The PGA Tour is off to Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio for the Memorial Tournament. Muirfield Village, named by Jack Nicklaus after Muirfield, Scotland, in a town undoubtedly named after Dublin, Ireland, just screams suburb of Columbus, Ohio, doesn’t it? Anyways, Tiger is back so everyone is pretending they like golf for a week and that means DFS prize pools get a nice bump compared to what the regulars are used to. Muirfield is a course that’s relatively open off the tee but has greens that are pretty hard to hit, so good iron play and the ability to scramble and avoid squares on the scorecards will be important. The winning scores every year aren’t very low, so it should be an entertaining weekend for those of us that like a break from the typical birdie-fest events. Here’s a handful of guys I like this week, and if you decide follow along with me we can sweat all the horrible putting together.
Sure Play: Tiger Woods (DK 11,200 / FD 11,700)
Big surprise here, Tiger back on a course that fits his game and he’s won a bunch of times. Not only is this a course that’s got room off the tee, for the most part, to help with some of those wayward tee shots, it heavily favors those with good iron play. There are not many (if any) better in golf with an iron in hand than Tiger, so it’s no surprise he’s got five victories at this tournament along with a handful of other solid finishes. It’s also been noted many times that Tiger prefers events that do not feature low scores but instead favor those that have to grind for four rounds and get in the clubhouse each day somewhere near par. This is an event that typically works that way with many of the top finishers shooting scores in the high 60’s and low 70’s for four rounds. The course record of 61 hasn’t even been pushed much in 10 years, the closest anyone has come was Rory with a 63 back in 2014 and Ricky Barnes with a 62 in 2010. Looking for Tiger to have a big showing this weekend.
Hit or Miss: Justin Rose (DK 10,800 / FD 11,500)
Rose has been pretty much a hit or miss guy throughout the season and now lands at a tournament where he either plays really well or really badly. In his last eight tries at this tournament, he’s got five finishes in the top ten (including a win), but he also has three missed cuts. The last few weeks he hasn’t been playing his best golf and is coming in off a 58th at the Charles Schwab. However, he’s got a win this year and a couple other top ten finishes as well, so he can turn it on at any time. In addition, his long-time caddy Mark “Fooch” Fulcher is off the bag again indefinitely as he recovers from heart surgery, so he’s going at the event with a guy he has a lot less experience with on the bag. Rose is obviously one of the best players in the world and he built that on the back of a very solid ball striking and approach game, so it won’t be surprising to see him as one of the front runners on the weekend, but equally will not be surprising to see him hovering the cut line or missing the cut based on other factors mentioned as well.
Mid-Tier Favorites: Hideki Matsuyama (DK 9,100 / FD 10,700) Gary Woodland (DK 8,800 / FD 10,400) Emiliano Grillo (DK 7,900 / FD 9,700)
Hideki: It doesn’t seem like Hideki gets a lot of credit for how good of a golfer he is, and the DFS sites definitely do not price him into the elite categories especially in stronger fields. We’re getting him at a pretty good discount this week on a course that should fit his game really well. He’s eighth on tour in Shots Gained – Approach and ninth in Scrambling, two statistics I mentioned should prove to be important this weekend. I also like that he hits the ball a long way, which will always be helpful in the approach game by giving shorter approaches, especially on a course that is relatively open off the tee. He won this tournament in 2014 and has another top-five finish as well. He’s been reliable all year as well. He hasn’t missed a cut this season and has only finished outside of the top 25 four times this calendar year. If he can keep from missing too many of the really short putts as he’s been known to do, he should be in contention on Sunday.
Woodland: He’s a guy that plays very similarly to Hideki, and why I like them both this week. Although he’s much more known for being a guy that just crushes the ball off the tee (which I mentioned I liked already with Hideki), he’s an elite ball striker which should be good news for him this week. He’s the number one ball striker statistically on tour, and he’s 23rd in Shots Gained – Approach. He’s got finishes in the top ten at this tournament in the past, and he’s been playing really solid golf all season so far, including coming in off an 8th place finish at The PGA. Again, similar to Hideki, he’s been known to miss some easy putts, but if he can avoid missing too many of those he should set himself up for a top finish as well.
Grillo: He was a very popular play last week because of his course fit and history, but he should be less popular this week since he got priced into a group of guys that all have good history on the course and all will fit most statistical models people will run. Not to mention, Leishman, Kisner, Glover, and even Stanley to an extent are probably just more well-known names and I’d argue that plays a role in some sway in ownership as well. I think Grillo is the standout choice in that group of names though because of his ball-striking and iron play. He’s tenth on tour in Shots Gained – Approach and eighth in Ball Striking. He’s made the cut the last three years, including 23rd last year and 11th three years ago. He hasn’t missed a cut since the end of February and has just been rock solid all season. Looking for that to continue for another week.
Value Plays: Ryan Moore (DK 7,300 / FD 9,600) Russell Knox (DK 7,100 / FD 8,800) Corey Conners (DK 6,900 / FD 8,500)
Moore: He’s not coming in with the greatest form, but I think he’s been battling through some courses that were not well suited for the type of game he plays. Moore is a solid iron player but doesn’t have a ton of power, which I think you needed to do well the last few events he’s played in. Lucky for him, he’s back to a course that should favor his iron play, and he’s got a good track record at this tournament to prove it. He finished 13th last year and has a handful of other finishes at this tournament in the top 20 and top 10. Maybe more importantly around this price, he’s only missed the cut twice in his career at this tournament, which is pretty impressive considering the strength of the field that is invited for Jack Nicklaus’ tournament.
Knox: Riding the Russell Knox wave for another week of ball striking and iron play, although he doesn’t have nearly as good of a record here as he did last week. However, he did finish eighth last week so he’s coming in playing well and he’s made the cut at this event four years in a row, which again, is impressive considering the typical strength of the field. He’s now 20th on tour in Shots Gained – Approach and up to 30th in Ball Striking, both increasing from last week. He’ll fall into the same category as most of the other guys I wrote about earlier as not a great putter, but hopefully, he can keep it together for another week.
Conners: Another important ball-striking week, another week to roll with Conners. He’s 11th in Shots Gained – Approach, sixth in Ball Striking, 5th in Greens in Regulation, and still 1st in Proximity to the Hole on tour. He didn’t have quite the showing everyone expected last week, but that doesn’t mean he won’t or can’t show out this week. His recent game logs don’t look great, but it’s also hard to look past a guy that has a recent victory whose game fits the course.