THE MEMORIAL: While the golf world may be abuzz about next week’s inaugural LIV event and the recent unveiling of the field, the PGA Tour’s traveling roadshow goes on, with this week’s stop being one of the most popular non-majors on the schedule, Jack Nicklaus’s Memorial Tournament.
Originally conceived by Nicklaus in the 70s as a way to honor the history and traditions of the game that has given him so much, this has essentially turned into Jack’s tournament in the same way that the Bay Hill Invitational once belonged to Arnie. It’s held at Muirfield Village, the course he built just outside of his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, and he’s always on hand to greet the winner and present the trophy. Nicklaus is rumored to have turned down an offer in excess of $100 million to be the frontman for the Saudi-backed LIV Golf group, so it’s somewhat ironic that the Memorial will be the final PGA Tour event held before what could be seismic shakeup to professional golf.
(pay no attention to the PGA and DP Tour heads and their “whistling through the graveyard” routine… the 40+ players who signed up to play in London next week are only the tip of the iceberg. With the money being offered, more defections are absolutely coming. And if one of the game’s young guns leaves for LIV– Rahm, Scheffler, Thomas, Morikawa, etc.– the whole house of cards could come crumbling down on the existing “big” tours)
Back to the golf– Muirfield Village is a picturesque tree-lined gem that features narrow fairways and long, lush rough which must be avoided. The bentgrass greens are small, firm, and lightning-fast, so missing shots on the wrong side of the hole can leave impossible up-and-downs. The course is a stern tee-to-green test that cannot be overpowered, requiring both accuracy off the tee and precision with the short to mid irons. Many believe it’s the Golden Bear’s best design.
Patrick Cantlay got the job done last year after Jon Rahm tested positive for COVID following the third round and was forced to withdraw despite holding a six-shot lead, and Cantlay now joins Nicklaus, Hale Irwin, Tom Watson, Greg Norman, Kenny Perry, and Tiger Woods as players who have won this event multiple times. Rahm won in 2020 so he’ll look to join the club this year, and he currently heads BETDAQ’s Win Market at 12.0. While I’ve backed Rahm as the favorite in the past, the price seems a bit short this time around, particularly with a field as strong as this one. Here’s what I’m thinking instead:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Xander Schauffele (21.0)- Though missed cuts at the Players and the Masters have marred his season, Schauffele has been pretty machine-like otherwise, finding the top-15 eight times since January and 5 times in his past 7 starts. His last three outings have resulted in a victory at the Zurich team event, a T5 at the Byron Nelson, and a T13 at the PGA, so he’s playing some terrific golf at the moment, and his tee-to-green brilliance makes him a natural fit for Muirfield Village. He always seems to be knocking on the door at this tournament, logging top-15s in each of the past four years, and you just know that one of these years he’s going to kick the door down. It may be this year, and at a price like 21.0 I’m willing to pay to find out.
Cameron Young (41.0)- Call me crazy, but 40/1 seems like a pretty good price for a guy who is on the type of heater that Young is currently on, with three consecutive top-3 finishes. He stood tall under the bright lights at the PGA Championship, hanging around the first page of the leaderboard all weekend before finishing 3rd, so he should feel right at home if he finds himself in contention this week. This will be Young’s debut appearance at this event, but he’s one of the best ball-strikers in the world, ranking 2nd on Tour in strokes gained off the tee and 14th in strokes gained tee-to-green, so he has the type of game that should translate nicely to Muirfield Village. We’ve seen debutants win this tournament before… why not Young?
Davis Riley (66.0)- Generally we look to the triple-digit crowd for our longshot of the week, but when I saw Davis Riley trading at 66.0 I couldn’t resist. Riley is still searching for his first career PGA Tour victory, which is the only conceivable explanation for this price. First off, he’s been playing brilliantly, with six top-15 finishes and four top-5s in his last eight starts, including a T4 at last week’s Charles Schwab Challenge. And then there’s his record at this tournament– in his past five appearances here, Riley has reeled off finishes of 4th, 13th, 9th, 5th, and 4th again. He’s an absolute cash machine at Muirfield Village, and never in his career has he entered this event playing as well as he is now. He should be enthusiastically backed at a price like 66.0.