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DraftKings PGA: Memorial Tournament

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.


THE MEMORIAL TOURNAMENT

Purse: $8.7M
Winner's Share: $1.566M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: Dublin, Ohio
Course: Muirfield Village Golf Club
Yardage: 7,392
Par: 72
2016 champion: William McGirt


Tournament Preview

Jack Nicklaus' Memorial means two things: Summer is coming, and so is the U.S. Open. In the first tournament of the year outside of the South, one of the strongest fields of the year will be on hand just two weeks before 2017's second major. The Memorial historically features one of the the top fields in a "regular" Tour event -- non-major, non-WGC, non-playoff. Injured Rory McIlroy has bowed out, but six of the top-10 in the world and 16 of the top-30 are entered.

Of course, the biggest star this week is Nicklaus, and the Golden Bear has his finger prints (paw prints?) all over this tournament. He designed Muirfield Village and he's the host. As can be expected from a Nicklaus design, all facets of a golfer's game will be tested. Muirfield will challenge them every step of the way, beginning with tree-lined fairways and continuing with nearly 80 bunkers, water on more than half the holes, plenty of rough and smallish greens with severe undulations. Not only do the holes tend to get harder closer to the green, the holes get harder later in the round, with the back-nine significantly testier. The five toughest holes last year were all after the turn, with the three hardest being, in order, Nos. 16, 18, 17, just as Nicklaus planned.

In formulating the Key Stats, this tournament perhaps more than any other is an equal opportunity challenge: There's scant difference in the importance of greens in regulation, proximity to the hole, scrambling and putting, with a dash of driving accuracy. Another interesting caveat at Muirfield is the extremely difficult par-3s. All are in the 180-200 yard range, and three of them were among the six hardest holes on the course last year: the aforementioned No. 16, plus 12 and 4. All that said, the past three years, the course has lacked some bite as the wind laid low, ranking in the middle of the pack on the difficulty scale.

For the second straight week, the tournament is an invitational, limiting the field to 120. That means roughly 60 percent of the field will make the cut, and we'll use that to take some lower-priced gambles in the value picks below. Besides McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Alex Noren are the other top-10ers not on hand. Interestingly, six of the past 13 Memorial champions have been international golfers. In the spirit of Nicklaus, the Memorial offers invites to all members of the previous Ryder Cup and President Cup teams (which is a lovely gesture and explains why Steven Bowditch is in the field), the current U.S. and British Amateur champs and various international tour money leaders. In another class act, Sam Saunders, Arnold Palmer's grandson, also received a sponsor exemption.

Weather-wise, winds are again forecast to be light, which could result in an uptick in birdies. There's more than a 50 percent chance of rain in the offing for the final three rounds, with an 80 percent on Friday.


Key Stats to Winning at Muirfield Village (in order of importance)

Greens in regulation
Scrambling
Proximity to the hole
Putting average
Driving accuracy
Par-3 efficiency 175-200 yards



Past Champions

2006 - William McGirt
2015 - David Lingmerth
2014 - Hideki Matsuyama
2013 - Matt Kuchar
2012 - Tiger Woods
2011 - Steve Stricker
2010 - Justin Rose
2009 - Tiger Woods
2008 - Kenny Perry
2007 - K.J. Choi


Champion's Profile:

There's a larger-than-usual complement of key stats. That's because Nicklaus has designed his course to emphasize strengths -- and weaknesses -- equally. In looking at recent Memorial leaderboards, greens in regulation, proximity to the hole, scrambling and putting are all remarkably balanced in affecting the outcome (driving accuracy a little less so). Of course, a white-hot putter can change all that, but the Memorial rarely turns into a putting contest. That brings a lot of golfers into the Champion's Profile who normally wouldn't be here. There are a bunch of guys with sterling tee-to-green resumes who almost always fall short because their putter lets them down -- Tony Finau is the first but far from the only one who comes to mind. This week, those golfers may be able to get by with lesser putting, as long as they land their approach shots in the right place. When Tiger Woods won his most recent Memorial in 2012, he was well back at 25th in putting average. In 2014, sub-par putter Hideki Matsuyama was seventh in the field in PA, but that was largely because he was first in proximity. Last year, William McGirt got away with some flimsy driving accuracy (he was 39th in the field) because he was seventh in GIR, eighth in proximity, sixth in scrambling and 16th in putting average -- man, talk about a balanced breakfast! There's been a lot of chatter on social media about par-4 efficiency on holes ranging from 450-500 yards because of the long par-4s at Muirfield, and that makes sense. But with three par-3s among the six hardest holes last year, we give a nod to par-3 efficiency 175-200 yards. Since that's only four holes on the course, we won't overly weigh it, but on the other hand there were more than 40 scores of double-bogey or worse on those four holes alone last year, meaning there's a chance for big swings.

DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
(Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)

Tier 1 Values

Dustin Johnson - $12,000 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 5-1)

Dare we say that Johnson is slumping since he hasn't won in his last three starts? Slump is too strong of a word, and nobody can win every week. Johnson has gone T2-T12-T13 since his Masters injury. This is his 10th start at Muirfield, where he's had only two top-10s, but one of them was last year's T3. Even if Johnson doesn't win we envision him on the first page of the leaderboard, and 5-1 odds to win a golf tournament is some serious backing.

Jon Rahm - $11,100 (12-1)

Rahm has routinely been racking up top-10s, even top-5s, and he has overtaken Jordan Spieth by $100 as No. 2 on the DraftKings board. We won't fill you up with numbers, but we will offer one little factoid that gave us pause and may do likewise for you: In the past 4 1/2 months, Rahm has only two cashes outside the top-25 -- and they were in the two hardest tournaments with the strongest fields: the Masters and The Players. The Memorial doesn't reach that threshold, but it will be the third toughest field Rahm has been a part of.

Adam Scott - $9,800 (25-1)

We couldn't pull the trigger on the three guys situated between Rahm and Scott: Spieth, Jason Day, and Hideki Matsuyama. Spieth has only one top-10 in four tries here; Day, while certainly better of late, has never had a top-25 here; and Matsuyama has been very ordinary for the past 3-4 months, plus he missed the cut here last year. Matsuyama surely will be highly owned, which is another reason we favor Scott, and for $200 cheaper. The Aussie hasn't been at the Memorial since 2014, but he was T4 then, and T13 the year before. Scott hasn't played much in 2017, with just six stroke-play events since February, but four of them have been top-15s. Scott sits 33rd on Tour in GIR and 47th in PA.

Tier 2 Values

Matt Kuchar - $9,400 (25-1)

Last week we called Kuchar the "ultimate safety-net pick." Maybe we can refer to him this week as Linus' security blanket? No? Very well then. Anyhoo, Kuchar is machine-like here, with eight top-25s in his past nine visits (with the lone outlier being a T26). He won the Memorial in 2013, he was fourth last year, he's been top-12 the past two weeks on Tour. No need to clutter things up with stats. The two best metrics are always current form and course history.

Patrick Reed - $9,200 (40-1)

A month ago, we could never have envisioned Reed as a pick for the Memorial. But he certainly has reversed course of late, with four consecutive top-25s. He's trending nicely at Muirfield, from a T26 in his 2015 debut to T8 last year. His season-long numbers still look atrocious, but they don't tell the most recent story.

Emiliano Grillo - $8,500 (50-1)

Grillo tied for 11th in his maiden Memorial last year. He's taken a step back from his sterling rookie season of 2015-16, but he still hasn't missed a cut since January. He has sprinkled in some high finishes, including a T11 at THE PLAYERS a few weeks back. Grillo is 48th in GIR, 40th in proximity and a tidy 19th in par-3/175-200.

Tier 3 Values

Tony Finau - $7,900 (40-1)

We're going to go heavier in Tier 3, beginning with a familiar name. Finau certainly has been one of our go-to guys. He tied for 11th at the Memorial last year and was eighth in his 2015 debut. Finau ranks fifth in GIR and fourth in par-3/175-200. As we always mention, his biggest obstacle is his putter, but $7,900 is a very favorable price to pay for all the other positives.

Patrick Cantlay - $7,800 (50-1)

On one hand, we were surprised Cantlay's price was so high. On the other, his average DK points total is just shy of Spieth's -- and for more than $3,000 less. Cantlay hasn't played Muirfield before, but that hasn't slowed him down at other courses. He was in the mix through three rounds at The Players before a Sunday freefall landed him at T22, a number that would still validate a $7,800 price. Cantlay still hasn't played enough rounds to appear in the PGA Tour stats, but he'd be 36th in GIR, 62nd in scrambling and third in PA.

Phil Mickelson - $7,700 (50-1)

Every time we consider picking Mickelson, we have a nightmare in which we envision him on the tee with his arm extended yelling "FORE RIGHT!" Mickelson has a mixed history at the Memorial, with his best finishes pre-2012. But he did secure a T20 last year. We're hoping his short-game skills deliver again. Mickelson is eighth on Tour in PA.

Adam Hadwin - $7,600 (80-1)

Wash, rinse, repeat: Hadwin has not missed a cut since October, has seven top-25s, is fourth in scrambling and 16th in PA, and yet his price continues to be very favorable. Yes, we'll take us some Hadwin.

David Lingmerth - $7,400 (Field, 9-2)

Lingmerth won here two years ago and followed it up last year with a respectable T27 -- it's always hard playing as the defending champion, especially when it's your lone PGA Tour title. The Swede is 4-for-4 in Memorial cuts. He had been struggling but has found form of late, with three straight cuts made, two of them top-20s, including T12 last week at Colonial. Lingmerth is fifth on Tour in PA and 40th in proximity.

Ross Fisher - $7,100 (100-1)

The 36-year-old Fisher is enjoying a renaissance season, carrying him from 65th in the OWGR at the start of 2017 to 43rd today. That's on the strength of five top-10s in his past seven worldwide starts, including T9 last week at the BMW PGA Championship. Like Cantlay, he hasn't played enough rounds to appear in the stats, but he'd be 10th in GIR and 25th in scrambling. Fisher hasn't played the Memorial before, but international golfers have done well here in recent years, and the cheap price is surely attractive.

Long-Shot Values

Marc Leishman - $6,900 (60-1)

Leishman has made six straight Memorial cuts, including T11 last year and T5 the year before. Further, he has played decently since winning at Bay Hill in March, making 4-of-5 cuts with a T13 at the Byron Nelson a couple of weeks back. Leishman has the well-rounded game suited for Muirfield: 40th in GIR, 43rd in PA and 46th in scrambling.

Byeong-Hun An - $6,900 (50-1)

An tied for 11th here last year, his first visit since a missed cut as an amateur way back in 2010. He's coming off top-10s in his past two starts at the Wells Fargo and the Nelson. None of his stats look good in and of themselves, but he's a case of the sum being greater than its parts.

Ryan Moore - $6,700 (80-1)

If you can pay $6,700 for a guy who's made the Memorial cut 10 times in the past 11 years, go for it. Moore certainly has not delivered like last season, but he's still sticking around most weekends. He's 37th in PA, 44th in proximity.

Rafa Cabrera-Bello - $6,700 (80-1)

The Spaniard endured a tough stretch with three straight missed cuts earlier this spring, but he's followed that up with a T24 at the Wells Fargo and a T4 at The Players. That's the most recent start for the world's 28th-ranked golfer. Cabrera-Bello is 12th on Tour in par-3/175-200 (and even 20th in par-4/450-500). He was T52 in his Memorial debut last year.

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