Out of the Rough: The Memorial Tournament (2023)
When you think of picturesque, pristine golf courses, you think of Augusta National and then Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio.
We’re back for another installment of one of the most storied non-majors on the PGA Tour schedule in The Memorial Tournament.
Although an already prestigious event, annually being one of the biggest drawing non-major events of the year, the added element of the elevated event status ensures the World’s best will be on tap this week.
This tournament dates back to 1976 and as previously mentioned, sits upon one of the most breathtaking and visually-appealing backdrops the sport of golf has to offer.
Enough talk, let’s talk some golf!
Success at Muirfield Village is simple. Hit the fairways to avoid the long penal rough, hit pure iron shots and have a strong around-the-green game. Simple enough, right?
It plays as a par 72 at 7,571 yards while featuring 68 sand bunkers and having water in play on 13 of the holes.
Muirfield Village is known for its long rough that is some of the most penal on all of the PGA Tour.
It is nearly impossible to hold the firm, fast and tight Bentgrass greens while hitting from the rough. This adds a massive incentive on hitting the fairway.
It also adds an emphasis to around-the-green play with the inability to hold the green from such positions.
This course also features the longest proximity-to-the-hole from inside 100 yards from the rough and the second lowest going-for-the-green rate of any course in the regular rotation. Additionally, it features the second lowest birdie rate from the rough.
With the need to play from the fairway, players must be precise with their approach shots and hit the necessary landing areas to hold the greens.
Despite the greens being firm and fast, they don’t play hard at all. Actually, Murifield has the third lowest three-putt rate of any regular PGA Tour course and is inside the top five in makes from five feet to ten feet. In 2021, the field made 89-percent of its putts from inside ten feet.
In all Muirfield Village plays more to major conditions than not.
Along with the known long-penal rough, another unique aspect to Muirfield is the fact that all four par-fives are the only holes on the entire course to play at a scoring average below par. Scoring low on these holes is a must for any potential winner.
The greenside sand traps annually result in the longest proximity-to-the-hole lengths of any course on the regular PGA Tour rotation. You combine that with these lightning-fast greens, you have a big focus on those who are among the Tour’s best in sand saves percentage.
With all of this added, Muirfield also sits inside the top five of courses with the lowest scrambling percentage at just 53-percent.
It has been a few seasons since Muirfield had undergone a massive renovation as work began directly following the conclusion of the 2020 Memorial Tournament.
Come 2021, a full 100 yards was added to the course, pushing it to that 7,571 previously mentioned yard mark.
Brand new greens complexes were among the restorations as well.
This week marks the ninth elevated event of the season and we’re back to seeing a field that the inclusion of these elevated events had hoped for.
Although this week is an elevated event, this is also the type of prestigious tournament that the Tour’ best build their schedule around. The $20 million purse does add to that as well.
Each of the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) top six will be in attendance this week in Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele and Viktor Hovland.
Of those who qualify, only Max Homa and Tony Finau of the OWRG top-50 are not in attendance this week.
Again, this is the type of field the PGA Tour was hoping for when implementing these elevated events but due to packed schedules, not all of the World’s best have been together at a non-major since THE PLAYERS.
In all, this is the best Memorial Tournament field we have seen in decades
Billy Horschel returns as the defending champion as he put on a clinic in 2022 in route to a dominating performance.
Other past champions of this event in attendance this week include Cantlay, Rahm, Jason Dufner, William McGrit, David Lingmerth, Hideki Matsuyama, Matt Kuchar and Justin Rose.
Nine golfers in this week’s field - Cantlay, Si Woo Kim, Rahm, Rickie Fowler, Kevin Streelman, Jordan Spieth, Schauffele, Matsuyama and Hotschel - have multiple top 15 finishes over the last five years here.
Seventeen players have not missed the cut in at least three appearances at this event over the last five years. Those names include Cantlasy, Streelman, Kim, Adam Scott, Corey Conners, Chris Kirk, Lucas Glover, Hovland, CT Pan, KH Lee and Joel Dahmen.
Course history is important here this week.
Although the weather can be unpredictable in central Ohio, this week looks to be ideal for some golf. There is currently next to no chance of rain from Thursday through Sunday. Temperatures are set to remain in the low 90’s to high 80’s as well. The sun will be shining and we're in line for a great week of golf!
Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)
Strokes Gained: Around the Green (SG: ATG)
Strokes Gained: Off the Tee (SG: OTT) / Hit Fairway Percentage
Strokes Gained Putting on Bentgrass (SG: PUTT Bentgrass)
Greens in Regulation Percentage (GIR%)
Scrambling / Scrambling from the Rough
Par Five Average Scoring
Approach Shots from 175-200 Yards
Sand Saves Percentage
As I said previously in this article, putting here at Muirfield Village is rather straightforward and not all that challenging. With that being said, it should be to no surprise that my favorite this week is Scottie Scheffler ($11,300.) Scheffler is currently tops on the entire Tour in all three of SG: OTT, Bogey Avoidance and GIR%. He is also second in SG: APP, fourth in par five average scoring, sixth in scrambling, eighth in scrambling from the rough, 11th in SG: ATG, 13th in approach shots from 175-200 yards and 20th in hit fairway percentage. All elite numbers there. His downfalls, as usual, are a 146th placement in SG: PUTT Bentgrass and 182nd in sand saves percentage. The sand saves percentage number is a bit worrisome due to the difficulty of the greenside bunkers featured this week but Scheffler brings an elite game to everywhere else. In ten tournaments Scheffler has played on the season, his worst finish has been T12th. Over his last three outings he has gone T3rd at the Charles Schwab Challenge, T2nd at the PGA Championship and T5th at the AT&T Byron Nelson. He has also played this event twice placing T3rd in 2021 and T22nd in 2021. He did not play here a year ago. This feels like an event that Scottie may run away with. A course that requires a very well rounded game without needing a strong putter. His odds are too slim for me to ride any money on him this week but I would not be surprised in the slightest if he won. Also consider Xander Schauffele ($11,200.) Cantlay is the cheapest of the options in this price range which goes a long way for lineup flexibility. He is currently fifth in par five average scoring, sixth in SG: APP, tenth in both GIR% and bogey avoidance, 25th in both scrambling and approach shots from 175-200 yards, 38th in SG: ATG, 42nd in SG: PUTT Bentgrass, 43rd in scrambling from the rough, 45th in sand saves percentage and 47th in SG: OTT. Schauffele is currently well above average in each of the statistical categories we’re taking into consideration this week, except hit fairway percentage. This is a course where a round can be derailed quickly if multiple fairways are missed. Schauffele will have to dial it in this week and make sure he’s finding the fairway more often than not if he wants a chance. Dating back to The Masters, Schauffele has been playing some of the best golf on Tour. He went T10th at The Masters, fourth at the RBC Heritage, second at the Wells Fargo Championship and T18th at the PGA Championship. He has made the cut in four consecutive years at this event where he has gone T18th, T11th, T13th and T14th dating back to 2019. He’s been consistent with his results but has yet to make that step into contention. This could be the year he does that.
Leading off this price range is Sungjae Im ($9,100.) If I’m going to roll out with Scheffler (as I already mentioned I believe he wins this event) I’m going to have to find other areas of lineup flexibility and Im offers just that. At $9,100 he’s positioned at the bottom of this price range. Although Im’s course history here at Muirfield isn’t the greatest, he did place T10th a year ago, proving he can have success at this track. He is on the back of back-to-back missed cuts and that is a bit worrisome and is also part of the reason he’s priced so low this week. However, prior to his consecutive missed cuts, he was on a pretty good run of form. Dating back to THE PLAYERS in March, Im has gone T8th at the Wells Fargo Championship, T7th at the RBC Heritage, T16th at The Masters and T6th at THE PLAYERS. He also has results such as T4th at the Farmers Insurance Open and T6th at the WM Phoenix Open on the season. Im is currently third on tour in par five average scoring, fifth in sand saves percentage, 13th in SG: OTT, 18th in SG: ATG, 21st in both hit fairway percentage and scrambling, 23rd in bogey avoidance, 47th in approach shots from 175-200 yards, 56th in SG: PUTT Bentgrass, 62nd in GIR%, 79th in SG: APP and 105th in scrambling from the rough. In other words, he’s above average in each of the statistical categories we're taking into consideration this week outside of scrambling from the rough where he ranks average. Also consider Jason Day ($9,400.) It’s hard to ignore what Day is doing this season. He did miss the cut last time we saw him at the PGA Championship but prior to that, won at the AT&T Byron Nelson. Additionally, he has eight top 25s, five top tens and two top fives, including his win at TPC Craig Ranch. Included in those results is a fifth at the WM Phoenix Open, T9th at the Genesis Invitational and T10th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, all elevated events. Day has played in this tournament in ten-of-the-past-11 years, highlighted by a T4th in 2020. He has proven results here and is playing some of his best golf of the last decade heading into this week. Day is also second on Tour in both scrambling and bogey avoidance, 17th in GIR%, 20th in both SG: ATG and scrambling from the rough, 22nd in SG: APP, 24th in sand saves percentage, 30th in SG: OTT, 64th in average par five scoring, 71st in hit fairway percentage, 83rd in SG: PUTT Bentgrass and 119th in approach shots from 175-200 yards.
For the second consecutive week, Rickie Fowler ($8,500) pops in our model and is recommended in this article series. Fowler has played this event in each of the last 13 seasons. He has a pair of runner-up finishes here at Muirfield, placing T2nd in 2017 and second in 2010. He also has results such as a T8th in 2018 and T11th in 2021. He knows his way around this venue and has proven that he has what it takes to win here on at least two separate occasions. Fowler is fresh off a T6th at last week’s Charles Schwab Challenge, adding to his list of eight top 20s and three top tens on the season. If we take a look back at some other elevated events on the season, Fowler has placed T10th at the WM Phoenix Open, T20th at the Genesis Invitational, T13th at THE PLAYERS, T15th at the RBC Heritage and T14th at the Wells Fargo Championship, It seems that he shows up for these types of events and this week should be no different. Fowler is also ninth on Tour in SG: APP, 16th in bogey avoidance, 26th in approach shots from 175-200 yards, 29th in scrambling from the rough, 37th in SG: ATG, 39th in GIR%, 40th in scrambling, 50th in SG: PUTT Bentgrass, 52nd in par five average scoring, 67th in SG: OTT, 99th in hit fairway percentage and 127th in sand saves percentage. It’s a matter of time before Fowler is victorious again on the PGA Tour and I don’t see why this week couldn’t be his week to claim his sixth Tour victory. Also consider Si Woo Kim ($8,000.) If you’re looking for a way to save a few dollars in your DFS lineup to spend up on some of the big guys, Kim is your guy. Kim knows his way around this course as well. Over the last three years at The Memorial, he has placed T13th, T9th and T18th. He’s made the cut in his last six appearances here if we exclude his withdrawal in 2017 from this event. Kim has been playing some hit-or-miss golf as of late. He has finished such as T2nd at the AT&T Byron Nelson but also missed the cut at the PGA Championship. He does have a victory on the season already however, winning the Sony Open In Hawaii back in January. He also has made the cut in four-of-the-six elevated events he’s played this season as well as making the cut at The Masters. Kim is currently 11th on Tour in approach shots from 175-200 yards, 12th in hit fairway percentage, 25th in all three of SG: APP, sand saves percentage and scrambling from the rough, 28th in bogey avoidance, 35th in SG: OTT, 37th in scrambling, 64th in GIR%, 78th in SG: ATG, 125th in SG: PUTT Bentgrass and 129th in par five average scoring.
My second favorite to just Scheffler can be found in this price range in Tom Kim ($7,900.) Kim is currently fifth on Tour in both hit fairway percentage and bogey avoidance, eighth in GIR%, 12th in SG: APP, 13th in scrambling, 29th in SG: PUTT Bentgrass, 30th in par five average scoring, 38th in SG: OTT, 54th in SG: ATG, 75th in scrambling from the rough, 102nd in approach shots from 175-200 yards and 117th in sand saves percentage. This will be his debut at Muirfield so there isn’t any course form to go off of. Coming into this event he has made the cut in eight of 11 events he’s played on the calendar year. Also consider Matt Kuchar ($7,500.) Kuchar is the Tour’s best when it comes to all three of SG: ATG, scrambling and sand saves percentage. He is also tenth in par five average scoring, 33rd in scrambling from the rough, 45th in hit fairway percentage, 56th in GIR%, 65th in SG: APP, 138th in SG: PUTT Bentgrass and 142nd in approach shots from 175-200 yards. Kuchar has a proven track record here at Muirfield. He won this event back in 2013 and placed T4th in both 2016 and 2017. Outside of a missed cut at the PGA Championship, Kuchar has made four consecutive cuts. In that run, he placed T3rd at the Valero Texas Open. He also has results such as an eighth on the Genesis Invitationals and T9th at the Sony Open in Hawaii. This is a course that fits Kuchar’s game to a tee as history has proven. The value here is great.
Leading off this price range in Andrew Putnam ($6,400.) If you want to talk about value, Putnam here at $6,400 is the definition. Putnam hasn’t had much in terms of success here at Muirfield, missing the cut in two-of-three seasons and placing T17th in 2019. Putnam placed T29th at last week’s Charles Schwab Challenge. Prior to that he did miss the cut at the PGA Championship and withdrew from the Wells Fargo Championship. Before that however he had a run of three consecutive cuts made. He is currently sixth on Tour in bogey avoidance, ninth in both sand saves percentage and SG: PUTT Bentgrass, 15th in scrambling, 28th in GIR%, 34th in hit fairway percentage, 41st in SG: APP, 43rd in par five average scoring, 81st in SG: ATG, 105th in scrambling from the rough, 143rd in approach shots from 175-200 yards and 180th in SG: OTT. Making the cut in this price range is half the battle and I believe Putnam is in line to do just that this week. Also consider J.J. Spaun ($6,800.) Spaun has played this event two times where he missed the cut both times. The last time we saw Spaun at The Memorial was 2019 however. Spaun has made the cut in three-of-his-last-five events heading into this week. He is currently 11th on Tour in scrambling, 14th in bogey avoidance, 26th in approach shots from 175-200 yards, 30th in sand saves percentage, 48th in GIR%, 57th in hit fairway percentage, 61st in SG: OTT, 66th in scrambling from the rough, 68th in SG: ATG, 83rd in SG: APP, 101st in SG: PUTT Bentgrass and 156th in par five average scoring. We simply need Spaun to make the cut in this price range and I like his chances in doing just that this week.
Xander Schauffele (+1400) - 2u
Jason Day (+2800) - 1u
Sungjae Im (+3500) - 1u
Rickie Fowler (+4000) - 1u
Tom Kim (+6000) - 1u
Si Woo Kim (+6000) - 1u
J.J. Spaun (+27000) - 0.5u
Andrew Putnam (+30000) - 0.5u