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It takes a Village ๐Ÿ˜๏ธ

Published about 1 year agoย โ€ขย 12 min read

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My milkshakes bring all the boys to the yard

Jack is back and so are 120 of his closest friends (for this year). The Memorial Tournament presented by Workday is an annual rite of passage to the start of summer golf. Gone are frost delays as we welcome the second half of major championship season. The first edition of this yearly invitational on the PGA TOUR took place in 1976 with Roger Maltbie winning in a playoff over Hale Irwin. Since then, we have seen the game's best excel on this pristine Ohio landscape.

The top 65 and ties will play the weekend in this designated event for $20 million dollars and $3.6 million for first place. This is the eighth $20 million dollar purse we have witnessed in 2023. To put it in perspective, two weeks ago the purse for the PGA Championship was $17.5 million. Nineteen of the top 25 in the OWGR are competing and paying homage to the game's best major champion. Muirfield Village Golf Club is a major venue.

  • MVGC plays to a par 72 covering 7,571 yards.
  • The average winning score over the last decade is 13.7 under par.
  • The average winner's pre-tourney odds in that span are +10400 (104-1!).

From "Dirt McGirt" to Patrick Cantlay, the winners of Jack's tournament are a who's who and who(?) of golf. Any tournament Tiger Woods has won five times should catch our attention almost as much as David Lingmerth winning in 2015! Competition is usually tight at MVGC.

  • There have been six sudden death playoffs to decide the winner in the last ten years.

If you just look at the Memorial results you will not find all six. In 2020, MVGC hosted a second tournament during the COVID schedule. Collin Morikawa won in a playoff over JT (Justin Thomas). Who could forget the putting display they put on in sudden death?!

We have 11 editions to research in the last decade. More on the past results in the outrights section. Looking ahead to this week, we have an unseasonable Ohio forecast to contend with. It has been well over two weeks since the area has seen significant rain. Temperatures are expected in the mid-80s and there's no chance of relief from the rain. The wind will be manageable as these guys navigate Nicklaus' narrow green targets.

That's the key at MVGC. Whether you recognize the winner of the annual event or not, the year they won their ball striking and short game was on point.

  • MVGC has 70 bunkers to contend with and 14 holes where water comes into play.
  • The course was renovated between the 2020 and 2021 edition. Length and difficulty was added in an effort to better challenge the modern PGA TOUR player.

Once again as a designated event, I will be on-site covering all the betting storylines for you. (The last two times I was on property providing "inside the ropes" content we won; Wyndham at Wells and Brooks at Oak Hill. Let's get our third in a a row!)

As I walk the course alongside the player's practice rounds, we feel a bunch of elevation changes. MVGC really tests your ability to trust your ball striking skill. Jack designed the course as a combination of his two favorite tracks: Augusta National Golf Club and Muirfield. Two vastly different tests and yet somehow, he brings both sets of challenges together every Memorial Day weekend to crown the summer season's first champion.

The Memorial on TV:

  • Thursday - Friday 7:00am - 6:00pm (ESPN+), 2:00 - 6:00pm (Golf Channel)
  • Saturday 7:30am - 6:00pm (ESPN+), 12:30 - 2:30pm (Golf Channel), 2:30 - 6:00pm (CBS)
  • Sunday 7:30am - 6:00pm (ESPN+), 12:30 - 2:30pm (Golf Channel), 2:30 - 6:00pm (CBS)
  • Complete details on PGATour.comโ€‹
  • All times EDT.

The Memorial starts in...

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Jack's house

Imagine a course that blends the short game skill needed to score in Scotland alongside the target style approach game we use in the United States. Muirfield Village GC is a legit test on the PGA TOUR. Even though we have seen editions where the winning score climbs to the high teens under par, these competitors have complete respect for Jack's track. I mentioned this in the opening narrative, but you cannot completely appreciate MVGC through a screen. The elevation changes and architectural angles each hole challenges these guys with are varied and complex. With four par 5s any course will give up its fair share of birdies.

Let's start the outright discussion with scoring. Players will need 18+ birdies to win. Although the winning score may only be 10-12 under, in these dry firm conditions there will be bogeys. A careful balance between bogey avoidance and birdie or better percentage (BoB%) is vital to contending. If we start talking about bogey avoidance, then short game performance matters. The last 10 Memorial winners have gained three strokes against the field around the green. Cut that timeline to five years and it jumps to 4.4 strokes and 4.9 strokes since the 2021 renovation. Players WILL need their short game this week.

Any course with elevation changes, 14 holes with water, and 70 bunkers is going to make approach play our primary indicator for success. Off the tee is important, but in looking at the past champions, it falls third in priority for contending. MVGC tests the mid-iron range completely. Our outrights are exceptional at 150-200 yard approaches. Forty-five percent of approaches will come from this range where the TOUR average is only 38%. All great courses like MVGC test every iron, but scoring outside the par 5s really requires precise proximity control in this range.

I will lean more on par 5 scoring this week than par 4 scoring. Those who religiously read the line know how potent par 4 scoring is toward contending. When I shift my weekly focus, it is worth mentioning. Nicklaus created a very difficult set of 3s and 4s here. Our winner will take advantage of the 5s to keep the lead. There are reachable 5s at MVGC and ones where you are forced to lay up and score with your wedge game. It's a complete test to contend using these holes to increase your BoB%.

Jack was a fader off the tee. He can't help but design his home course to match his eye. Six of the tight tee shots move left to right. More than half of the right to lefters have room to strike a tight fade. Each player has 56 opportunities to reach the fairway. When a course also matches your eye on the tee box, the chances for success greatly increase.

MVGC rewards great players playing well. In the last 11 tournaments over the last decade, there have been five bombers and six chess players. Our outright predictions represent this careful blend of ball striker and aggressive play. Throw in a very capable short game and here you go...

Outright winners - The Memorial Tournament

Patrick Cantlay is tired of not winning. His press conference yesterday was transparent and left all in attendance feeling like Cantlay is a little extra motivated this week. The fourth ranked player in the world loves this venue and feels very good about his chances... and he should! The best driver in men's golf, Cantlay will have an incredible edge off the tee this week. In seven starts at MVGC, Patrick has two wins and five top 10 finishes. He played average at Oak Hill and finished top 10. Cantlay's cooking on the inside and on the course. Time for #3.

Where Patrick Cantlay has an edge with the driver, Viktor Hovland can separate himself with his approach game. Hovland gained 10.6 strokes against the field at Oak Hill on approach. More importantly, he gained three strokes against the field around the green! He has felt the heat and will be prepared for a super-hot Memorial this weekend. Viktor is ready to take the next leap in his career, and this course could not be a better fit for him to designate himself with a big win.

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Under the bright lights

I think most LPGA players will be happy when the month of May is over. Besides the incredible amount of frequent flier miles, we haven't seen a full field event all month. We started in San Francisco with the team event, and then traveled to New Jersey for the Founders Cup. The ladies then took a week off during the PGA Championship. They just concluded their 64-player match play event in Las Vegas and now they are back in New Jersey competing in a very cool new event on tour.

The Mizuho Americas Open combines the present and future stars of the LPGA. One hundred and twenty of the LPGA's best will compete alongside 24 of the top girls from the AJGA. This unique format was all brought together by a visionary sponsor in Mizuho and tournament host and LPGA star Michelle Wie West. In a setting unlike any other, these women will all compete across the river from New York City and under the watchful eye of the Statue of Liberty.

Liberty National is the venue and one we have seen before on the biggest stage in golf. LNGC was the host for the 2017 Presidents Cup and several FedEx Cup playoff tournaments. The women will play the course as a par 72 covering 6,656 yards. This treacherous layout has 93 bunkers and 13 holes where water comes into play. Even though this is the first time the LPGA has competed in front of Lady Liberty, we do have plenty of past professional tournament results to dive into.

The agronomy team at LNGC has witnessed near perfect growing conditions leading into the championship. We have not seen much rain in New Jersey this May, and the temperatures have been pleasant. Liberty National sits on the Hudson River and is exposed to the elements. Wind can be a factor at any moment and one of the main contributing factors toward scoring. The forecast calls for some calm days as the breeze should blow around 12-15 mph.

There is no rain in the forecast and temperatures will sit in the low 80s for a high. LNGC was built on a recycled land fill and warehouse field. The original composition of the ground is prone to drying out. The current conditions will have LNGC playing firm and fast for the field. Seven holes at Liberty National have a bogey rate over 15%. This course can catch you napping. The three par 5s and scoreable sixteenth are gettable, but in-between, the design weaves in a great combination of precise power shots and delicate approaches.

Twenty of the top 30 in the Rolex Rankings are competing for $2.75 million dollars and $412,500 for first place. I believe there will be extra motivation for the LPGA players. Even though the AJGA stars will not play the same tee boxes, they will be concerned about losing to a bunch of junior golfers! Of course, the AJGA stars such as 2022 Augusta National Women's Amateur champion Anna Davis will be looking to see how her game compares to the best in the world.

I love this format and venue for a new event on the LPGA schedule. The concept will promote the women's game and the venue outside of NYC will grab everyone's attention during the coverage. Mizuho has really stepped up as a sponsor covering traveling expenses for the players and ensuring everyone has a world class experience. The LPGA has two majors in the next six weeks. An event like the Mizuho gives us that elevated feel. The competitors who can handle this week's pressure will surely have our attention going forward into the most important stretch of their season.

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Mizuho on TV:

  • Thursday & Friday 11:00am - 2:00pm (Golf Channel)
  • Saturday 5:00 - 8:00pm (Golf Channel)
  • Sunday 5:00 - 7:30pm (Golf Channel)
  • Complete details on LPGA.comโ€‹
  • All times EDT.

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The Mizuho starts in...

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Lady Liberty

Liberty National Golf Club is an extremely fun course to compete on. No two days are the same as this golf landscape sits exposed to water and wind on the Jersey coast. The course itself is an engineering marvel. Situated amongst the urban landscape of New York City, the players will feel a world away while competing. I have played the course more than a dozen times and can say with confidence the ladies are lucky the wind looks relatively calm this week.

LNGC is a true tee to green test. Thirteen holes have penalty areas significantly in play. One lazy swing and you'll be writing down a double bogey. If they play the full advertised scorecard length, power and accuracy off the tee will be a huge advantage. These greens are protected by plenty of hazards. Thirty-nine of the bunkers sit greenside along with nine of the 13 holes with water. The closer you get to the greens, the bigger the advantage you have against the field on approach.

The approach game at LNGC is a tale of two cities. Players will face 44% of their iron shot into the green from over 150 yards. Fifty percent of the remaining approaches will be played inside 125 yards. This is what makes playing LNGC so much fun. It really requires a well-rounded skill set. Scoring on the short par 4 sixteenth and three par 5s requires great wedge work. Conversely, five of the par 4s measure over 400 yards and two of the par 3s are lengthy. A little extra power on approach is an asset nearly as much as it is off the tee.

The greens at Liberty National are not big by any tour standards. Most of the hole locations sit adjacent to trouble, so the bail out zones are tightly mown swales and chipping areas. There aren't many weeks where I factor around the green play for the LPGA outside of majors. This week is one of them. Chipping or pitching to a hole while looking across the green at a creek or pond puts extra pressure on these players. Don't get me wrong, these ladies are extremely precise on approach. There will come a time (or two) in this championship where short game will separate the field and I'm accounting for it.

The greens at LNGC are bentgrass and have evolved over the years. The original surfaces were wicked. Since that time, they have been massaged so the players can make some putts. All those original bumps and movement are not gone. With the dry conditions in Jersey City over the last month, bring your flatstick skills with you this week.

It sounds like you'll need a complete game to contend. Yes, you will. As the LPGA continues to bolster their brand with these iconic venues, their games will be tested. To handicap the field, we have to take the setting, format, and design features into account. This is a big event on the LPGA schedule. Three players ranked inside the top eight in the world have won five of the nine events in 2023. I see this trend continuing and our outright list favors the top of the board for this reason and many more at the Mizuho.

Outright winners - Mizuho Americas Open

Nasa Hataoka is the perfect blend of T2G grace and scoring ability. I believe you'll need plenty of birdies to contend at LNGC. Hataoka averages 4.13 sub-par holes per round. Top 10 in securing GIRs, Nasa's approach game is eighth on the LPGA. This skill is extremely important for the Mizuho. Trouble lurks everywhere at Liberty National. On scoring courses, Nasa continually puts up low numbers. This knack will give her a considerable edge. Throw in two top 10 finishes at nearby Upper Montclair CC and Hataoka leads my list of outrights.

Our hearts sank when she three-putted at Upper Montclair and lost in a playoff at the Founders Cup. Minjee Lee is the current US Open Champion, and she is really coming into form heading toward Pebble Beach in a month. This performance test will be a blend between Pebble and her playoff loss. Off the tee, Minjee never lost her advantage on the field and her putter is coming around. Lee is ranked sixth on tour T2G and that will really help navigate these narrow targets. Even better than Nasa at hitting GIRs, her loss last month will have helped her prepare for this title.

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Can anyone stop Scottie..?

My Memorial preview for Sports Illustrated highlights Scheffler's stellar ball striking season and break down if anyone can contend with him. As a PGA Professional my perspective on how to handle Muirfield Village is a unique one. Check it out...

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Season 2 rolls on at "Tee to Green"

Coverage of The Memorial can be found on BetOnline's YouTube channel. Keith and his co-host Chantel McCabe continue their second season breaking down all of the best bets for the PGA TOUR's designated events and the major championships. Hit the button below and check out the most recent episode airing Wednesday.

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Another win on the road?

The last two times we have been on-site, RTL has won!

LPGA and PGA TOUR are in action this week at awesome venues. Enjoy the golf.

Head right to our website and join! Read The Line.

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