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Memorial Tournament Recap: McGirt Takes the Victory

Len Hochberg

Hochberg covers golf for RotoWire. A veteran sports journalist, he contributes to Sports on Earth and was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for many years.

Hey, gamers, how many of you had William McGirt winning the Memorial Tournament?

Oh, okay, well then, how many of you had McGirt and Jon Curran finishing 1-2, in either order?

Hmmmm. Well, then what about this: How many of you had either Curran or McGirt in your lineup?

In a select, 120-man field that included the top five golfers in the world, McGirt and Curran were left alone at the top on Sunday to decide things in a playoff, which McGirt won on the second hole.

The probability of either McGirt or Curran emerging from a group of 20 golfers within four shots of the lead – including Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar – was slim. But at least gamers who did their homework knew that both of them had the chops to at least compete with the big boys, especially McGirt, who was amid a career year even before his maiden PGA Tour win.

In his 165th tour event, McGirt, two weeks shy of turning 37, finally broke through. But he already had had a tie for second and three more top-10s this season with across-the-board solid analytics before heading to Muirfield Village. Curran, 29, didn’t have quite those credentials before adding his second career runner-up, but he did have a pair of top-10s and three top-25s (he also had missed nine cuts in 21 starts).

At their DraftKings price points – McGirt at $6,500 and Curran at $6,400 – both golfers presented gamers looking to fill the remaining spots in their lineups with cost-effective options. Even in other formats, such as Yahoo, they were worth consideration. (I didn’t have anyone in that range, instead going much lower for my GPP lineup with two sub-$6,000 golfers, Jason Bohn, who finished T61, and Davis Love, who, withdrew on Friday. Sigh.)

If you had either of them in a lineup, good for you – actually, great for you. If you didn’t, well, then, still no shame. Neither golfer was inside the top-100 in the world. Heck, Curran, at No. 193, was barely in the top-200.

Just like there’s a very fine line between winning and not winning in real golf, it’s the exact same thing in fantasy golf. And just as in real golf, if you put in your work, fantasy golf will sometimes pay off for you, too.

MONDAY TAKEAWAY

William McGirt

The question that always follows a first-time winner on tour is: Can he do it again? Eleven other golfers won their first titles this season. Emiliano Grillo doesn’t have a top-10 since the season-opening Frys. Peter Malnati has had two top-10s, but has also missed a whopping 15 cuts in 23 tries. Kevin Kisner hasn’t done much in five months. There’s a natural letdown after such a life-altering accomplishment. For that reason, we’d fade McGirt the rest of the season (he’s already withdrawn from this week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic). Still, you may feel differently, and may want to take note that McGirt’s caddie, Brandon Antus, grew up near Oakmont, site of the U.S. Open, and has played and caddied there almost 20 times.

(Fun McGirt story: Prior to his win, McGirt was perhaps best known for being called an “idiot” by Tiger Woods. He recently recounted a conversation on a practice green in which he said he didn’t look at the leaderboard while in contention at the 2012 Canadian Open, to better stay focused. McGirt finished a shot behind Scott Piercy. When Woods, nearby, heard McGirt talking, he stopped putting, walked over and, well, we’ll let McGirt pick it up from here: “Tiger was hitting putts and he looked straight up, and he said, ‘What?’ He walks over, and we’re basically nose to nose, and he says, ‘OK, spill the beans.’ I told him it was basically my first time in that situation on tour and that I didn’t really want to screw it up by looking at leaderboards. So, we had a nice little conversation, and he goes, ‘You’re an idiot.’ ” Ever since then, McGirt has looked at leaderboards. (It seems to have worked out well.)

Jon Curran

The questions that always follows a near-win is: When will he win? For Curran, who climbed to 89th in the world, maybe never. The former high school teammate of Keegan Bradley is a very decent golfer, but lots of very decent golfers never win. Unlike McGirt, Curran is probably hungrier than ever, but so are lots of guys. And for many on tour, one runner-up constitutes a good if not great season – and Curran also has a fourth and a ninth. He may take advantage of some weaker fields the rest of the way, but to expect a soon-after victory to naturally follow his Memorial result is a bit much.

Dustin Johnson

We are coming up on the anniversary of Johnson’s 72nd-hole meltdown at the U.S. Open. He hasn’t won since. Johnson surely was in position to get it done at the Memorial, taking the first-round lead with a 64. But he played so-so the rest of the way, leaving him a shot out of the playoff in solo third. Johnson now has seven top-10s and is clearly among the best in the world, but he somehow almost always leaves gamers disappointed. If you can stomach the missed victory chances for a boatload of top-10s, DJ is your man.

Rory McIlroy

McIlroy opened with a 71 and never contended, but added another patented backdoor top-10 to his resume, finishing T4. More importantly, he wound up second in strokes gained: putting. McIlroy thus left Ohio looking better than the other members of the Big 3, with the U.S. Open just 10 days away. Oakmont is a lot of things, most of all brutally hard, but if you aren’t putting well, you have no shot there.

Gary Woodland

Well, well, look who was on the first page of the leaderboard – our old whipping boy, Gary Woodland. He was ranked 78th in the OWGR coming in but didn’t even have a top-10 all season. The big-hitting Kansan corrected that with a T4 but, as usual, it could have been so much more. Woodland’s 68-65-69-73 again showed a Sunday fade. He’s 156th in final-round scoring, and it’s been that way for years. If you had high hopes for Woodland on Sunday at Memorial …

Matt Kuchar

Kuchar has been the hottest thing going on tour. In his last four events: T3, 3, T6, T4. On the one hand, that’s fantastic. On the other, it’s sooooo Kuchar. On Sunday, he blew a late lead with a back-nine 39. Kuchar has always appeared content to be inducted into the Hall of Very Good. He’s never really had a sniff in a major, and there’s no reason to expect that to change. In fairness, Oakmont isn’t the best fit for his game.

Keegan Bradley

Is Bradley even the best golfer from his Hopkinton (Mass.) High School team? He’s now No. 105 in the world, 16 spots behind Curran. Bradley turned in his first top-10 in seven months on Sunday, finishing T9 at Muirfield Village. He switched caddies a few weeks back, so perhaps there was a getting-acquainted period. But don’t count on it.

Matt Jones

There’s been a Matt Jones sighting! One week after we noted the Australian’s remarkable fall since winning his country’s most prestigious title back on November, Jones tied for 20th to end (interrupt?) a stretch of nine missed cuts in 11 starts. We’ll have to see more before jumping back on the Jones bandwagon.

Robert Streb

Speaking of golfers who have fallen off the map … Streb tied for 20th with Jones, his first top-25 in almost five months. Last year’s breakthrough season has looked more like last year’s aberration. Streb did well at the Memorial last year, so this result may be a one-shot. He lost in a playoff last year at Greenbriar, and that tournament comes up in early July. Perhaps something to keep an eye on.

Bryson DeChambeau

The rookie sensation who hasn’t been so sensational of late showed signs of sensation again this past week. After missing four straight cuts, DeChambeau switched caddies, and he wound up T38 at the Memorial. He’s skipping Memphis, so it’ll be a while before we see how the pairing grows.