When a tournament features Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day, each of whom come into it on the back of an event win, it would be easy to sit back, relax and enjoy as a three-way duel ensues.
That’s the case here at the Memorial Tournament this week, where Spieth – fresh from his weekend win at the Dean & Deluca Invitational – battles McIlroy (Irish Open champion) and Day (Players Championship winner) in an event that has achieved almost major-like status given the quality of field on show.
But there are chinks in the armour of that trio: Spieth’s triumph was his first on his native Texan soil, so he can rightfully be forgiven for being in ‘celebration mode’ this week. Leicester City have won a Premier League title in the time it has taken McIlroy to finally break his tournament drought, while Day’s best finish in this event in six attempts is 27th. We simply cannot afford to ignore the chasing pack here.
Who Else is Playing?
The Memorial Tournament entry list reads like a who’s who of world golf. We’ve got Hideki Matsuyama, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson all here, plus the in-form Matt Kuchar and the multi-time major winner Phil Mickelson.
The reigning (and surprise) champion David Lingmerth will attempt to retain his crown, while Patrick Reed will be looking to translate his recent good form into silverware. Youngsters Daniel Berger, Kevin Chappell and Justin Thomas will also be looking to make a name for themselves.
There’s even a strong Asian/European contingent here too, with Byeong-Hun An, Paul Casey and Luke Donald the obvious standouts.
Muirfield Village Golf Club, Dublin, Ohio
Yes, this course name is confusing given that it includes a Scottish club and an Irish city in its name, but apparently course designer Jack Nicklaus was so taken by Scotland’s Muirfield that he decided to name an American course after it’s green and rolling landscapes.
This is a tight course that takes no prisoners, so straying from the short stuff is an absolute no-no. Hence, we’re looking for accurate players rather than power-hitters here. It’s not a particularly long stretch so we can ditch any notion of long drivers being en vogue in Ohio; instead it is those iron merchants and short game specialists that should come into their own.
It could turn into something of a birdie fest if inclement conditions are agreeable, with the myriad of par 4s offering plenty of low-scoring opportunities for those who are savvy in their approach.
Our Betting Tips
Hideki Matsuyama (16/1)
This young star is a really sound short game player, and that ability is reflected in his two starts at the Memorial: he won here in 2014, and defended his crown with honour 12 months later in finishing fifth.
It won’t have escaped many people’s attention that he hasn’t finished outside of the top 20 in his last five starts – three of those being ‘in the money’ – so we’ve no need to worry about Matsuyama’s ability to get the job done in such illustrious company.
As mentioned, we’re looking for selections this week who can manoeuvre the ball about with great skill and precision, and few are better than that than Matsuyama: he ranks in the top 20 on tour for three key metrics; birdie average (second), strokes gained: tee-to-green (fifth) and greens in regulation (eleventh).
Daniel Berger (50/1)
Given that he missed the cut on his one appearance at Muirfield to date, there’s no surprise to see that Berger is available at around the 50/1 mark for this jolly. But be under no illusions: this is a young man who’s game has improved significantly in the past 12 months.
You can see that in the versatility he is showing: he bagged a top 10 finish in The Masters in tough conditions a few months ago, and he’s gone blow-for-blow with the leaders in birdie-fests at the Shell Houston Open and the Players Championship since then. All in all, his string of form reads 5-10-20-17-9 since the start of April; highlighting his adaptability to new surroundings.
The 22-year-old has already got nine career top-ten finishes to his name, and he is slowly but surely closing in on his first title. Could this be the week?
Chris Kirk (70/1)
One man whose game is a perfect fit for Muirfield is Chris Kirk. His laser-like iron play was reflected in his fourth place finish here in 2014, and three cuts made in four appearances belies that rather inflated price – not that we’re complaining!
Kirk comes here in great form – he’s accrued six top-20 finishes in his last seven outings, and so on a track that suits his natural neat-and-tidy game surely he’ll be in contention once again.
Nobody in the world is better at approach shots from 100-125 yards (he ranks first on tour for that stat), and given that Muirfield is a pretty short course that skill is going to come in rather handy this weekend.