honing in on the top T2G players at Muirfield Village. A complete overhaul of the greens seemed a welcome change for players who struggled to make putts in the past. That would include players like Xander Schauffele and Shane Lowry, good long-term putters with solid T2G history at the event who hadn’t been figured out these greens. Both players did gain strokes putting last year. So, it’s worth taking a second look at Muirfield Village putting history if players who’ve struggled long term saw better results in 2021.
Ultimately, the ends justify the means, so if Rahm, Cantlay and Collin Morikawa were still able to pick Muirfield Village apart, it seems safe to continue to reference long-term course history to project success.
How It Breaks Down
After renovations, Muirfield Village now stands 100 yards longer, playing as a 7,543-yard par 72.
The Memorial Tournament has produced some of the largest outliers between winning scores and median scoring over recent years. Despite 2.5 of the 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.
Similar to Augusta National, all of the scoring happens on the four par 5s. Par-5 Scoring is always crucial on par-72 courses. Particularly so at Muirfield Village, when considering that exactly zero of the par 4s or par 3s have a scoring average under par.
Like Augusta National, the scoring difficulty at Muirfield Village also comes largely from the premium on touch on and around greens. Jordan Spieth has drawn Augusta comparisons when describing the greens due to firm, fast, and contoured Bentgrass. Tight greens and pin locations create a challenge for some of the shorter hitters in the field, as at their firmest, these greens are nearly impossible to hold on long iron approaches. Like Augusta, flighting the ball to a higher apex will be crucial to hitting more greens in regulation.
Continuing the Augusta comparison, Muirfield Village has become a glorified second-shot golf course. Very generous, wide landing areas have yielded 70-75% Driving Accuracy on average over the last five years, a slightly higher rate than what we’ve seen at the Masters. It’s no surprise that Jack Nicklaus, a six-time Masters champion, would emulate some characteristics from the world’s most famous golf course when constructing his own crown jewel. Most profoundly, he designed the par-3 12th hole as a near replica of Augusta’s infamous par-3 12th.
While the fairways are wide, there is a drastic penalty for missing them. Water lurks throughout the course, and the long, thick rough at Muirfield Village penalizes heavily. Missed Fairway Penalty and Penalty Strokes Per Round are amongst the highest on TOUR. The presence of long, thick rough around the fairways and greens is really the only component that differentiates Muirfield Village from the tight lies and longer rollouts we see at Augusta, which is almost entirely devoid of rough.
Jack Nicklaus Design
Just as we see Pete Dye specialists, we have seen Jack Nicklaus course specialists. Nicklaus tends to design his courses a bit more forgiving in the fairways to let players more freely and regularly reach for their drivers. The trade off is difficult green-side complexes that will put an emphasis on strong Approach play and a premium on Around The Green and Scrambling.
Nicklaus’ most famous designs we’ve seen on the PGA TOUR also include Glen Abbey GC, PGA National, PGA West (Nicklaus Course), The Concession Golf Club and Valhalla GC. Cantlay stands out on Nicklaus courses, gaining more than 74 strokes over his last 36 rounds. Morikawa has notably already picked up two wins on Nicklaus courses in his early career between the Workday Charity Open and WGC-Workday at Concession. The rest of the top 10 Nicklaus Course specialists include Jason Day, Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy, Rahm, Matt Kuchar, Gary Woodland, Charley Hoffman and Sam Ryder.
Traits And Recent Notable Facts
Looking back at how Muirfield Village has played compared to other PGA TOUR courses over recent years, 2021 did not produce any significant statistical trends compared pre-renovation play. As previously noted, 2020 featured outlier conditions between the extremely firm, fast greens and drastic weather conditions.
If we omit 2020, Muirfield Village has routinely played as a top-five course in Around The Green and Approach difficulty, as well as difficulty from the rough both around the fairways and greens. Given the rough’s thickness, that checks out. Players must remain in control of their Ball Striking to avoid positions of Scrambling from the rough as often as possible.
The course did have a few notable differences in 2021. The par 5s played significantly more difficult, the fifth-most difficult in 2021. Rory McIlroy said the changes to the par-5 15th eliminated any reward for going for the green in two, as the green won’t hold with a fairway wood. The hole is easier to score on with a wedge from a layup area.
The work done to the greens produced more made putts. This event ranked 32nd out of 40 courses in 2021 in Putting Difficulty. It had never finished outside the top-20 dating back to 2015. Putting produces volatile stat trends, but if the greens have become easier to read, that may open the door for stronger T2G players.
Check the weather forecast frequently. Extreme winds and heavy rain have impacted in years past. As of now, things look uncharacteristically calm, with the forecast calling for sunny conditions in the high 70s and winds not exceeding 10 mph. A potential thunderstorm on Wednesday evening may soften up the course further, making for perfect scoring conditions.
Monitor if that changes, but if not, this sets up as Matt Fitzpatrick’s worst nightmare.
MUIRFIELD VILLAGE COURSE SPECS
- Yards: 7,543
- Par: 72 (4x 3s / 10x 4s / 4x 5s)
- Greens: Bent
- Architect: Jack Nicklaus
- Historic Cut Line: +3 to +4
- Median Four-Round Score: +2 (’21), +4 (’20), +1 (’19), -5 (’18), E (’17)
- Comp Courses: TPC Potomac, Torrey Pines, Bay Hill, Augusta National, Caves Valley, Bethpage Black, The Concession, TPC Twin Cities, Innisbrook Resort
- Recent Past Winners: Patrick Cantlay -13 (’21*), Jon Rahm -9 (’21*, ’20), Patrick Cantlay -19 (’19), Bryson DeChambeau -15 (’18), Jason Dufner -13 (’17)
- Hole-by-hole Breakdown:
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, quite a few players have multiple T15 finishes over the last five years. That list includes Patrick Cantlay, Rickie Fowler, Jason Dufner, Patrick Reed, Kevin Streelman, Jordan Spieth, Matt Kuchar, Xander Schauffele, Marc Leishman, Shane Lowry, Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama and Billy Horschel. That is a lengthy list compared to other TOUR stops. It suggests that Course History is a bit more sticky and repeatable here.
Seventeen players have avoided missing the cut over each of the last five years (min. three appearances): Cantlay, Streelman, Reed, Leishman, Adam Scott, Si Woo Kim, Anirban Lahiri, Danny Willett, Brendan Steele, Lucas Glover, Martin Laird, CT Pan, Pat Perez, Corey Conners, Russell Knox, Abraham Ancer and Joel Dahmen.
The top-10 players in terms of overall course history at Muirfield Village are Cantlay, Kuchar, Scott, Reed, Spieth, Dufner, Ryan Palmer, Morikawa, Leishman and Schauffele.
Jon Rahm doesn’t technically make the list. But make no mistake, nobody else has dominated at Muirfield Village like Rahm since prime Tiger Woods. The 2020 Memorial Tournament saw Rahm officially promoted to world No. 1 after his win.
Rahm was absolutely dominant, seemingly playing a different course than the rest of the field. He gained 17.6 total strokes on the field with a final score of -9. And that really should read 19.6 strokes at -11. Rahm had a big Sunday lead and chipped in from the green-side rough on the par-3 16th for birdie. As the only player worth watching at the time, the entire camera crew fixated on him. One caught a blade of grass marginally moving his ball in slow motion, undetectable to the human eye. He took a two-stroke penalty retroactively and signed his card with a bogey instead.
Then, 2021. Through three rounds, Rahm scored -18, a full six strokes clear. His win was a foregone conclusion, but he had to withdraw after testing positive for COVID. He’d gained an even 21 total strokes on the field through three rounds, statistically the most dominant stretch of golf since Woods’ heyday. Through Rahm’s last seven rounds at the Memorial, he’s gained over 38 strokes on the field. I’ve scoured through data over the last five years. No player has come close to such a stretch of dominance on the same course in back-to-back years. Only Brooks Koepka’s performances at the 2018 and 2019 PGA Championships came close at 35 strokes over 8 rounds.
Even Cantlay (two wins and a top five) doesn’t come close. Just one event removed from his Mexico Open victory, it’ll be interesting to see how low Rahm is priced in the Memorial odds, especially without Scottie Scheffler in the field.
I’ve spent enough time already comparing Muirfield Village to Augusta National, but while the similarities far outweigh the differences, they’re still not a perfect one-to-one match.
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 is over 7,400 yards, and defined by thick, penal rough around both the fairways and greens. Rahm, Scheffler, DeChambeau 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.
Bethpage Black is another long course with extremely penal rough, difficult scrambling conditions, and firm and fast Bentgrass greens. The Concession, Innisbrook Resort, and TPC Twin Cities each share a premium on total driving and precise approach play, with significant penalties awaiting for missed fairways.
Combine performance across this list and the top-10 players in Comp Course History here are Patrick Cantlay, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Matt Fitzpatrick, Viktor Hovland, Will Zalatoris, Xander Schauffele, Corey Conners, Bryson DeChambeau and Collin Morikawa.
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
- Good Drives Gained (In Long Rough)
- SG: ARG (Fast Greens, Long Rough) / Scrambling Gained
- 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.
Likely fair conditions should swing the pendulum towards a premium on approach. Strong iron players will have more opportunity to hold these greens. The top-10 players in SG: APP entering this week are Will Zalatoris, Hideki Matsuyama, Shane Lowry, Jordan Spieth, Cameron Smith, Max Homa, Mito Pereira, Luke Donald and Tom Hoge.
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 of the par 5s are concentrated 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 provdes a broader picture of the players best equipped to capitalize. That top-10 list includes Jordan Spieth, Matt Fitzpatrick, Jhonattan Vegas, Smith, Patrick Cantlay, Homa, Keith Mitchell, Cameron Young, and Lowry.
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 a short list of just 10 remains: Spieth, Xander Schauffele, Rory McIlroy, Joaquin Niemann, Fitzpatrick, Keegan Bradley, Pereira, Young, Corey Conners and Zalatoris.
Performance In Long Rough
Although only about 25% of tee shots are finding 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 Conners, Ryan Moore, Ryan Palmer, Vegas, Brendan Steele, Kevin Streelman, Matsuyama, Sungjae Im, Jon Rahm and Emiliano Grillo.
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: ARG in these conditions are Smith, Jason Day, Cameron Tringale, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Chris Kirk, Patrick Reed, Harris English, Brian Stuard, Adam Hadwin and Nate Lashley.
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.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: ANIRBAN LAHIRI
As I write this, I lean more and more toward a near-single bullet betting card with Jon Rahm at somewhere around 10-to-1 odds. A very real chance exists that he runs away with this for a third year in a row. If that occurs, my focus shifts to the 100-to-1 range to complement the card. I expect an elite winner once again. However, Muirfield Village is full of surprises. If Jason Dufner, William McGirt, and David Lingmerth can win in successive years, then you can’t say Anirban Lahiri isn’t viable.
Lahiri will make his fifth career appearance at the Memorial. In his four prior starts, he’s a perfect 4-for-4 in made cuts, highlighted by a T2 in 2017. Lahiri has also gained at least two strokes on approach in each of his four appearances, despite entering without any discernible approach form. Interestingly enough, he’s never gained strokes off the tee at Muirfield Village. But, he now enters in the best OTT form of his career with eight consecutive events in which he’s gained. On a course which penalizes missed fairways as much as Muirfield Village does, it’s crucial to enter with this level of consistency.
It’s been a resurgent 2022 for Lahiri. He has four T15 finishes over his last six events, kickstarted by a runner-up finish to Cameron Smith at THE PLAYERS. The success at THE PLAYERS is notable, as players like Matt Kuchar, Rickie Fowler and Hideki Matsuyama have specialized at both across their careers. Furthering the comp course connections, Lahiri’s strong T6 finish at the Wells Fargo Championship two starts ago encourages, given the crossover we’ve seen.
In this loaded field, Anirban Lahiri profiles as a perfect value play, whether for T20 placement or a longshot outright.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR AT THE 2022 MEMORIAL TOURNAMENT
With Scottie Scheffler out of the picture this week, the rest of the mere mortals on the PGA TOUR actually have a fleeting chance to pick up a win. The Memorial has never disappointed on fireworks and dramatic finishes. With another loaded field in store, I’m really looking forward to watching the final weeks of prep 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 2022 Memorial Tournament odds as well. I’ve broken the list down by projected pricing/odds tier for DraftKings.
In my model, I’m emphasizing SG: APP first and foremost, followed by a more balanced mix of SG: T2G (Recent Form), Par-5 Scoring, Comp Course History, SG: OTT, SG: ARG, Driving Distance and P4: 450-500.
Jon Rahm validates the model this week, coming out in the No. 1 spot. It’s no surprise he fits the course perfectly. Despite some speed bumps in 2022 outside the Mexico Open, I do expect him to open as the clear favorite at a number which I will give a long look.
After Rahm, the rest of my model’s top 10 this week features Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry, Matt Fitzpatrick, Keegan Bradley, Will Zalatoris, Hideki Matsuyama, Xander Schauffele, Mito Pereira and Viktor Hovland.
We’ll see how firmly I end up sticking to the Rahm-tight game plan. But, if odds unfold the way I expect, I’ll look to go all in on the Spaniard with a handful of other 100-to-1+ bombs. Check back in later this week for more updates, and best of luck navigating the 2022 Memorial Tournament odds!