The Memorial: A preview and best bets for this week's event at Muirfield Village
By Dave Tindall
Last Updated: 28/05/14 7:15pm
The PGA Tour heads north from Texas to Ohio for this week's Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village.
Owned by Jack Nicklaus, the club was named after the famous Scottish links where the Golden Bear made his Walker Cup debut in 1959 and returned there seven years later to win his first Open Championship.
Muirfield Village has been a popular venue on the professional schedule for over 30 years, with the Memorial Tournament one of the more prestigious titles on the PGA Tour.
Co-designed by Jack Nicklaus and Desmond Muirhead, and opened in 1974, Muirfield went on to host the Ryder Cup 13 years later when Europe triumphed for the first time on American soil. It also staged the 2013 Presidents Cup back in October.
The field includes former champions Matt Kuchar (2013), Steve Stricker (2011), Justin Rose (2010), KJ Choi (2007), Carl Pettersson (2006), Ernie Els (2004), Jim Furyk (2002) and Vijay Singh (1997).
Muirfield Village is a par 72 which measures in at 7,352 yards. It's well bunkered and has water coming into play on as many as 12 holes. Like most Nicklaus courses, there is room off the tee and a strong emphasis on rewarding accurate iron play. Indeed, the last two winners here, Tiger Woods (73.6%) and Matt Kuchar (75%) topped the greens in regulation stats when taking the title.
This has varied considerably down the years with Matt Kuchar's -12 in 2013 ranking somewhere in the middle. Prior to that, Tiger was successful with -9 in 2012 while -8 was enough for Kenny Perry in 2008. By contrast, other winning scores in the last seven years include -18 (Justin Rose, 2010), -17 (KJ Choi, 2007) and -16 (Steve Stricker, 2011).
The leading contenders (and Sky Bet odds)
Rory McIlroy (15/2): After winning the BMW PGA at Wentworth on a course he hadn't shown great form on in a week when he was under the cosh fielding questions about his private life, it's hard to know what to expect from Rory here. Will he be firing on all cylinders and ready to win again or will he breathe out a little and slightly have his eye on the upcoming US Open? It's been rather a case of feast or famine on his previous four starts in this event (10th 2010, 5th 2011, MC 2012, 57th 2013) so that also adds to the guesswork. It is worth nothing though that he did win back-to-back on the PGA Tour in 2012 (Deutsche Bank and BMW Championship) so he's capable of beating high-class fields two weeks in a row.
Adam Scott (11/1): Scott also comes into the tournament on the back of a win after justifying his status as the new World No 1 by overcoming a poor start at Colonial to triumph in a play-off. Scott, who won the Aussie PGA and Aussie Masters back-to-back last November, has a fourth (2006) and a fifth (2007) at Memorial and was also 13th last year so has enough good course form for his backers to latch on to. Caddie Steve Williams also won this event numerous times with Tiger Woods so there is plenty to suggest that Scott could come up trumps again.
Matt Kuchar (14/1): Kuchar won this event last year, was runner-up on his previous appearance in 2011 and prior to that was 8th, 5th and 10th. He was also joint second top scorer for the US in the Presidents Cup here six months ago so it's pretty clear he loves Muirfield Village. This year he's reeled off another string of big finishes, including a win at Hilton Head the week after The Masters, so it was a big surprise to see him miss the cut at the Crowne Plaza last Friday.
Justin Rose (16/1): It never really clicked for Rose at Wentworth last week and although his 25th wasn't exactly a disaster, the tone was set when he started with three straight bogeys. Before that disappointment he was fourth at Sawgrass and fifth at Quail Hollow so his recent PGA Tour form is very good. His course form is even better as he can boast a victory here in 2010, a second place in 2008, a fourth on debut in 2004 and eighth places in both 2012 and 2013. He must rank as a big title threat.
Dustin Johnson (25/1): Still no win yet for DJ in 2014 but it looks as if he's coming to the boil again after finishes of 7th (Byron Nelson) and 14th (Crowne Plaza) in the two Texas events played in the last fortnight. Memorial should be a good fit for him and his finishes there are pretty decent - fourth in 2011 after a closing 65, 14th in 2009 and another top 20 in 2012. He's said in the past that Colonial (last week's course) doesn't really suit him so to shoot a 65 and a 66 there suggests he could really spark here on a track he likes.
Jim Furyk (25/1): Furyk has a long history of success in this event, a victory in 2002 helping him sit third in the tournament's all-time earnings list. He's also banked runners-up finishes in 1997 and 2009. He's really enjoying his golf again in 2014 after a couple of difficult years and that's manifested itself in recent runners-up finishes at Quail Hollow and Sawgrass. He took a step back with a tied 51st at Colonial last time out but his record here suggests he'll get back in the groove this week.
Jordan Spieth (25/1): The youngster, who rarely has a bad tournament, was prominent again at Colonial last week and held a share of the lead before drifting back to tied 14th. He had a mixed debut in this event 12 months ago when shooting 82-68 on the weekend to finish 63rd while he also played plenty of eyecatching golf when winning two points out of four in the Presidents Cup here last October. He seems to love teeing it up against the big guns so look for his name to be high on the leaderboard yet again.
Jason Dufner was edged out in a play-off by Adam Scott last week but it could be his turn here.
The Dufmeister has ranked 5th and 3rd for greens in regulation in his last two tournaments so the area of his game that needs to be strong to thrive in this event is certainly firing.
The obvious negative is that he's missed the cut on his only two appearances here (2009 and 2010) but he's a much better golfer now and showed he could thrive at Muirfield Village when finishing as the USA's second top points scorer (3pts out of 5) in the Presidents Cup here last October.
Dufner can often string good performances together (he finished second the week after his win in the 2012 Byron Nelson and won last year's US PGA on the back of a fourth in the Bridgestone Invitational) so, when it comes to backing him, it's best to strike when the irons are hot.
Take him each-way at 40s.
Gary Woodland has progressive form figures of 26-18-11-7 in his last five starts and hasn't finished worse than tied 38th all season!
He's a noted fan of Muirfield Village and in three starts has a sixth on debut in 2011 and a 16th last year.
The monster-hitting American likes to pull driver here and the wide fairways allow him to do so. He looks like a winner waiting to happen so try him at 33/1.
Hideki Matsuyama played some wonderful golf here in the Presidents Cup and didn't really get rewarded (one win, three losses and a half - the latter coming after hitting an approach to two feet on the final hole).
The young Japanese star will enjoy the return and heads to Ohio in fine fettle after a 10th place in last week's Colonial.
That continued his improved results (23rd Players Championship and 38th at the Wells Fargo) after a dip in form so it looks as if he's coming right back into form again.
Matsuyama was tied for the lead after 54 holes last week so should benefit and learn from his difficult Sunday (not that a 71 was too bad) and really push again here.
He's a 50/1 chance.
Finally, Dustin Johnson is sixth in greens in regulation this year, which is a definite plus point on this course, and is rounding into some decent form again.
He's a proven winner and with Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy in the field, is a decent price too.
Let's go straight for the jugular and back him win only at 25/1.
2pts e.w. Jason Dufner at 40/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1.5pts e.w. Gary Woodland at 33/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Hideki Matsuyama at 50/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
2pts win Dustin Johnson at 25/1