DraftKings PGA: the Memorial

DraftKings PGA: the Memorial

This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.

THE MEMORIAL TOURNAMENT

Purse: $9.3M
Winner's Share: $1.674M
FedEx Cup Points: 550 to the winner
Location: Dublin, Ohio
Course: Muirfield Village Golf Club
Yardage: 7,543
Par: 72
2020 champion: Jon Rahm

Tournament Preview

Last year's tournament at Muirfield Village had an absolutely loaded field and was won by one of the top golfers in the world. How cool was that? But wait ... which tournament?

You probably now recall there were *two* tournaments at Muirfield last year, and in consecutive weeks, the first time that had happened on the PGA Tour since 1957, yet another pandemic-induced golf quirk in 2020. The course setup for the Workday Charity Open – won by Collin Morikawa at 19-under in a playoff over Justin Thomas – was not nearly as tough as the following week for the Memorial – won by Jon Rahm by three strokes at 9-under. But while two tournaments' winning scores are vastly different, you'll see lower down how the paths to victory were quite similar.

As usual, there will be another loaded field this year, with seven of the top-10, 11 of the top-15 and 14 of the top-20 in the world rankings making for a top-heavy contingent of 121. Many of them return year after year but course history comes with an asterisk this time around. Since we last saw Muirfield Village, there has been a significant – and that may not be a strong enough word – renovation.

How significant? Pull up a chair.

According to a release describing the changes, "Most holes had the green complexes 100 percent recontoured and rebuilt with significant bunker modifications. Only greens on holes 12, 13, 14 and 17 resemble the old greens." That in itself is enormous as 14 greens will be completely unfamiliar to the golfers. Let's move on. "On holes 1, 15, & 17 the fairway bunker complexes were strategically repositioned. ... Hole #15 was rebuilt in entirety from tee to green with new fairway bunkers and extensive grade changes to the second and third shot landing zones."

The official golf course superintendents sheet offers a nice summary: "2020 renovation: rebuilt and resodded all 18 greens, relocated several greens, made contour changes on most greens; rebuilt bunkers, leveled and seeded tees and relocated several tees, renovated and seeded fairways."

Oh, and it's now nearly 100 yards longer.

We don't want to say this is a new golf course because it isn't. But ... whoa!

Look, while so much has changed, it's still a Jack Nicklaus golf course. And, in its entirety, it likely will still play similarly in that the same skill set will be needed to succeed.

In some ways, Muirfield Village was and still is the perfect golf course. Of course, it's not St. Andrews, nor Augusta, nor Pebble Beach. We don't mean it like that. As Nicklaus' signature design, it demands a golfer use all facets of his game, all the clubs in his bag. While Nicklaus always put a premium on driving in his playing days, everything about Muirfield gets harder later. The holes get harder closer to the green. The back nine is harder than the front, with the hardest holes generally among Nos. 16, 17 and 18. The closing three-hole stretch doesn't have a cutesy animal nickname, but the 200-yard 16th and the 480-yard 18th were the two hardest holes last year at the Memorial, with the 485-yard 17th not far behind. The bentgrass greens are small, averaging 5,000 square feet. Complicating matters is water on 13 holes. And don't forget the nearly six-dozen bunkers. The easiest path to victory used to be to score on the par-5s, but now two of them are nearly 600 yards. The par-3s have always been brutal and seven of the 10 par-4s exceed 450 yards.

Last year, Muirfield for the Memorial was the second hardest track on Tour all year; for the Workday, it was still no pushover, ranked 12th hardest. Tour officials purposefully made things easier for the Workday. Then they let the rough grow and the greens got slicker, reaching 13 or more on the Stimpmeter.

Okay, let's finally get to the field, with this the final tuneup for the U.S. Open in two weeks for most of the guys. Rahm, Morikawa and Thomas are back from last year, along with surging Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, 2018 champion Bryson DeChambeau and Xander Schauffele. Only world No. 1 Dustin Johnson is missing from the top-six. Also entered are 2019 champion Patrick Cantlay, Masters winner Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Reed, Tony Finau and Viktor Hovland, plus Rickie Fowler in his first start since a top-10 at the PGA. It's a tough field to even get into. Keith Mitchell, third at the Wells Fargo last month, began the week as the sixth alternate and Brandt Snedeker was eighth. Neither got in.

With an invitational gathering of only 120 golfers like last week at the Charles Schwab, more than half the field will make the cut (at Colonial, more than 60 percent made the cut). It's another good opportunity to take some gambles on lower-priced options, maybe go with a stars-and-scrubs approach, as a golfer will have to beat only 50 or so guys to make the weekend, unlike maybe 90 in a field of 156. Further, Nicklaus annually issues berths to some lesser guys: top amateurs, money leaders from international tours and all members of the most recent Ryder and Presidents Cup teams – no matter what their games look like today. More on lineup construction: If deciding between two similar guys, we wouldn't find fault with picking the guy starting at No. 1 on Thursday as opposed to No. 10. The front is no cakewalk beginning with a 490 par-4, but it's easier than the back. Getting off to a good start can boost momentum, just like getting off to a bad start can snowball the wrong way.

Weather-wise, there is a better than 50 percent chance of rain on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. So it would be good to monitor conditions up until lock time to see if one tee time has an advantage over another. Otherwise, temperatures will be in the 70s the first two days and the 80s on the weekend, without much wind forecast.

Fun Memorial factoid: As we like to note every year, the winner of the inaugural tournament back in 1976 was none other than the lovable Roger Maltbie, for the third of his five PGA Tour wins, in a playoff over Hale Irwin.

Key Stats to Winning at Muirfield Village

The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.

• Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green/Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation
• Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green/Scrambling
• Strokes Gained: Putting
• Par-3 Efficiency 200-225 yards, par-4 Efficiency 450-500 yards

Past Champions

2020 - Jon Rahm
2019 - Patrick Cantlay
2018 - Bryson DeChambeau
2017 - Jason Dufner
2016 - William McGirt
2015 - David Lingmerth
2014 - Hideki Matsuyama
2013 - Matt Kuchar
2012 - Tiger Woods
2011 - Steve Stricker

Champion's Profile

Let's look at Rahm winning the Memorial last year and Collin Morikawa beating Justin Thomas in the Workday Charity Open playoff the week before. All three were far back in driving distance. The normally big-hitting Rahm took a lot off the gas and ranked fourth in driving accuracy. It paid off in the form of T3 in greens in regulation and first in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. Despite mediocre putting (ranked 28th), he won by three strokes. The runner-up, Ryan Palmer, ranked second in SG: Tee-to-Green. At the Worlday, Morikawa and Thomas both ranked top-five in SG: Approach and, along with third-place finisher Viktor Hovland, were ranked top-3 in Tee-to-Green. Two years ago, Cantlay won the Memorial at 19-under, but it was an aberration every bit as much as Rahm's 9-under. The winning score in the previous five years was between 13- and 15-under. For years, mostly 30-somethings took home the title. But with Rahm, Cantlay and DeChambeau, the tide has turned. Golfodds.com puts the over/under on the winning score at 273.5, which is 14.5 under par.

DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS

Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap

Tier 1 Values

Jordan Spieth - $11,300 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 14-1)  
Here is he again, the top guy on the DraftKings board, higher than the eight top-10 golfers in the world who are all in the field. But Spieth has been playing better than all of them. The thing we really like about Spieth this week, as we did last week, is that he continued to play well here the past few years while he struggled so mightily on many other tracks. He tied for 13th at last year's Memorial and for seventh the year before (but missed the cut at the Workday).

Jon Rahm - $11,100 (11-1)  
After a couple of blips, Rahm returned to his top-10 ways last time out at the PGA. That's nine of them in his past 13 starts dating back to last season, though it's fair to note than he hasn't really been contending for titles during this stretch, which you really need to do at this price. As noted, he's the defending champion. He tied for 27th at the Workday the week before his victory. Rahm is ranked third on Tour in SG: Tee-to-Green.

Collin Morikawa - $10,400 (16-1)  
Morikawa won the Workday last year and then somewhat predictably didn't fare well the following week at the Memorial with a T48. (He then won the PGA three weeks later.) After winning the WGC-Workday earlier this year, he again predictably tailed off afterward. But Morikawa has two top-10s and two top-20s in his four most recent starts coming in. He leads the Tour in both SG: Tee-to-Green and par-4 450-500.

Justin Thomas - $10,200 (16-1)  
There aren't many weeks you will find Thomas at this price and as the No. 6 guy on the DK board. On one hand, it's understandable because Thomas hasn't had so much as a top-10 in six starts since winning THE PLAYERS. On the other hand, he's the No. 2 golfer in the world and may not be this cheap again for a long time. Thomas is still ranked sixth on Tour in SG: Tee-to-Green.

Tier 2 Values

Patrick Cantlay - $9,500 (22-1)  
After stunningly missing three straight cuts, Cantlay got back on track with a top-25 at the PGA. That's good enough for us at a track where he has won in 2019 and tied for fourth the year before. He was seventh last year at the Workday. Cantlay is ranked 11th in SG: Tee-to-Green and 22nd in par-3 200-225 yards.

Hideki Matsuyama - $9,400 (25-1) 
Matsuyama has acquitted himself nicely since winning the Masters, making both of his cuts, including a top-25 at the PGA. He finished top-25 last year at the Workday before missing the cut at the Memorial. But he's had great success at Jack's tournament, winning back in 2014 and adding to two subsequent top-6s and a top-15. Matsuyama is ranked in the top-20 on Tour in both SG: Approach and Tee-to-Green.

Tony Finau - $9,200 (25-1)  
Finau is not quite the bargain he was last week at the low price of $8,600, but this still puts him in a favorable position as only the 12th guy on the DK board. He has missed more cuts than usual in 2021 – three already – after missing just three in all of 2020. But he still shows up in the biggest events – top-10s at both the Masters and PGA, and he tied for seventh last year at the Memorial, his fourth top-15 in six career visits. Finau is ranked fifth in SG: Tee-to-Green.

Billy Horschel - $8,100 (50-1)  
Horschel has played the Memorial six of the past sevens years with four top-15s (and two missed cuts). He tied for 13th last year and the week before was T7 at the Workday. Like Thomas, he hasn't managed a top-10 since his recent win at the Match Play, but he's made all four cuts and did notch a top-25 at the PGA.

Tier 3 Values

Rickie Fowler - $8,000 (60-1)  
We may be getting greedy here, going back to Fowler after he delivered beautifully at the PGA. This week he's almost $1,000 pricier – and he has to play well in a second straight event. But things are starting to look up for the ever-popular player, with three top-20s since mid-February. He has a love/hate relationship with the Memorial, missing the cut in four of the previous seven years but finishing top-15 in the other three.

Gary Woodland - $7,900 (50-1)
Woodland has played Muirfield well over the years, making eight of 10 Memorial cuts, even notching a top-25 last year at a time when his game had gone sideways. He was fifth the week before at the Workday. Woodland is slowly finding his old form. He was 14th last week at Colonial after a pair of recent top-6s at the Wells Fargo and Valero.

Emiliano Grillo - $7,700 (60-1)  
Grillo has been on a tear, tying for eighth last week at Colonial six weeks after a runner-up at Harbour Town. But he can get it done at longer tracks too, as his recent T14 at Quail Hollow shows. He is ranked ninth in SG: Approach and third in greens in regulation – and his putting is not as awful as usual (ranked 90th). Grillo missed both Muirfield cuts last year, but made the previous four straight cuts, tying for ninth in 2019. He's ranked 11th in par-4 450-500.

Matt Wallace - $7,400 (80-1)  
Wallace continues to play pretty well and continues to be priced under $7,500. He has now made seven straight cuts, plus both last year at Muirfield, including a top-5 at the Memorial. The Englishman is ranked 23rd on Tour in SG: Tee-to-Green and 15th in par-4 450-500.

Long-Shot Values

Matt Jones - $7,100 (100-1)  
Jones followed up his surprise win at The Honda Classic – PGA National is another Nicklaus track – with made cuts at the Masters, Wells Fargo Championship and the PGA before missing last week at Colonial. He hasn't played the Memorial much the past few years, but he's made four of his past five cuts there with a top-10 and a top-20. Jones is ranked 36th on Tour in par-4 450-500.

Aaron Wise - $7,000 (125-1)  
Wise has made six of his past seven cuts, including top-20s at Nicklaus' PGA National and the PGA Championship. He's a horrible putter but ranked top-50 in SG: Off-the-Tee, Approach and Around-the-Green, and an impressive 26th in Tee-to-Green. Those are collectively pretty darn good numbers, good enough for us to overlook his two missed cuts in two prior visits to the Memorial as well as at last year's Workday.

Wyndham Clark - $6,700 (200-1)  
We've tabbed Clark a couple of times in recent weeks. He's made six straight cuts, including a tie for 20th last week at Colonial. He missed the cut last year in his maiden visit to the Memorial. Clark is ranked 13th on Tour in par-3 200-225 and 11th in SG: Around-the-Green.

Victor Perez - $6,600 (200-1)  
The Frenchman has not been great on U.S. soil but is starting to show signs of becoming more comfortable. He made four straight cuts, including a top-10 at THE PLAYERS, before missing at both the Masters and PGA. He made the cut at both of them last year. He is ranked 34th in the world, which adds to allure of this price.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. Len Hochberg plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: DK: Bunker Mentality.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Len Hochberg
Len Hochberg has covered golf for RotoWire since 2013. A veteran sports journalist, he was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for many years. He was named 2020 "DFS Writer of the Year" by the FSWA and was nominated for the same award in 2019.
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