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Village People 👮🏻👨🏻‍🏭🧑🏾‍🚒👨🏻‍✈️

Published 17 days ago • 13 min read

In memory of

DUBLIN, OH

Signature event number seven comes racing toward us the week prior to the US Open. In many ways, I feel bad for The Memorial Tournament presented by Workday. This event has been a cornerstone of the PGA TOUR for 50 years. From Roger Maltbie in the first edition to playoff winner Viktor Hovland a year ago, this tournament truly is signature. Jack Nicklaus designed Muirfield Village Golf Club in 1974. His home course in Ohio, the layout is a tribute to two of his favorite courses in the world; Muirfield and Augusta National.

Seventy-three players are in attendance ready to compete for $20 million and another elite title. Nine of the top 10 in the OWGR have entered and are getting ready for a stern test. The par 72 scorecard measuring 7,596 yards is annually one of the five toughest on TOUR. Many of Jack’s designs aren’t going to lead the course rating charts, but this one is his masterpiece. Take all the traditional elements of Valhalla three weeks ago and you begin to sense the setting in Dublin, Ohio.

The Memorial starts in...

Count down to 2024-06-06T10:30:00.000Z

It takes a village

The course went through a massive renovation in 2020. All of the greens were resurfaced, and many holes were altered to adjust for the modern player. Since Patrick Cantlay’s 19 under total in 2019, we have seen a serious scoring change. Hovland won last year at seven under par and I expect the winning score to rest at 12 under come Sunday afternoon. I’m giving the guys a decent opportunity to score because of the course conditions coming into The Memorial.

May is a rainy month in Ohio. Columbus has witnessed a little over an inch in the past two weeks and it is going to rain again today (Wednesday). During the renovation Nicklaus spared no expense and installed sub-air systems under the greens. MVGC can control the texture of the putting surfaces, but I believe the fairways and rough will be wet for Thursday and some of Friday. Soft landing conditions help these guys keep it in the short grass. We saw that firsthand last month at the PGA Championship.

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Course conditions

Muirfield Village Golf Club

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"How to watch?"

Coverage times

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Real-time weather

Dublin, OH

The remainder of the week looks better, and temperatures are forecasted in the 70s. The wind will contribute to some confusion, but overall, this edition will be scorable. At 7,500+ yards, MVGC is the fifth longest course these guys have seen in 2024. A true ball striking test, the greens are only 5,000 sq/ft (on average). Long iron approaches to small targets promote an incredible need for serious short game technique. Quite honestly, that might be Muirfield Village’s signature skill.

These green complexes are surrounded by thick northern rough, deep bunkers, and fronted by steep shaven slopes of short grass. Weekly venues on the PGA TOUR rarely test the field from 50 yards and in. MVGC really forces these guys to get it done around the greens. Although the lies will be different next week at Pinehurst #2, this is still an excellent short game preview for the third major championship.

We have another big three at the top of the betting board. Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy, and Xander Schauffele have all started the week under +1000. We won’t touch any of them since the short odds prohibit finding value on one while all three are in such incredible form. Should Scottie win by five, yes. Scheffler gained 20 strokes T2G last year and finished third. He lost nine strokes putting! That being said, Xander just won the PGA Championship on a very similar Nicklaus comp course and Rory has won two of his last four starts.

For these reasons, we will be looking for more value down the board. I enjoy covering this event as the Nicklaus leadership loves to pull out all the stops and the city of Dublin supports him. Not to mention, The Memorial almost always gives us free golf. Viktor’s win over Denny McCarthy was the seventh playoff in the last ten years! So, buckle up and enjoy the show because this is the start of the best two weeks we will see back to back all season.

Read The Line recap 🗞️

Viktor Hovland kick started his summer with a win at The Memorial. Known for his ball striking, Hovland gained over six strokes on the greens. A complete performance, Viktor made 19 sub-par scores and finished at seven under par. Since the renovation, the winners have averaged 18 BoB scores yet the average winning score in that time frame is 11 under par. Needless to say, when handicapping this field, monitor bogey avoidance!

Jack of all trades

Jack Nicklaus was one of the most cerebral players ever to have competed on the PGA TOUR. To start handicapping the skills needed to win The Memorial, you must begin with those who can think their way around a golf course. Certainly, Scheffler is the best. We saw what he has done at Augusta National. There are a couple other great game planners who can design a successful strategy for this test. When building that plan, one of the most important facets is determining where to play off the tee. Much like Augusta National, angles play a huge part in the layout.

A plethora of approach shots are played from long range (175+ yards - 45%). Great mid/long iron guys can separate here. The recent leaderboards succinctly display this as the most common theme amongst the Sunday contenders and eventual champions. The higher you can launch it, the better. MVGC has so many shallow hole locations. The greens are small and get even smaller around the perimeter. Tucking pins on small outcroppings make it almost impossible to land approaches unless they fall straight down. Any model made this week would weight approach play at the very top.

Second to the iron game is short game. Fifty bunkers surround these greens. And even though the long rough only promotes one play to recover, you still have to be able to pull it off. Hideki Matsuyama, Matt Fitzpatrick, and Jordan Spieth have scored well here due to their ability to save strokes from around the green. To compound the scrambling value, this collection of par 5s was designed to be three shot holes. Many pros will hit them (or attempt) in two, but in most cases that third shot will approach from close range. Nicklaus was one of the greatest pitchers in the game and you better believe his course tests your ability to do the same.

Don’t spend a great deal of time on putting. Much like ANGC you don’t have to be a great putter to win here. Will it help? Yes it always helps, but many past champions are far from fabulous with a flatstick. Over the past five years, winners have gained an equal amount OTT and with the putter. Both values are less than approach (first) and ARG (second). Can being a great putter help you win? McCarthy has proven yes, but looking back through the leaderboards post renovation, I strongly prefer the high launch target ball striking approach.

Muirfield Village boasts some beefy par 4s. The last ten winners have gained nearly nine strokes (on average) versus the field on the par 4s. Even though seven of the 10 measures over 450 yards, par 5 scoring separates the field. MVGC’s par 5s are some of the most difficult on TOUR. They force reluctant decision making and possess incredible green complexes. Much like ANGC, television does not do these four holes any justice. They just cannot be represented on a flat screen. All measuring between 550-600 yards, we can really determine the best players in that category. Since scoring is so difficult on the 3s and long 4s, this area of analysis can be incredibly helpful in making final decisions for our outright card.

I always marvel at the comp courses we find when it comes to great venues these guys compete on year after year. Sure, Valhalla makes sense, but that happens once a decade. The Masters helps too, but how about a couple more. I’m using putting skill on the Nicklaus Tournament course during The American Express and THE PLAYERS. Rahm, Hideki, Kuchar, etc. all excel on Dye’s design in Ponte Vedra Beach and MVGC. Here’s a fun one and quite corollary. TPC Scottsdale leaderboards are very comparable to The Memorial. Scottie, Cantlay, Rahm, Xander, Rickie, Hideki, and Spieth all have impressive records in both places. Know who finished top 10 there this year because it will help.

Over the last five years, the winners have averaged 20 sub-par scores en route to winning. Hovland had 19 (!) and won at seven under par in a playoff. Never forget bogey avoidance and scrambling skill on venues like these. MVGC is a major championship course. Although it won’t look anything like Pinehurst #2 next week, don’t be surprised when the leaderboards do.

Outright Winners - The Memorial Tournament

Collin Morikawa has the second lowest scoring average in the field at MVGC. Only Patrick Cantlay is slightly better.

  • Morikawa's last five starts: 3 (Masters)-9-16-4 (PGA)-4.
  • In his last five starts, Collin is gaining an average of nine strokes on the field.
  • During that run, he's averaging +2.5 SG:ARG!
  • Collin won the Workday (2020) at MVGC.
  • Morikawa fades it just like Jack, a perfect fit for these fairways.

Si Woo Kim has four straight top 20 finishes at The Memorial.

  • Top 5 in career scoring average, Kim has a strong history here.
  • Si Woo's season has been impressive, he's ranked top 15 T2G and ball striking.
  • Short game plays a huge roll, Kim is eighth in scrambling, seventh in bogey avoidance, and sixth in SG:ARG.
  • Siw Woo Kim can putt at MVGC. In seven trips he's gained positively five times.

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Inside the ropes at the 2023 Genesis Invitational


A sea view

The ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer comes at the perfect time on the LPGA schedule. This annual tournament is one of two 54-hole events left on the calendar. Based upon the score we saw at Lancaster Country Club for the US Open; I think the women really could use the extra day of rest. We start Friday and play through the weekend in New Jersey just outside Atlantic City along the Jersey Shore. The LPGA has been coming here for many years, and although the golf course is the polar opposite of a week ago, I believe this week will actually reward the best players.

The Seaview Resort is a historic golf venue. The majestic white hotel sits above 36-holes designed by two of the great architects of the golden age of golf courses. The William Flynn Pines Course heads inland behind the hotel, and Donald Ross’ Bay Course extends from the front porch out toward the sea. The Bay Course stretches to 6,197 yards and plays to a par 71. The shortest test on tour, the women will play eight (of 11) par 4s under 400 yards. Even the average par 5 is only 490 yards.

ShopRite starts in...

Count down to 2024-06-07T11:00:00.000Z

Read The Line loves the ShopRite. We have picked the winner in 2022 (Brooke Henderson) and 2023 (Ashleigh Buhai) correctly. In order to achieve the three-peat, we will continue to use our winning strategy here. Having played the Bay Course many times helps, but my familiarity of working at Donald Ross courses also assists in developing a winning selection. Ross, like so many architects, has specific traits. Understanding how modern players attack certain characteristics gives us an edge. An insider’s edge we have used to win two straight years!

Editors note: the host venue for next week’s US Open is Pinehurst #2. A course designed by Donald Ross.😉

Thankfully, the weather looks good in Galloway, New Jersey this week. The event has moved several times on the schedule, and it can get iffy in the late spring at the shore. The forecast calls for very little rain and pretty low winds (under 15mph) all three days. Temperatures will be in the low 80s and with a little 1.5” of rain in the last two weeks, the course should be ripe for scoring. After a brutal week in Pennsylvania these women will be in full attack mode.

A field of 144 players will be cut to the low 65 and ties after 36-holes. The purse is $1.75 million and first place receives a check for $262,500. In more ways than one, it certainly is a reality check as the winner a week ago in Lancaster, Yuka Saso, won over $2 million for her efforts! The average winning 54-hole score is 14 under par for the last decade. Six of the last 10 winners are major champions and that aligns with our two-time winning handicapping strategy.

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Course conditions

Seaview - Bay Course

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"How to watch?"

Coverage times

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Real-time weather

Galloway, NJ

Throwing darts

Winning the ShopRite is all about accuracy. The course is very short for modern LPGA standards. The tour continues to go here because the crowds give the course tremendous support, but under benign conditions it is not a tough test. The lead skill we seek is approach play. Both Henderson and Buhai were top 5 on tour when they won. The greens average 6,000 sq/ft. That’s below average, so if you hit them, you have a reasonable birdie putt. It has been proven over the years, those who do accrue the most GIRs get in the winner conversation come Sunday afternoon.

To further the SG:APP argument, due to the length of the course most iron shots are coming from close range. Great approach players have proximity control. The only defense of this course is the wind and green complexes. As we will see next week firsthand at the US Open, Donald Ross creates the most interesting putting surfaces. Players must hit these greens close to the hole if they intend to capitalize on their birdie chances. Again, the greens are not huge, and that’s why these shelves, swales, and run offs must be avoided if you are going to score.

Looking through the recent top 10s from the 2022 and 2023 leaderboards, putting ranks second in strokes gained importance. That makes sense, because this is a three-day shoot-out. Wind swept courses like this one are required to have relatively benign putting greens because the slopes will not hold balls in the wind. They do have shelves and sections, but when you get on the right plateau, the putting becomes very straightforward.

Leaders will need approximately 15+ sub-par scores to win over three rounds. A vast majority of those birdies come on the par 5s. Those same two top 10s from the past two years average 4.36 strokes on the 5s. With an average length under 500 yards, you can see why. Our outright card displays really good par 5 players. Buhai was seven under on the par 5s last year, and Henderson was four under (three par 5s) in the final round of 2022!

Achieve 70% of your GIRs, hit the fairway, and convert scoring opportunities. We don’t need to over think this one. We have been correct the past two years. Let’s take that same strategy into this week and get three in a row. I’m not worried about mental fatigue from the US Open. In fact, I believe more players will simply be relieved they are free from the USGA. They have to be. One extra day of rest only further emphasizes the need to start quickly. I realize this event isn’t signature, but a +3400 combined pay day over two years can fill a bunch of grocery carts. So, let’s lock in and get another one!

Outright winners - ShopRite LPGA Classic

You've read this name before in 2024, when accuracy counts most Ayaka Furue is our outright.

  • Furue finished fourteenth in 2023 at the ShopRite and sixth last week at the US Open.
  • She's ranked sixth is the field for APP, and top 10 for GIRs.
  • Ayaka excels at par 5 scoring even as a medium length player off the tee. These short par 5s will really suit her game.

Fresh off a top 30 at the US Open, Albane Valenzuela's recent history at the ShopRite is strong.

  • Valenzuela finished sixth last year, and fourth the year before.
  • She's the second-best approach player in the field.
  • Second also in strokes gained T2G, she hits a ton of GIRs and fairways.
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