Inside the Ropes
The Memorial Tournament
Muirfield Village Golf Club Dublin, Ohio
Muirfield Village Golf Club
Yards: 7,352 as per the scorecard
Par: 72 (36-36)
Average green size: 5,000 square feet
Stimpmeter: 13 ft.
Water Hazards: 13
Course Architect: Jack Nicklaus and Desmond Muirhead (1974)
Notes: Bentgrass/Poa annua fairways; Bentgrass greens; Kentucky bluegrass, fescue, ryegrass rough.
Winner’s Share: $1,116,000 and 500 FedExCup Points
Defending Champion: Steve Stricker held off Matt Kuchar and Brandt Jobe by one shot to win his first Memorial. At the time it was Stricker’s 10th-career victory on TOUR. He added number 11 at HTOC to kick off 2012.
Date: May 31-June 3
Notes: Roger Maltbie won the inaugural Memorial in 1976
Only Roger Maltbie (1976) has won the Memorial in his first appearance (inaugural event).
Only Keith Fergus (1981), Kenny Perry (1991), and Tom Lehman (1994) have made the Memorial their first-career win.
In 36 previous tournaments only seven players over the age of 40 have won the tournament including Steve Stricker last year.
As of Monday 32 of the top 50 players from the OWGR are entered in the field this week.
The 54-hole leader has won 17 of the 36 times at Memorial. As we’ve seen this year, the 54-hole lead has been more of a curse than a blessing. The 54-hole leader has only won nine times in 23 events this year on TOUR.
Young Guns versus Old Guns
In 23 tournaments in 2012 the “Young” versus “Old” has seen the “Middle” take over as Zach Johnson hits the board for the not-too-old and not-too-young. The “Middle” guys now have the lead versus “Young” guys 11-10 while the “Old” folks have two wins.
For the “Young”, in order of victory on the calendar, Johnson Wagner (31), Brandt Snedeker (31), Kyle Stanley (24), Bill Haas (29), John Huh (21), Hunter Mahan (29 at the time of his TWO wins), Rory McIlroy (now 23), Justin Rose (31) and Rickie Fowler (23) have cashed.
The “Middle” now has victories from Mark Wilson (37), George McNeill (36), Luke Donald (34), Tiger Woods (36), Bubba Watson (33), Carl Pettersson (34), Ben Curtis (34), Matt Kuchar (33), Jason Dufner (35) TWICE and now Zach Johnson (36) forces them into the season-long lead.
The “Old” guys that have hoisted the trophy are Steve Stricker (44) and Phil Mickelson (41). Stricker is the defending champ this week but as we read above the “over 40” crowd has only seven wins in 36 previous outcomes at Muirfield Village.
So What? So Let’s Dance!
Muirfield Village Golf Club was the dream of Jack Nicklaus. According to thememorialtournament.com:
Jack Nicklaus always said that the Columbus and Dublin areas represent the confluence of his personal and professional life. Columbus is where he was born and raised, where he started his own family, and where a legendary golf game got its start and was nurtured.
For years, it was Jack's vision to create a golf club that embodied his personal and professional life, and would forever stand as a representation of his love and respect for the game of golf. It was also his vision to create a golf tournament that would long represent his passion for tournament golf, and would give back to a community that has embraced him and the game.
One man's dreams became a community reality in May of 1976, with the first playing of the Memorial Tournament. This came two years to the day after the doors were opened and the first shots played at Muirfield Village Golf Club. The canvas on which all of this was created is where you stand today - on land once walked by Jack when he was a small boy.
Jack saw this site as the perfect backdrop for his dreams to play out.
First and foremost, Jack wanted to design a golf course that would challenge the world's best players, but at the same time, provide a local, national, and international membership years of enjoyment in a truly spectacular setting.
Jack then became a pioneer, designing the first course in the world, from its inception, that was created with the spectator in mind. His creative use of "mounds" and "amphitheaters" became a model for tournament courses around the globe.
When Jack turned his attention to the tournament that would call Muirfield Village Golf Club its home, he had in mind what many have called Jack's second home - Augusta National Golf Club. During Masters Week in 1966, Jack spoke of his desire to create a tournament that, like the Masters, had a global interest, but was inspired by the history and traditions of the game of golf.
Nicklaus wanted this tournament to replicate the Masters in interest world-wide and in the way golf is played. Generous fairways are welcomed by slick, tough greens so iron play at putting will be at a premium this week. Birdies will also be necessary to take home the victory as the winning score hovers around 14-under-par over the last 10 years. I agree with Nicklaus, it’s more fun to watch people win golf tournaments than play not to lose them. It’s great theatre when guys have to make birdies coming down the stretch to either catch the opponent or to pass them to win.
The Memorial ranked 19th out of 51 courses on Tour as most difficult in 2011, which includes the four majors.
The finest five in honor of the man who is hosting this week
Rickie Fowler: Fowler has been one of the hottest golfers in the last month or so and he has had solid appearances at Memorial. In the last four outings Fowler has racked up a WIN (WFC), T2 (THE PLAYERS), T5 (CPIC) and T10 (Zurich) so he meets the “form” criteria to a “T”. He’s played the Memorial twice finishing T22 last year and second in 2010. He destroys par-fives (7th on TOUR) and is fifth in par-three performance. Fowler is also 16th in GIR so that will help offset his average putting numbers. His recent form plus his solid history at this course puts him highest on my list this week.
Jim Furyk: The 2002 champion at the Memorial missed the cut here last year for the first time in 16 starts. In his 15 finishes he’s hit the top 10 six times so Furyk obviously likes this set-up. Furyk’s last four outings on TOUR have seen him finish fourth last week at CPIC, T25 (THE PLAYERS), T26 (WFC) and T8 (RBC Heritage). Furyk led the field in GIR last week at Colonial. His last three starts here he was MC, T10 and second. His recent form combined with his history at Muirfield Village makes him an easy addition this week especially after I had him on top last week!
Justin Rose: The 2010 champion has also put together a stellar four-tournament run in his last four outings. Rose fought Luke Donald for 63 holes before settling for T2 last week at the BMW PGA at Wentworth outside of London on the European Tour. His T51 at THE PLAYERS overshadowed his T10 at Zurich and his T8 at the Masters. Rose is one of the best ball-strikers on TOUR and his iron play will be his advantage this week. If his iron game is not top notch, Rose is also 14th in scrambling, another advantage. In Rose’s last four starts at Muirfield Village he’s finished MC, WIN, MC and T2. I’m sold.
Luke Donald: Good-news, bad-news this week for the world No. 1. No player in 2012 has won while being ranked first in the OWGR or the Sagarin Golf Rankings (thanks Lance!). It’s impossible to argue Donald’s recent form as he’s finished WIN (BMW), sixth (THE PLAYERS) and third at Zurich to offset his mid-30 finishes in the two tournaments leading into that streak. In four starts at Memorial, Donald finished T7 last year, DNS, T14, T6 and T35. Donald is first on TOUR in scrambling and has made 16 consecutive cuts.
Tiger Woods: Here we go again. To rate or not to rate; that is the question. This week I like Woods because the bigger the fairway, the more room for error for the club that might give him the most trouble. We saw this take place at API at Bay Hill where generous fairways allowed Woods to worry more about his approaches into greens. I doubt we will ever see the Woods of earlier years but if he starts holing putts, watch out. As much as made about Woods’ game, I’m quite sure he can still play but at which level during which week has definitely made things more interesting. He has registered seven top 10’s in 12 events here and that record is miles better than THE PLAYERS and even Quail Hollow. If Woods is going to get back in the winner’s circle, this week would make sense.
The Next 13
Why 13? When you add the finest five to the next 13 you get 18. As in 18 majors, best all-time.
Rory McIlroy: After his play at THE PLAYERS we now see why he might have left it off his schedule in 2011. After his play last week at Wentworth, we started wondering why he’s missed consecutive cuts. Two factors for me: He’s young and he’s learning. The last time he missed consecutive cuts he landed in Charlotte and destroyed Quail Hollow on Sunday to the tune of 62 as he ran away with the WFC or whatever it was called back in 2010. Did I mention he turned 21 during that tournament? Well, he did, and he’s just 23 now. Now comes the time to balance the celebrity life, practicing, traveling, and winning tournaments. Sounds like a challenge that McIlroy should embrace. In his only two starts at Memorial he’s finished fifth last year and T9 in 2010.
Bubba Watson: Watson is coming off his “worst” start of 2012 with a T18 finish at Zurich at the end of April. His “worst” start consisted of four rounds under-par and he played the weekend in nine-under. Watson took time off in May to spend time with his family so that tells me he should be in a great place when he tees it up this week for the first time in a month. Usually I am a little skeptical when a guy comes back from a long lay-off but Watson, at this course, is the exception to this rule. His previous six outings at Muirfield Village have produced five cuts-made in six tries yet his best finish is only T23 twice. If this track was designed to resemble Augusta, Watson should feel right at home.
Webb Simpson: The weakest part of Simpson’s game is his accuracy off the tee and that shouldn’t be a factor this week with the fairways at Muirfield Village. Simpson is a birdie-machine when it comes to birdie or better percentages as he’s fourth on par-threes, fifth on par-fours and 26th on par-fives. Simpson ranks 18th GIR and is 27th in total putting so I believe he’ll have some fun this week as he looks to improve on last year’s T7. Before he was MC at THE PLAYERS, Simpson finished fourth at WFC and was T13 at Zurich. This week you need birdies and Simpson has no problem racking them up.
Phil Mickelson: Coming off his best finish (T7 HP) since his T3 at the Masters, Mickelson’s focus is hopefully on winning the biggest domestic title, outside of a U.S. Open, that he’s yet to capture. Or he could be answering questions on why he is joining a group of investors to buy the San Diego Padres. As is life with Mickelson, nothing seems to stay static. In the fantasy world, I opined at HP that he would make a stand as we rarely see Mickelson have three sub-par performances in a row. He did. In preparation for Olympic Club I would think he will be firing on most cylinders this week like he has in his two previous appearances at Muirfield Village as he finished T13 last year and T5 in 2010. There’s no question any time that he tees it up he could contend but for gamers, this might not be the course to burn him.
Bo Van Pelt: Van Pelt keeps hanging around these columns and he continues to deliver top 25’s. In 12 events he’s played in 2012 he’s hit the top 10 in five of them and has added another two finishes in the top 25. If you’re looking for a consistent “fill guy” to rack up some points/earnings, Van Pelt is another solid choice this week. After WD from WFC with a wrist injury, Van Pelt rebounded with T7 at THE PLAYERS and T19 last week at CPIC. Closing with 39 last Sunday knocked him out of another top 10 finish in 2012 but he makes plenty of birdies (11th on TOUR on average) and is 13th in total putting.
Steve Stricker: The defending champion might be bit farther down the list than expected but I have had a tough time getting a handle on Stricker in 2012. After his reported neck/back/shoulder issues before and after his win to open the season at HTOC, Stricker’s results have been up and down from a fantasy perspective. After playing the opening two weeks in Hawaii, Stricker took almost a month off before landing back-to-back top 10’s at the WGC events. He followed those two events with two more weeks off before posting T36 (SHO) and T47 (the Masters). Two more weeks off saw him land in the top 10 with a sixth-place finish at Zurich. And then the streak came to an end with MC at THE PLAYERS. Here we are two weeks after that and he’s ready to defend. Stricker’s birdie or better conversion is excellent but it’s been his normally-trusty putter that has been up-and-down recently. He likes Muirfield Village as his last three starts have been WIN, T17 and T27. That’s excellent but not automatic in the fantasy world. Everyone and their mother are saving him for the John Deere. Wouldn’t you?
Jonas Blixt: Welcome back, Jonas! After rewarding my faith in your last week, I will hop on your Volvo and be dragged along as far as you can take me, including this week at Memorial. Sure, young guys never win here but the way he’s been playing lately just a form top 15 would be par for the course. Blixt is an excellent putter who also struggles with keeping his tee ball on the fairways so I think he’ll be excited to see the set-up here in Middle America. Blixt is on a run of four-consecutive tournaments finishing inside of the top 13. That will get you on the list almost every time!
Keegan Bradley: In his five events since his T4 at SHO Bradley has failed to finish better than T24 (HP) and has MC twice. The player ranked first in the all-around category on TOUR should be ready to head back up the leaderboard this week. Bradley crushes par-fives and par-threes and is birdie-making machine. He should be able to fire away this week and get his game back into shape to where it was at this point last summer as a rookie.
Jonathan Byrd: Known as “The Cafeteria Man” in my neck of the woods, Byrd has been quietly banging home top 10’s in 2012 with four in 12 starts. The Clemson grad is on a bit of a hot-streak finishing with T10 (CPIC), T12 (THE PLAYERS) and T9 (WFC) in his last three events. In his last five events at Memorial, Byrd has been feast or famine (sounds like WFC, right?), with T7, MC, T3, MC and MC. He’s a no-brainer for selection in deep drafts this week.
Branden Grace: The South African has been tearing up the European Tour in 2012 and deserves mention in this column. Sure, he’s not fighting off Jason Dufner or Zach Johnson every week across the pond but his play has been right up there with the best of them. He’s currently fourth in the “Race to Dubai” (a.k.a. the European Tour’s FedExCup Standings) as he has three wins and was fifth last week at the BMW PGA at Wentworth. He’s made 11 of 13 cuts this season and should be on your radar as the golf season hits the halfway point. He’s worth a punt in deeper-draft fields.
Geoff Ogilvy: The Aussie keeps his spot in the column this week after another solid T19 finish last week at CPIC. Ogilvy has now made nine-straight cuts in a row (all WGC events count as “cut-made”) with five finishes in the top 25 and his worse start being T45 (Zurich). His recent history at Muirfield has been above average as well. In his last four starts (DNS 2011), Ogilvy has finished T41, T10, ninth and T9. Ogilvy is a superb long-iron player and that will come in handy to tame the par-fives this week. I’m on board.
Ryan Moore: His solid recent play combined with his previous results at Muirfield Village brings Moore to the list this week. Since MC at TC Moore has rattled off six-straight weekend appearances which include three finishes in the top eight. Moore also enjoys the track here as he’s hit the top ten three times in the six events he has played at the Memorial with his best finish being second place in 2007. He’s definitely worth a look this week.
Ben Curtis: It came down to the Ohio-native or the hot rookie, John Huh, for this final spot and I went with the veteran. Curtis cooled his jets across the pond last week at the BMW PGA on the European Tour as his 81 on Saturday killed any chances of seeing him contend. In nine events at the Memorial, Curtis has made in the cut seven times, including six for his last six. In his last two appearances Curtis finished T13 and T28. I’m going with wisdom and course knowledge over youthful exuberance. It doesn’t hurt either that Curtis’s last four results on TOUR have resulted in a win, T2, T5 and T13.
Mark Wilson: Since his blistering start to the season Wilson has cooled off with only one top 25 in his last nine starts (T24 RBC Heritage). Wilson should wake up this week as Memorial has been kind to him in his last three starts with finishes of T7, MC and T3. His recent form is trumped by his “horse-for-course-ness”. Anyone ranked as high as Wilson who hasn’t had a top 10 finish since the end of February counts as a dark horse in my book.
Brandt Jobe: Stretching a bit with this pick but that’s what long-shots are made of, right? Jobe has finished T2 (2011) and T4 (2006) in his last two starts at the Memorial. That’s an impressive stat just based on the field that shows up to the event and that he also did it six years apart. Jobe’s game is heading in the right direction in the last few weeks as he has finished T49 (HP) and T41 (CPIC). He would make an excellent late-round pick up in any deep, weekly leagues.
Chris Kirk: Stretching a bit more with this selection but I always will give a sniff to the guy who has the lowest round on Sunday from the previous week and Kirk was that guy at CPIC with 65. In the last three outings on TOUR, Kirk has finished T57, T51 and T5 last week. He’ only made one appearance at the Memorial and was MC last year.
Kyle Reifers: The Columbus, Ohio native has made six cuts in a row including his season-best finish T13 last week at Colonial. He’s in the top 30 on TOUR in par-five performance and that will come in handy this week as he looks to keep his momentum heading in the right direction.
Ricky Barnes: It seems like Barnes is on this list every-other-week due to his past-performances at most stops on Tour. Barnes is on this list, and not the list above, every-other-week because of his 2012 performances. In 2012, Barnes has played 15 events, made 10 cuts and finished in the top 25 once, T3 at Pebble Beach. His last two times at Memorial he’s finished T18 and T3. I believe he would chew off his pinky toe this week for either one of those results.
Five Left Out
Remember, these are guys who you usually have to spend big bucks to draft and their recent results or history at this event might make you think twice before pulling the trigger.
Nick Watney: I thought this season would be another step in bringing Watney to the forefront of the young, American golfer movement after his two-win, one-second place finishes in 2011. Unfortunately he has become a casual bystander and those fantasy players who invested in him to begin 2012 can back me up on this. Sure, he’s made 12 of 13 cuts but he only has one top 10 finish in a full-field stroke-play event, T8 at WFC. He’s failed to break par in his last six rounds on TOUR and with 14-under being the average winning score, I don’t see “this week” as being the week that Watney breaks out of his funk.
Bill Haas: Another premium young player who has spent some time on this list this season but at least Haas has a WIN (NTO) and a T4 (FIO) in the early part of the season to hang his hat on in 2012. Since Haas’ victory in February, he has hit the top 25 exactly once in eight events. I point this out because of Haas’ perceived value in weekly games. I wouldn’t write him off completely but I wouldn’t risk early draft position to guess this week will be the week that he finally snaps back into the top 10. This field is too deep and there are plenty of guys who are playing much better RIGHT NOW. Don’t let Haas’ season-long numbers (Win, FedExCup standing) influence you THIS week unless you believe you are the streak-breaker. I tried to be the “streak-breaker” after his 25th at THE PLAYERS. His best finish in six events at Memorial is T30. That doesn’t help matters much either.
K.J. Choi: The 2007 champion has three finishes inside the top 10 in 12 career starts at Muirfield Village. That’s the good news. The bad news is Choi, in 11 starts in 2012, has hit the top 25 twice and they were in his first three events of the season. In his last four events on TOUR, Choi MC (Masters), MC (VTO), T39 (Zurich) and CUT (THE PLAYERS). Again, no thanks unless he’s a value pick in the later rounds.
Brandt Snedeker: Two “Brandts”, one column. That has to be a record of some sorts. Snedeker, similar to Haas, found his successes in 2012 at the beginning of his season with T8, WIN and T9 in three of his first five events coming off of off-season hip surgery. Since his victory, Snedeker has made five of six cuts but his best finishes are T19 (Masters) and T17 (RBC Heritage). He MC the last time he teed it up three weeks ago at THE PLAYERS. I’m surprised Snedeker is in the field this week as he has not made the cut here in four previous attempts.
Dustin Johnson: A long lay-off that hopefully corrected his back and knee problems that were giving him problems in the year, I’ll take a pass on Johnson this week. After his WD at Humana, Johnson came back with T43 and T61 in his first two events before hitting the top 5 at Pebble Beach and Riviera. This field, again, is too deep to have to pick Johnson early and hope his game is ready to go. This week will be an interesting look to see where his game is moving into the busy time of the schedule. I would add Steve Marino to this list as well but I don’ t think anyone will be digging that deep this week.
Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge: the Memorial Tournament (Glass’s Picks)
Group 1: Rickie Fowler
Group 2: Jim Furyk
Group 3: Jonas Blixt
Group 4: Kyle Reifers
Ned said, “…
Ned Brown is a long-time contributor for Rotoworld Golf. He’s had documented success in Yahoo!’s game for years. Even if you’re confident in your selections for that game, give his insight a read. Now, Ned also provides us with his Golf Channel fantasy game selections as well!
Full Disclosure: I am NOT Ned! He’s smarter and better looking!
Jim Furyk-- There are 16 weeks left of the Yahoo! game and I'm going to try to save a start on Luke Donald and Phil Mickelson. Jim Furyk finished in fourth place last week at Colonial and he has six top-10s in 16 career starts, including a championship in '02.
Steve Stricker-- Stricker has played a very light schedule this year and as a result I have a start to use this week. He did miss his first cut of the season at THE PLAYERS, but outside of that he has played well this season. He is the defending champion at the Memorial and his past history beyond last year is solid.
Luke Donald, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Webb Simpson
Rory McIlroy-- I'm going with him because he has two top-10s in as many starts at the Memorial. I can see where some fantasy players would be turned off of him because he has missed the cut in his last two worldwide starts.
Justin Rose-- Already a winner on this year's TOUR, I thought he looked great last week at the BMW PGA Championship, where he tied for second place. His history at the Memorial is strong with three top-10s in seven starts, including a championship in '10.
Tiger Woods-- Normally, you would just set and forget Woods as a pick this week, however after a win at Bay Hill he has managed only a pair of T-40s and a missed cut. I'm taking him this week based on his four championships here, but he is a risky pick.
Rickie Fowler-- Fowler has a streak going of four top-10 results, including a championship at the Wells Fargo. He did finish in solo second at the '10 Memorial, which sets him up a a very popular pick this week.
Bo Van Pelt, Ernie Els, Bubba Watson, Jason Day, Ryan Moore, Geoff Ogilvy
Ben Curtis-- Curtis was one of the hottest golfers on the TOUR before he tied for 68th place last week at the BMW PGA Championship in England. I'm looking for him to rebound this week at the Memorial.
Jonathan Byrd-- Byrd has been on roll in recent weeks with three consecutive top-13s. His recent history here has been good, with a T-3 in '09 and a T-7 last year.
Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, John Huh, Harris English, Vijay Singh
Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge: the Memorial Tournament (Ned’s Picks)
Group 1: Luke Donald
Group 2: Jim Furyk
Group 3: Jonas Blixt
Group 4: Stewart Cink
“And another thing…”
The analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat with GolfChannel.com's Ryan Ballengee on Wednesday at NOON, ET. They will be breaking down the field at the Memorial Tournament and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.