The Memorial Tournament ⏤ Picks & Analysis

Fantasy Golf

Muirfield Village4

The post-COVID PGA TOUR season kicks it up a notch with the best field so far this year assembling this week at Muirfield Village Golf Club for the Memorial Tournament. Tiger Woods will be making his post-COVID debut and playing his first PGA TOUR event in roughly five months since we last saw him at Riviera in February for the Genesis Open. Moreover, the two playoff combatants from last week (Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas) will also be sticking around for another run at this Jack Nicklaus gem. In fact, just three of the top twenty players in the world (Adam Scott, Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrell Hatton) will be sitting out Jack's tournament.

For the first time in decades, this will be the second consecutive tournament at the same host site and that creates an interesting dynamic for fantasy contestants. One would certainly think this will be the most valuable week-prior data we've seen in some time and so we'd have to imagine that those who do their homework on last week's performers will see their efforts pay off. 

That having been said, the setups for the two weeks will not be identical. The rough will be a lot longer than players encountered last week, many of the tees will be moved onto the back boxes and the green speeds will likely kick up another 1-2 feet on the stimpmeter. Most especially on the greens, you might be wary of playing a competitor who putted well at last week's speeds but may struggle to adjust. We'd also advise a projected winning score somewhere few shots higher than the 19-under par that played off at last week's Workday Charity Open. 

Group A

All of the first three groups in this field are star-studded, but group A (as always) contains the cream of the crop. Bryson Dechambeau has been the runaway best player since the COVID restart. He has finished in the top ten every single week and finally bagged a victory that felt inevitable two weeks ago at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. His putter has been cooperating, he's driving it prodigious lengths and would certainly be a justifiable choice among these six.

Justin Thomas is worth some consideration as well. He's put together three top-tens since the restart including a runner-up finish last week at this very golf course. He finished top-five for the week in Strokes Gained: Approach and second for the week in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green which have historically been two excellent indicators at the Memorial. Perhaps most importantly, he's destined to be hungry after blowing a three-shot lead with three holes to play. He'll be looking to purge that negative history from his system with a win this week.

This is perhaps a sentimental choice, but we're going to go with the greatest player of his generation and a five-time champion at this golf course. Tiger Woods may not have a ton of competitive reps in his system, but he has a long history of immediate success after long layoffs (see his record at season-opening Torrey Pines). He remains one of the game's great iron players and his success here has always been much derived from his quality iron play. Finally, you might even be able to pick him at low ownership rates in this group as the quality of the competition around him will keep him from being too over-rostered.

Group B

There are a lot of weeks on the PGA TOUR where most if not all of these players would be found in Group A. Rickie Fowler's form is starting to come around and he's now been in the top 25 in two consecutive events. He still seems to struggle to put four rounds together, but he is beginning to show some upside. Brooks Koepka is a roller coaster these days and is coming off a missed cut at this golf course just last week. Xander Schauffele has played a lot of consistent golf these last two weeks and has been under par in all but one of his last eight rounds. Justin Rose remains an unanswered question this season.

The safest choice here we think is Patrick Cantlay. He's got a great history at this golf course (having won here last year) and his consistent ball-striking matches the profile of the types of guys who play well at Muirfield Village. Beyond a strong history here, he has also demonstrated plenty of post-COVID form with 11th place and 7th place finishes in each of his last two weeks. He was last seen on the PGA TOUR shooting 65 just this past Sunday on this very golf course. He may not come away the winner this week, but we doubt very much that anyone will be too upset with their choice should they put Cantlay in their lineup.

Group C

Group C is an interesting amalgam of players with extremely high-end A games but persistent open questions about their ability to reach that level. Jason Day turned in a decent performance here last week (T7) but it was by far his best performance in an otherwise disappointing season. Jordan Spieth showed signs of life in Dallas at Colonial, but his run since then (T54 - T68 - CUT) is starting to make those early rounds at the Charles Schwab Challenge look more like the exception and less like the new rule. Matt Kuchar is looking like a player whose best is now behind him and Patrick Reed is a tough man to get a pulse on from week-to-week.

Hideki Matsuyama certainly merits some consideration both for his history at this golf course as well as the style of golf he plays. He is sixth on the PGA TOUR in Strokes Gained: Approach and has won the Memorial Tournament before (in 2014). He has only missed one cut here (2016) and has two other top-ten finishes. He opened here last week with rounds of 67-68 but finished T22 after a disappointing weekend of 72-73. When his putter cooperates here, he is destined to be a threat.

Nevertheless, we're going to take Gary Woodland. Admittedly, he's been a bit of a mixed bag since the restart. He played well at Colonial (T9) but then put together lackluster weeks at the RBC Heritage and Travelers Championship before coming to Muirfield Village for the Workday Charity Open last week. After a slow start of 73, he managed rounds of 68-66-69 that vaulted him into 5th place. For the week, he finished among the top five in Strokes Gained: Putting and his 12th position on the yearly Strokes Gained: Approach list should make him a good candidate for another high finish if he continues to putt well.

Group D

Group D features an interesting mix of international players, but we are of the view the pick in this group is somewhat obvious. Marc Leishman deserves some consideration as he's won at this golf course before and is a top-ten player when it comes to Strokes Gained: Approach. However, we think you can't go wrong selecting Abraham Ancer to emerge victorious from this group. He too has strong Strokes Gained: Approach numbers on the year (12th) but his current form is a lot more promising than Leishman's. He is yet to finish outside the top fifteen since he returned from the COVID pause (T14 at Charles Schwab, 2nd at the RBC Heritage and T11 at the Travelers Championship) and his underperforming putter should be far less of a factor this week where birdies will be in far shorter supply. He's highly unlikely to miss the cut which is more than can be said for most of the rest of this group.

Group E

In our view, Group E comes down to a choice between two young players in this group whose current form stands a cut above the remaining four available choices. Collin Morikawa continues to solidify his reputation as one of the best iron players on the PGA TOUR. He leads the PGA TOUR YTD in Strokes Gained: Approach and it's no surprise that with that kind of iron play as the foundation of his game he was able to bag a win at this very golf course just last week. The only concern with him is whether or not there is a bit of a let down following that win as he spent all four days in contention and may lack the energy in the tank to keep the good times rolling this week.

Our pick of Viktor Hovland possesses many of the same qualities (consistent ball-striking with an emphasis on quality iron play) as Morikawa and his recent form has been outstanding. He has seemingly gotten better every week since the COVID restart and is yet to finish outside the top-25 since the PGA TOUR returned to action. He was in contention last week at this golf course right up until the back nine on Sunday when a few wayward shots left him with a solo third-place finish four shots behind the playoff at 19-under par. He's done everything but bag a big win in the events since the restart and we think he'll be hungry to finally see his strong post-COVID play bear some fruit with a win.

Group F

This is another difficult group to select from as most of these players have pretty compelling reasons both to take them and to fade them. Shane Lowry has been too inconsistent with not enough upside as he's failed to crack the top-35 post-COVID pause and missed two of his four cuts. Graeme McDowell has shown some signs of life with an opening round 68 and and a T35 finish last week, but it's hard to get too excited about that as he missed his only other two post-COVID cuts so far. 

Paul Casey and Ian Poulter deserve some attention in this group for somewhat opposite reasons. Casey is a pretty consistent ball striker and his game (when working) should be a solid fit at this golf course. Conversely, Ian Poulter put together a pretty impressive performance here last week (T5) in spite of his usual difficulty keeping up with his peers when it comes to ball striking (negative Strokes Gained numbers both on approach and tee-to-green). One of the two is likely to make the cut and have a solid week while it would be no surprise to see the other miss the cut. The difficult question will be which player is which.

We think the safe bet here is Matthew Fitzpatrick. He's shown a little hint of form with a top-fifteen finish at the RBC Heritage a few weeks ago and a T27 finish here last week in spite of some sub-standard ball striking. We think that if his putter can continue to cooperate and his long game can take some steps forward he should be a good bet for another top-thirty finish here this week.