2018 Memorial Tournament: Muirfield Village Golf Club (5/29/18)

By Frank Brank


Muirfield Village hosts the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio this week as we expect one of the best fields outside of a major championship. Tiger Woods returns after his two week break while Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, and Justin Thomas will also be featured. Justin Rose is playing in back-to-back weeks looking to defend last week's win. Other top players in the field include Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler, and Phil Mickelson.

Muirfield Village historically plays as a second-shot course. Golfers typically have little issue hitting the fairways off the tee, but hitting the smaller, slender greens is a different story. Despite the average golfer hitting more than two-thirds of the course's fairways, only 62% of greens are hit in regulation. To top it off, players at Muirfield get up and down about 5% less than tour average. Hence, our focus this week will revolve around approach shots and play around the green.

As one could imagine, these are areas Tiger Woods has succeeded this year and throughout his career. Over the course of the 2018 season, Tiger ranks 14th in strokes-gained approach and 7th in strokes-gained around the green. Not to mention, our model sees him as the 7th-best putter in the field this week. If or when Tiger wins again, will be highly dependent on the difficulty of play off the tee. Considering Muirfield's easier tee play, Tiger has a great chance at winning this week despite the great field. That being said, our model predicts he wins about 3.3% of the time, considerably less than his 4.8% odds.

Past winners at the Memorial include Matt Kuchar, Hideki Matsuyama, David Lingmerth, William McGirt, and Jason Dufner. Hence, we can see top players or bombers off the tee aren't necessarily guaranteed to win at Muirfield. Thus, we'll get a little further down the board this week to find the top trending iron players and scramblers with value in the field.

Favorites



Henrik Stenson seems to be returning to form since his PGA Tour dominance from a few seasons ago. At the top of his game, Stenson was the face of ball striking on the Tour and he's quickly ascended back to the top of the world in such categories.

In the 2018 season, Stenson ranks first overall on the PGA Tour in strokes-gained approach and 23rd in strokes-gained off the tee, despite hitting his trusty three wood off of almost every par-4 or par-5. His lack of distance, 287.4 yards on average, is entirely made up by his top overall driving accuracy, hitting 76.8% of fairways. That accuracy has allowed him to hit 74.2% of greens, also first overall on Tour.

As a premiere putter and iron player, Stenson always stands a chance to win, and this week is no different. According to our model, Stenson has the 4th-best odds to win at 4.4%. Although Stenson has only played in eight events and choosing most of the more competitive fields, he's still producing results at a high level. He's missed one cut, but has yet to place outside of the top-23 in the seven other tournaments which include four top-ten finishes.

The one sticky point for Stenson has been his inability to get up and down throughout his career. Even in his peak years on the PGA Tour, he was merely an average player from around the green. Muirfield has a tendency to gobble up golfers who struggle to get up and down; however, Stenson should hit nearly every fairway, giving him plenty of opportunity as one of the best iron players in the world to hit greens.

Other Favorites with value in order of preference: Emiliano Grillo (+4000), Phil Mickelson (+4000)


Long Shots



The last time we found value in Kevin Na, he happened to withdraw from the tournament with injury. Given his extremely good play as of late, we should expect him to compete this week. Since missing three consecutive cuts in April, Na has quickly fixed his game by finishing T6 at the Byron Nelson and solo-4th in last week's Fort Worth Invitational.

He's not only trending in the correct direction, but this course is perfect for Na's game. Na is a horrendous driver of the ball, one of the worst in the field, mostly due to his lack of distance off the tee. However, play from the tee at Muirfield is about 12% less important than an average PGA Tour course.

Where Na has excelled is specifically the requirements for Muirfield Village. According to our model, Na is 16th in approach this week (+0.862), first in play around the green (+0.922), and 24th in putting (+0.282). Per our model, this adds up to about 2.7% chance to win for Kevin Na, a bit more favorable than the 1.5% odds at +6600.

Other Long Shots with value in order of preference: Luke List (+9000), Bryson DeChambeau (+5500)