As we head into the season’s second Major Championship, The U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, the three men represented on The PGA Tour schedule over the last three tournaments, racked up a total of nine U.S. Open victories in their storied careers. We began this stretch in Dallas for The Byron Nelson, moved over to “Hogan’s Alley” at Colonial Country Club last week, and here we are this week in Dublin, Ohio for The Memorial, a golf course and tournament created by Mr. Jack Nicklaus. And if Jack is considered “The Greatest,” so too is the field for this final of the three-event swing. Sixty-four of the Top 100 ranked players in the world are here and of The Top 50, thirty-two will tee it up at Muirfield Village this week.
Jack Nicklaus built Muirfield Village and The Memorial Tournament began on The PGA Tour in 1976. Like so many Nicklaus designs, Muirfield is a second shot golf course. Hitting greens in regulation is a big factor. The greens are smaller in size with very fast, Bent grass surfaces, featuring a great deal of undulation. While the name comes from Jack’s affinity for Muirfield in Scotland, a part of The British Open rota, the design was influenced greatly by another of Nicklaus’ favorites, Augusta National, home to The Masters, where Jack won six times. The fairways are generous in size but are bordered by very penal rough. In recent editions of The Memorial, we have seen the winners excel in Driving Accuracy. Water comes into play on eleven of the eighteen holes and despite the fact that the golf course is a Par 72, nine of the last twelve Memorial winners have ranked either 1st or 2nd for the week in Par 4 Scoring. Due to the size and the volatility of the putting surfaces, work around the greens will be a key ingredient this week as well, in the form of Scrambling and Putting.
There are many players who have had success at both Augusta National and at The Memorial. Winners of both events are; Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Raymond Floyd, Vijay Singh, Fred Couples, and Tiger Woods. There are others who have had either victories and or tremendous success at each venue; Greg Norman, Ernie Els, Justin Rose, and Matt Kuchar. A couple hours northeast of Muirfield Village is Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, where The WGC-Bridgestone is held. As another tool to apply in our handicap, we can sight the crossover success between these two tournaments as well. Muirfield Village, Firestone CC, and Augusta National, all golf courses of Major Championship caliber.. Drive the ball well, hits greens, bring a tremendous short game.. and maybe you’ll be the one to get to shake Jack’s hand coming off of the 18th green on Sunday in Ohio.
Dustin Johnson (+14.05 Bookmaker) Making his first start since dropping out of the world’s number one ranking, Johnson has won at Firestone and was 3rd here in 2016. He hasn’t missed a cut all season and was 10th at The Masters.
Justin Rose (+14.22 Bookmaker) Off of a stellar winning performance at Colonial last week, Rose comes to a course at which he’s won and finished in the Top 10 five additional times.
Rory McIlroy (+17.59 Pinnacle) Like DJ, Rory has also won at Firestone and was 4th here in 2016, to go along with two additional Top 10 finishes. McIlroy finished 2nd last week at The BMW in Europe and was 5th this year at Augusta.
Tiger Woods (+2050 5Dimes) My prediction has been that Tiger will not win another Major but that he will win again on Tour – and this may be the spot. He was 11th at The Players Championship four weeks ago. He’s won at Firestone eight times, Augusta four, and here at Muirfield, five times.
Bubba Watson (+3300 5Dimes) Watson is a two-time Masters winner, was 6th here last year, and finished 3rd in 2014. Bubba was 2nd at Firestone in 2015.
Hideki Matsuyama (+35.70 Bookmaker) Matsuyama is the defending champion at The WGC-Bridgestone and won The Memorial in 2014. He is long and straight off of the tee and has always played well at Augusta.
The Long Shots
Tony Finau (+5500 5Dimes) Length off of the tee won’t be a problem for this long bomber but he’ll need to avoid the rough. His only three starts at Muirfield Village have gone 40th-11th-and-8th and he finished 10th this year at The Masters on a bad ankle.
Shane Lowry (+6600 5Dimes) The Irishman won The WGC-Bridgestone in 2016 and was 15th here last year. He was 15th last week in Europe at The BMW Championship.
Pat Perez (+10000 5Dimes) All the way up to number 28th in the world rankings, Perez hasn’t missed a cut at The Memorial in eight straight visits, including 19th last year and 8th in 2013. He was 18th at The Masters in 2017 and is 11th on Tour in Driving Accuracy.
Rickie Fowler (+22.28 Pinnacle) Still without a Major win but Rickie has a knack for winning the next best events; The Players Championship and The Wells Fargo. The Memorial would fit right in line. He was 2nd here last year and was also 2nd this year at The Masters. Fowler is 21st on Tour in Greens in Regulation, 7th in Scrambling, and 6th in Par 4 Scoring. He was 14th last week at Colonial with all four rounds in the 60’s. He has four straight Top 10 finishes at The WGC-Bridgestone and also finished 2nd in 2011. As the prep for The U.S. Open continues, watch for Rickie to make a run at The Memorial.
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