Our expert likes Jason Day’s chances at the Memorial.
Welcome to our weekly PGA Tour gambling-tips column, featuring picks from GOLF.com’s expert prognosticator, Brady Kannon. A seasoned golf bettor and commentator, Kannon is the host of the HeatStrokes podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @LasVegasGolfer, and you can read below to see his favorite plays for the Memorial, which kicks off Thursday at Muirfield Village, in Dublin, Ohio. Keep scrolling past Kannon’s picks, and you’ll also see data from Chirp, a free-to-play mobile platform that features a range of games with enticing prizes, giving fans all kinds of ways to engage in the action without risking any money.
Outside of the major championships, there are a handful of fantastic weeks on the PGA Tour calendar, and few better than the Memorial. It’s held at Jack’s place, Muirfield Village, in Dublin, Oh., a course that Nicklaus built in 1974 and where he staged the first Memorial two years later. This is an invitational, so the field is small. In 2023, it is especially strong as the Memorial now enjoys elevated status as one of the Tour’s designated events.
The course has undergone a series of renovations in recent years — new greens and bunkers; repositioned tees; added length — all intended to provide a balanced test for the world’s best players.
Nicklaus named the course after Muirfield, in Scotland, where he won the 1966 British Open. But he designed it with Augusta National in mind. Like the home of the Masters, where Nicklaus won six times, Muirfield Village is a stout par 72 that stretches more than 7,600 yards. The bentgrass fairways are wide, but unlike Augusta’s, they are bordered by some of the toughest rough the players face all year. The bentgrass greens are small, fast, and undulated. Hitting greens in regulation is a challenge here. So is getting up and down.
True to Nicklaus’s reputation as an architect, Muirfield Village has become a second-shot golf course. Like any of the more difficult tests on Tour, one must do a little bit of everything well around here to win. But in recent years, the leaderboard has been dotted with players excelling on approaches and around the greens.
The statistical areas I focused on this week were Strokes Gained Off the Tee, Strokes Gained Approach, Greens in Regulation, Strokes Gained Around the Green, Hole Proximity from 175-200 yards, Par 4 Performance from 450-500 yards, Par 5 Performance from 550-600 yards, Scrambling, and Bogey Avoidance.
For correlated courses, I looked at Augusta National, as well as other Nicklaus courses, including the Concession and Sherwood Country Club. I also considered courses with a similar setup and/or features, such as East Lake, Innisbrook, TPC Sawgrass, TPC Potomac, and TPC Twin Cities.
Day is a member at Muirfield Village and lives nearby, so he knows the course and its recent changes as well or better than anyone. Over the last 36 rounds, he ranks 35th in this field for SG Approach, and his short game is even better: 10th for SG Around the Green, No. 1 in Bogey Avoidance, and second in Scrambling. The week after his big win at the Byron Nelson, Day missed the cut at the PGA Championship. In all three prior occasions in which he missed a cut this season, he returned the following week with a Top 10 finish, including the win at the Nelson, which came after a missed cut at the Wells Fargo Championship.
It hasn’t been the best season for Thomas but with the odds now drifting this high on a Top-15 player, I felt it was time to dive in. Thomas has finished fourth, eighth, and 18th here at the Memorial and lost in a playoff to Collin Morikawa at the Workday at Muirfield during the Covid year, when they played back-to-back weeks at this course. He’ has won at TPC Sawgrass, finished 15th at The Concession, has three Top 10’s at the Valspar, and has five Top 5 finishes at East Lake. He is also a great scrambler and ranks seventh is this field for SG Around the Green over the last 36 rounds.
Fowler has twice been runner-up at this tournament, and he’s won at a Nicklaus course before, taking the 2017 Honda Classic, at PGA National. He was also third at the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla, another Nicklaus design. He’s won The PLAYERS and has two Top 10 finishes at East Lake. The form has been excellent this season and he comes off a sixth-place finish last week at Colonial. Over the last 36 rounds, he ranks 6th in this field for SG Approach.
Bradley seems to play well on difficult golf courses and did so again two weeks ago at the PGA Championship. He has two Top 10 finishes at this event, two at TPC Sawgrass, and has runner-up finishes at both the Valspar and TPC Potomac when the latter hosted the Wells Fargo Championship in 2022. Over the last 36 rounds, Bradley ranks 13th in this field on the Par 5s measuring 550-600 yards and is 19th in Hole Proximity from 175-200 yards.
How about these finishes at the Memorial for the Tour veteran, 13-10-5-8-2-1-15-4-4-13? Remarkable. Kuchar has also won the PLAYERS, has five Top 15 finishes at the Valspar, and three Top 10’s at East Lake. He is the very best in this field for Scrambling and SG Around the Green over the last 36 rounds, as well as sixth on the Par 5’s from 550-600 yards and eighth in Bogey Avoidance.
Here is another player who won on a Nicklaus course (this year’s Honda Classic). He also has a terrific short game. Over the last 36 rounds, Kirk is third in this field for SG Around the Green; 33rd in SG Approach; and 29th in Scrambling. He has finished as high as fourth at the Memorial in his career, has three Top 15’s at the PLAYERS, as well as a fourth-place finish at East Lake. He’s a long shot for sure, but 125-1 seems a little too long.
Jason Day (+100) over Collin Morikawa
Rory McIlroy (-120) over Viktor Hovland
Rickie Fowler (-125) over Cameron Young
Wyndham Clark (+130) over Corey Conners
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