Winning Share: $1,116,000
Well done to Adam Scott for retaining his spot at the top of the world rankings last week with a magnificent fight back to defeat Jason Dufner in a playoff.
We now move on to Ohio for a Jack Nicklaus classic. His baby and arguably most famous course, Muirfield Village will play host to the Memorial Tournament.
It is an invitational event and once again has attracted a top quality field. It is an infamously interesting layout, a par 72 measuring 7,300 yards and as you come to expect from the great man’s tracks, the challenges come from the quality of approach and in and around the greens.
It is not as destructive off the tee as Colonial last week and with wide fairways, the bombers can release their arms slightly, but that doesn’t mean the winner will be a lunatic with the driver, because some thought is still vital.
You have to look at the iron gurus – especially with water hazards on 13 holes – and players with a magic touch around the greens, recent winners have all been high on the scrambling stats and interestingly every one of the last 7 winners has been inside the top 11 of scoring average.
There are 4 superb par 5s that offer a risk/reward chance to get eagles and birdies and the past few years, the title has pretty much been decided by how well you play those longer holes.
You have to be cautious on course form as well because the last 7 winners have recorded a top 17 in 1 of their previous 2 visits. You will find that most of the top 10 year in, year out have played a few rounds here in the past.
In many ways this is where we feel the run-in to the US Open truly begins.
Luke Donald (28/1 Coral)
Luke Donald has been looking very impressive recently. We all thought it would take a long time for his big swing changes to pay dividends, but he is already starting to show glimpses of that magic touch which propelled him to number one in the world.
A few months back at the RBC Heritage, Donald lead going into the final day and although starting poorly, he showed his mental toughness to come back and do more than enough for victory, but Matt Kuchar stole the show with an outrageous hole out from the bunker on the 18th. (And he stole a lot of money from our pockets!)
That performance was one of 3 top 4s in his last 6 outings. He competed last week as well at the BMW PGA Championship, eventually finishing a respectable T3.
The Englishman has really been knocking on the door to get his first win in a couple of years and we couldn’t be more adamant that it’s happening soon and this could definitely be the week.
He has played here many times and whilst not long off the tee, his new swing has given an extra few yards and if you think his lowest position in his last 5 outings is T21, then you realise he has a liking for the course. And he is T24 for par 5 scoring average, which shows his consistency for plotting his way to a birdie.
He is a top quality iron player and around the greens his natural ability is scary – 8th strokes gained putting, 1st putting inside 10ft (with the tight greens and volume of ‘clutch putts’ that could occur, will be very important) and 10th scrambling.
Let’s just hope it’s a shout of LUUUUKKKEEE this time and not a flashback to the RBC…
Phil Mickelson (30/1 StanJames)
When we looked at this tournament last night, we saw a certain Phil Mickelson floating around the 33s mark (with Coral) and we were absolutely stunned.
Considering he has come to the forefront of our US Open antepost bets (our first preview will be up here this weekend, so do come and check back!), where he is at 18s, you have to scratch your head and ask yourself, HUH? No John Huh pun please.
Yes, he has not played a great deal of exciting golf in recent weeks, but he’s ben plodding along setting himself up for that big one to win the Grand Slam of majors.
His last 4 outings have resulted in 2 top 12s and 2 MC, so that is certainly not exceptional golf. But how on earth is at 33s?! In many ways the 18/1 for the US is marginally inaccurate, but we do feel you should grab big Phil at a time like this because these are the situations he loves.
And he has a liking for the course as well, although never lifting the trophy here, his last 5 performances (excluding W/D’s) have resulted in 3 top 10s and a lowest finish of T20.
As a player we all know what he can do. He is an extravagant hitter with a crazy variety of shots in his armoury. On the greens, if he gets on a roll then he is pretty much unstoppable – 10th putting 5 – 10 ft, 35th GIR, 51st scoring average and 46th scrambling. At the end of the day, that’s not bad for someone without a top 5 in the past few weeks.
Come on Phil, let’s get that US Open fever on the rise.
Gary Woodland (35/1 Bet365)
Gary Woodland has not finished lower than 26th in his last 7 tournaments. In fact his whole season has been remarkably consistent ever since that playoff defeat at the CIMB Classic. It is an incredible follow on from a strong end to last season and he will have every confidence coming into an event where he has finished T16 and T6 in 2 of his previous 3 visits.
It is a course that on paper, should suit him perfectly. He is without doubt long enough – 17th driving distance and a wonderful iron player – 30th GIR. 52nd for scrambling and 19th in scoring average all show why he should go well here, but it is on par 5s where he really could prove his worth.
He may only lie 46th in par 5 performance on the stats, probably because there have been a few tournaments where things went horrifically wrong for him, but on the whole his under par scoring has been a joke on those longer holes.
He finished -8 at The Players Championship (T11 overall) and he was -7 on the par 5s.
-4 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational (T20) and he was -8 on the par 5s – he really didn’t enjoy those tough par 3s there…
It’s the same at The Masters, the Valspar Championship, the WGC Cadillac, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, the CIMB, basically when he is freeing up his arms, he attacks like a machine on a par 5.
That can only stand him in good stead for those tough closing holes.
Michael Thompson (100/1 various)
Michael Thompson has quietly been plugging away in the past few weeks, desperately trying to find some form that saw him get his first maiden trophy at the Honda Classic last year.
He finished T10 last week with a strong 66 to close on Sunday that will give him plenty of confidence coming to Muirfield.
He recorded an outstanding T8 in 2013 here when you consider he shot a miserable 76 on the Friday. If you bring that back, then he would have been way up there challenging the leaders.
Around the greens he is an animal, which is one of the main reason we like him this week – 12th strokes gained putting, 24th putting inside 10 feet and 68th scrambling.
You can be sure that if there is a tough up and down required, Thompson will handle it with ease. He is a solid tee to green player – 65th GIR, 60th ball striking and whilst not hugely long, he has been hitting it further in his past few outings.
Excluding The Players, he has averaged at least 295 yards off the tee, which proves he is more than capable of attacking the longer holes here.
Daniel Summerhays (125/1 various)
Daniel Summerhays is just a cheeky outsider to consider because like Thompson, he is outstanding around the greens.
19th in both strokes gained and putting inside 10 ft, whilst 65th for scrambling prove his abilities with the shorter clubs and on these tough greens, he could cause an upset.
He is not particularly long off the tee, but with his consistent accuracy, he has the know how to find good positions in order to attack pins and control the ball – 24th driving accuracy, 61st GIR.
Admittedly, his form in the past few tournaments have been erratic, but he is coming to a venue where he contended a couple of years ago, when he finished T4.
He is yet to win on the PGA Tour but this is the sort of course where you can see that changing.
Quick mention must go to Russell Knox (100/1 various)
We have put our money on Russell Knox quite a few times in recent weeks because he constantly fits the bill stats wise for these sort of courses.
He seems to always be in and around without ever challenging, hence why he didn’t quite make it into our top 5, but you cannot ignore his stats.
15th scoring average, 48th putting inside 10 ft, 20th scrambling, 1st proximity to the hole and 17th GIR. Sillyness.