The Memorial Tournament
Muirfield Village Golf Club
Muirfield Village Golf Club
Par: 72 (36-3)
Greens: Bentgrass; 5,000 square feet on average.
Rough: Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass and fescue at 3”
Water Hazards: 13
Course Architect: Jack Nicklaus and Desmond Muirhead (1974)
Winner’s Share: $1,116,000
FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner
Dates: May 29-June 1
Notes: Stroke play; top 70 and ties play the weekend.
Recent History Lessons
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won 21 of 28 events in 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every, Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes and Brendon Todd have won for the USA.
S.Y. Noh, Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley Matt Jones and Brendon Todd are the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had eight in 28 events so far in 2014.
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. He has been joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia, Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson (35), joined them at Riviera. Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30) and Matt Jones (33), all first-timers, flew the flag before Watson picked up victory No. 2 of the year at Augusta. Since the first major, Matt Kuchar (37), J.B. Holmes (32) and Adam Scott (33) have collected hardware for the Prime Timers.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) Seung-Yul Noh (22), Martin Kaymer (29) plus Brendon Todd, 28, are the twenty-somethings who have made large noise this year.
Australian John Senden, 42, won at Tampa Bay for the only W for the “Old Guys” this season.
Pay Attention: It’s FREE!
The Memorial played its first tournament in 1976 with NBC’s Roger Maltbie picking up the title. He remains the only player to win in his first start at Muirfield Village. #0-37since
There have only been four champions who have made the Memorial their first TOUR win. Keith Fergus (1981), Kenny Perry (1991), Tom Lehman (1994) and Justin Rose in 2010 the four members of this tiny club.
In 38 events, only seven, foreign-born players have been victorious.
There have only been three playoffs in 38 events. The last one was in 1992. #drought
Kenny Perry, 47, won for the third time in 2008 making him the oldest winner in history.
Tiger Woods, 23, won his first of five titles in 1999 making him the youngest champion.
Tiger Woods is the only player to defend his title on these grounds. To the surprise of nobody, he did back-to-back (1999-2001).
The course record is 61, set by John Huston in 1996.
Tom Lehman’s maiden victory on TOUR was done in style as his 268 (-20) is the tournament record.
The last winning score in single-digits-under-par (-8) was Olin Browne in 1999. #birdiesboys
Only two of the last 14 winners have been in single-digits under par with the last being Tiger Woods 279 (-9) in 2012.
This Will Win You a Bar Bet
Phil Mickelson has MC more times, one, at the Memorial than he has victories, zero, in 12 starts. There are not many tournaments that Mickelson has played this many times and not won outside of the U.S. Open.
Past Champions Since 2000
2013 Matt Kuchar -12
2012 Tiger Woods -9
2011 Steve Stricker -16
2010 Justin Rose -18
2009 Tiger Woods -12
2008 Kenny Perry -8
2007 KJ Choi -17
2006 Carl Pettersson -12
2005 Bart Bryant -16
2004 Ernie Els -18
2003 Kenny Perry -13
2002 Jim Furyk -14
2001 Tiger Woods -17
2000 Tiger Woods -19
Inside the Ropes
Muirfield Village was the dream of a young Jack Nicklaus back in the mid 60’s as he wished to bring a big-time golf event to his home state of Ohio. After searching Columbus and surrounding areas he determined that Dublin would become the home for his dream and he created Muirfield Village. With the help of Pete Dye, who had showed young Nicklaus the design ropes, and Desmond Muirhead, Nicklaus struck out to design a course that would be an excellent test of golf for years to come plus provide a spectator-friendly environment to do so.
He accomplished both.
With the spectator and the player in mind, Nicklaus designed the course to be challenging to play and easy to watch. He was the forefather of “amphitheater” golf as his Muirfield was put into commission two years before TPC Sawgrass. He designed mounding around the greens so that the patrons could enjoy multiple views from multiple spots around his course.
The course itself, as Nicklaus has admitted, was designed by “the seat of his pants” but corners were not cut and the course still holds up to this day. And from most accounts on Twitter this week, it’s immaculate as we’ve enjoyed plenty of rain and sunshine in the Midwest the last two months. The Augusta of the North will prove a worthy challenge again this year.
As with most Nicklaus designs, this is a second-shot course as the host gives you plenty of room to work the ball into the fairway off the tee. Similar to Augusta, the second shot is where the action takes place. Most of the greens are protected by many, deep, difficult bunkers which have ranked as some of the toughest on TOUR to get up-and-down from. There are also closely-mown areas where errant shots run off and away. If that’s not enough, the hole always seems to get harder the closer the player gets. Muirfield annually ranks as one of the hardest places to get it close to the hole from the fairway, rough and the bunkers plus putting is no picnic either. The Bentgrass greens run at 13’ on the Stimpmeter and putting from inside of 10, 5 and 3 feet are some of the most demanding on TOUR. It’s no wonder why Muirfield Village ranks annually in the top 20 courses played on TOUR. If that’s not enough, 40 yards was added on the most difficult hole, No. 18, to bring back the original design of the dogleg right. Players won’t be making many birdies there coming home!
Recent Course Ratings
2013: 2nd hardest (non-major) on TOUR
2012: 3rd HNM
2009: 3rd HNM
2008: 2nd HNM
The week usually belongs to premium ball-strikers who hit plenty of greens or to premium putters who don’t throw away shots on the Bentgrass. Matt Kuchar did the double last year as he was first in GIR and second in strokes gained-putting. It was no wonder why him and second-place finisher Kevin Chappell were the only two players to play all four rounds under par last year. To add more perspective, Chappell’s 68 on Sunday was the ONLY bogey-free round of the week. It’s not a wonder why inexperience doesn’t win here very often. Players must be patient with the weather (there is ALWAYS a delay) and the risk-reward as positioning in the large fairways will determine whether GIR is achieved.
Call to Order
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Adam Scott (A): It’s hard to argue that the World No. 1 should be anywhere else on this list after his performance last week. His caddy Steve Williams has navigated this track with both Norman and Woods so that won’t hurt the Aussie, especially on the tricky greens. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s made 34 weekends in a row on TOUR! He sits currently ninth in ball-striking and is 22nd in total putting and that combination is exactly what I’m looking for this week. He’s played seven of eight weekends in his career and has a pair of top fives as his best result. He’s also carded 62 in round two in 2007.
Matt Kuchar (A): The defending champ has nine top 10s in 11 weekends thus far in 2014 but he’s coming off his second MC of the season. So what. He’s played here six of the last seven years and he has ONE finish outside of the top 10, T13 in 2007. Yep, that’s enough for me.
Justin Rose (B): The 2010 champ MC in 2011 but rallied for solo eighth and T8 in his last two editions so I have no problem slotting him in here. It’s strange to see that his total putting numbers are better than his ball-striking numbers but the Englishman oozes class. He’s played nine weekends of the 10 he’s teed it up this year and five of those have gone for top 10s, including his last three on the bounce (Zurich, T8; WFC, fifth; THE PLAYERS, T4).
Jim Furyk (B): One of the troika of disappointment last week at Colonial along with Zach Johnson and Kuchar, the 2002 champion here jumps right back into the top five again this week. In 18 events he’s MC exactly once (2011) and only four of his other 17 starts have seen him finish outside of the top 25. Wow. His T51 last week was his first non-top 20 since Doral, a span of seven events, so his current form is of no concern. He’ll hit the right spots in most fairways and he leads the TOUR in scrambling. This course obviously fits hit eye and his game.
Rory McIlroy (B): I struggled with for about five seconds and then I remembered that his last five starts worldwide are T7, T8, T8, T6 and WIN. In his first two starts here he finished T10 and T5 but the last two years he’s found 79 and 78 to MC and finish T57. I’ll stick with the guy who just blazed Wentworth on Sunday for 66 to erase a seven-shot deficit and win. #enfuego
Dustin Johnson (B): After a back injury that knocked him out of the SHO and slowed him down at Augusta, the big hitter returned to action with a T54 at THE PLAYERS. He bounced right back on the Texas swing for T7 at HPBNC and T14 last week that included a 65 to open and 66 to close. He’s close, folks. He currently sits second in the all-around category and that’s highlighted by ranking fourth in scoring average and sixth in GIR. I love the fact that he didn’t need driver last week to be in contention. This week, he’ll be able to hit driver and shorten this course. As always, if his putter is behaving, he’ll be in the mix on Sunday.
Luke Donald (A): If putting inside of 10 feet is supposed to be hazardous to one’s health this week, then Luke Donald should be smiling like a Cheshire cat. He currently ranks first in putts made from 5-10 feet and is third in total putting. He also has three finishes of T4 or better in his last seven events worldwide, including T3 last week at Wentworth. Sitting 10th in scrambling isn’t a deterrent either! He’s made the weekend in his last six starts at Jack’s place and has four T14 or betters to show for it.
Jordan Spieth (B): Well, if Augusta is a second-shot course and TPC Sawgrass asks for target golf, Spieth should have no problem acclimating this week at Muirfield. Yep, he’s only 20 but he finished T2 at Augusta and T4 at THE PLAYERS. He’s played in 14 weekends this season and has 12 top 25s because his short game is nasty. Remember, he did shoot 82 here in round three last year but he backed that up with 68 on Sunday.
Charl Schwartzel (C): With only one finish out of seven outside the top 19 this season the South African should be primed for another steady finish this week. He was T11 his last time out at HPBNC where he played the final three days 67-67-67. He currently sits 18th in the all-around and top 25 in both scrambling and total putting. I love that he’s starting to figure it out at Memorial as every start in his last five has gotten better (T62, T27, T22, T19 and T8 last year).
Kevin Chappell (C): I joked at one point that someone should just tell him every week he’s teeing it up that it’s the U.S. Open as he loves a tight, difficult track. In his last three starts he’s finished T11 at WFC, T26 at THE PLAYERS and T10 last week after sharing the 54-hole lead. That’s three tough courses and three really solid results. As mentioned above, he and Kuchar had the only four rounds under par last year and he also had the only bogey-free card from his Sunday 68. His 63 on Saturday last week coupled with his 2013 performance should have him full of confidence this week.
Brendon Todd (C): In his last eight rounds on TOUR his worst has been 69 as he picked up his first W at HPBNC and backed that up the next week with T5 last Sunday at CPIC. It’s hard enough to manage the life-changing step after winning for the first time but it looks like Todd has embraced it moving forward. His recent success hasn’t been flukey as he sits 18th in the all-around and is a superb short-game specialist (12th in both total putting and scrambling). Toss in ranking 64th in GIR and he looks to fit right in for what I’m looking for this week at Memorial. My only drawback is that it’s his first time around Muirfield Village but his current form can’t be ignored.
Chris Kirk (B): After a ragged mid-March and early April, Kirk has found T30 or better in his last five events. His last two, THE PLAYERS and CPIC have resulted in T13 and T14 finishes. Last week he missed a 10-footer on Sunday to hit the top 10 for the first time since the Sony. I like the direction he has been heading as he hasn’t MC in his last 19 starts on TOUR. He’s only played one weekend from three at Memorial but his current form and solid short game lead me in his direction this week.
Gary Woodland (A): His last seven stroke-play outings have resulted in T26 or better and that includes last time out at Las Colinas where he finished T7. Pat Goss, Luke Donald’s former short-game coach, has been dialing in the big hitter around the greens and it has paid off recently as he was T18 at WFC and T11 at THE PLAYERS prior to last week. He’s played 13 weekends in a row and has T16 (2013) and T6 (2011) in two of his last three at Muirfield Village. He’s played six of 10 rounds here at par or better. #ascending
Freddie Jacobson: He makes his return to Muirfield Village after three years away but I’m more interested in his current run of form. The Junkman has only two blips on his radar in his last nine events as he finished T64 at THE PLAYERS and was cut at HPBNC. The other seven finishes were all T29 or better and last week’s T3 with a trio of 67s was his best finish since last year’s NTO in February. He ranks second in total putting and that will come in handy this week!
Michael Thompson: With T11, MC and T10 in his last three starts on TOUR, “Slick” should be thrilled to see some greens rollin’ at 13’ this week. He rallied last year from a second round 76 to finish T8 after 70-69 on the weekend in only his second time to Dublin. He seems to play his best golf when par is in play and it doesn’t hurt that he sits 12th in SGP as well. When current form meets course form…
Bill Haas: The good news is that he’s 15 out of 16 this season and only three of those have gone for T34 or worse. The bad news, for gamers, is that his last top 10 was March 9. After chopping it around Muirfield his first seven times (nothing better than T30) he broke out with 68-67 last year before cooling 76-71 to finish T4. I wouldn’t over-reach for him this week but his last two outings on TOUR have been T26 and T21 so it’s heading in the right direction after getting comfy without his brother Jay, Jr. on the bag.
Ryan Moore: With three top 10s in eight tries, including a solo second in 2011, Moore just missed out above because of his form entering the week. He has found a 66, 67 and 68 in his last three outings but those ended T18, T26 and MC. Trending the wrong direction, sadly. His accuracy off the tee won’t be a huge advantage this week but sitting eighth place in GIR won’t hurt. His short game will be the deciding factor because we know his eye fits what Jack has designed.
Jason Dufner: I can connect the dots to Kenny Perry, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk as guys who have had successes at Colonial and Memorial. Dufner’s P2 last week kicked a T48-T48 run to the curb so I’m intrigued to see how his ball-striking holds up again this week on a course where he’s 0-2 with all four rounds over par. He’s putted slick greens well at PGA Championships and he’ll have plenty of chances this week with as many greens as he will hit.
Hideki Matsuyama: Now that his wrist/back/leg/ear/nose or whatever has healed, he looks to be rounding back into the form that we all witnessed last year. His last three have seen him improve each week from T38 to T23 to T10 last week as he shared the 54-hole lead at Colonial. His 64 on Saturday was one of the best rounds of the week as well. He’s ranked 100 or better in fairways, greens and putting but he somehow is 25th in scoring average and the all-around.
David Hearn: An excellent putter, Hearn has rounded out his game by finding fairways and greens as well. His last four on TOUR have seen him play 16 rounds and only TWO of them are over par. In eight rounds at Jack’s place, he’s put five of them below par with finishes of T25 and T21. He was one of the gang to shoot 66 on Sunday at Colonial so he comes in all systems go!
K.J. Choi: He’ll be tempting this week for gamers because he’s posted nine top 25s, including his 2007 win, in 14 trips in Dublin. I’m tempted to be one of them after he closed with 65 at THE PLAYERS his last time out to finish T13 plus he added T3 in his native Korea. That was his first T31 or better in six starts so I’m going to keep him right here until I see some more consistency.
Mat Jones: He backed up his first win on TOUR with MC at Augusta and WFC but was right in the hunt at THE PLAYERS before a Sunday 74 knocked him into T17. He put three of four rounds in at par or better last weekend but a 73 on Sunday sank his chances of a decent finish. So six of his last eight rounds have been at par or better, including five under par, so I’m encouraged. It doesn’t hurt that he was T6 here last year either with all four rounds at par or better.
Russell Knox: He’s been a steady force for almost a year because of his excellent ball-striking and scrambling. While not the greatest putter he’s still found a way to be 15th in scoring average this season. He leads the TOUR in proximity to the hole so that will come in handy this week. Remember that first-timers around here could struggle but I wouldn’t negate him completely this week.
Russell Henley: The roller coaster continues its ups and downs with the second year player from Georgia. After missing the cut in consecutive events with nothing better than 73, Henley opened with 65 and closed with 66 at Sawgrass with 71-80 sandwiched in the middle. Last year in his first attempt at Muirfield Village he opened 67-77 before closing 70-69 to finish T6. TRY TIMING THOSE ROUNDS IN THE YAHOO GAME, O!!! I’m on board this week because his putter will be the difference.
Daniel Summerhays: He has wonderful splits with GIR (61st) and SGP (19TH) but hasn’t had anything inside of the top 20 in his last four. He racked up T4 here in 2012 but that sandwiched a T63 and MC last year. If he puts together four rounds this week instead of his usual three, he could be of value.
Carlos Ortiz: He has 18 rounds in the 60s of the 32 rounds he’s played on the Web.com Tour since February. In that stretch, he’s actually been cut once but only has three rounds over par. He’s also won twice and been third twice. And just for good measure pitched in a T9 as well so that’s five top 10s in eight weekends. His worst finish of the year was last week where he finished T37 after opening with 64. Hot golf is hot golf. The North Texas alum is fourth on the Web.com in putting and third in scrambling. #flierflierpantsonflier
Horses for Courses/Long Shots
Stewart Cink: He’s 16 for his last 16 and 17 for 18 all time on this layout. He has six top 10s and hasn’t finished outside of the top 30 since 2005. It doesn’t hurt that he’s also made six consecutive weekends in a row on TOUR.
Scott Stallings: He’s MC in seven of his last eight on TOUR and his only finish is T65 but Stallings has racked up T20, T25 and T4 in his only three trips to Muirfield. He’s only made six of 17 cuts this year and his win at Torrey Pines is his only top 10 and top 25 so be careful!
Rory Sabbatini: He’s in this category this week because his recent form has cooled off. After a T9, T17, T8 streak Sabbatini has rattled off T38, T45 and MC in his last three so he’s looking to bounce back on a track he loves. After MC in his first try, he’s rattled off seven straight weekends and the last five of those have been T18 or better. His last start in 2012 he was runner up to Tiger Woods.
Bo Van Pelt: He backed his T26 at THE PLAYERS with 67-68 to open at CPIC last week to finish T14 so it looks like Van Pelt is rounding back in the proper direction. Colonial, like Memorial this week, is a course where BVP has had past successes. This will be his 11th start in a row in Dublin and he’s played nine weekends. His worst finish is T46 and seven of his nine weekends have resulted in T23 or better. #giddyup
Hunter Mahan: He showed signs of life last week opening with 66 at Colonial before fading to T60. Sigh. Most gamers had pegged the former Ok State Cowboy for a big season but a hip/back injury has really slowed him down. He might be a steal in deep drafts as he’s finished T13, T19 and T16 the last three times around Jack’s place. High risk and potentially high reward is the forecast this week.
Brian Davis: He probably should have been in the “just missed” part of the column as he finished T11 at THE PLAYERS and T14 at Colonial last week. He’s a precision driver of the golf ball and his short game is very solid. It’s no wonder why he’s been T18, T25 and T8 in his last three here.
Pat Perez: Nothing outside of the top 30 in his last five at Muirfield Village and that includes T8 last year. He enters the week on six consecutive rounds of par or better in Dublin and has played 14 of the last 15 weekends on TOUR.
Bubba Watson: In eight consecutive starts his best finish is T23, twice.
Keegan Bradley: His only round under par in three tries is 71. He’s MC, MC and T50 last year. Save him for a track where he has had a better record in this deep field.
Jason Day: The Columbus resident returns to action this week after a nagging thumb injury shorted his early spring. As usual, I’ll let the injured get their feet wet before hopping back on board. I’ll also be patient because Day has never fared better than T27 in five tries. No member’s bounce here yet!
The Man with his Own Section
Phil Mickelson: He opened with 79 and cell phones ringing the last time he was here and WD citing mental fatigue. He’s not hit the top 10 since I can’t remember when. He’s either He’s only played six of the last 12 Memorials so this is hardly a track he loves. Save him for TPC Southwind if burning a start before Pinehurst is the strategy.
Jordan Spieth of the Week Last Week
The column was taken over and thrashed by the kid from Texas last year. Out of respect, I’m not changing the title of it for 2013-14. It will remind me just how good Spieth was in the last three months of the season. This year, we’ll still identify an up-and-coming player and/or rookie that fantasy players should have on their radar.
CIMB: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 24, might have enough money after this week to earn Special Temporary Membership. Pay attention!
McGladrey: Scott Langley turned 24 last April and is in his second season on TOUR. He finished T22 last week and No. 124 last season. #slimpickinngsthisweek
OHL Mayakoba: Harris English turned 24 last July. He won.
HTOC: Er, Jordan Spieth, solo second.
Humana: Patrick Reed won. He’s 23. You need to pay attention.
FIO: Ryo Ishikawa, 22, bagged another top 10 finish. That’s his sixth in his last 10 events on TOUR or the Web.com Tour. He’s an alternate this week as of Monday afternoon.
WMPO: Hideki Matsuyama is 21. In 11 events the last two years, he’s hit the top 25 in NINE of them, including T4 last week. #ALLRIGHTYTHEN
Riviera: Harris English won’t be 25 until July. He was T10; Spieth was T12.
WGC-CC: Patrick Reed is 23. He’s now won three times in eight months on TOUR.
Puerto Rico Open: Rookie Chesson Hadley, 26, took home his first title on the big boy circuit.
API: The young Japanese lad Ishikawa racked up another top 10 (T8) this week. Yep, he’s still just 22.
Valero: He’ll be remembered for all of the wrong reasons but Andrew Loupe, 25, finished T4 in only his eighth start on TOUR. #slowgolfclap
Shell Houston: Russell Henley’s T7 shows him heating up before heading back for another crack at Augusta.
Masters: That Jordan Spieth guy was T2.
RBC Heritage: John Huh, T3, is a TOUR winner but is only 23 years old. Remember?
Zurich: The winner was 22-year old Seung-Yul Noh. He fits this column to a T.
Wells Fargo: Defending champ Derek Ernst was T30. He’ll turn 24 on May 15.
THE PLAYERS: That pesky Spieth was tied for the 54-hole lead and finished T4.
HPBNC: T16 was the best the youth could muster with John Huh, who turns 24 on Wednesday.
Coming Later TUESDAY Afternoon
Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game and my One-and-Done feature. Look for it around 5 ET every Tuesday for the rest of the season.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON p.m. ET. We will be breaking down the field at the Memorial and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.