Horses for Courses: 46th Memorial Tournament

The 46th edition at Jack Nicklaus’ Muirfield Village won’t be like the last few as the legend has changed plenty of elements before the 2021 edition.

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The 46th edition played only at MVGC in Dublin, Ohio, will present 18 rebuilt and regrassed greens with almost all enduring contour changes. 007 Bentgrass remains the choice of grass again, but the locations of many have shifted deeper from their original positions or closer to water penalty areas. Precision Air systems were also built into the complexes.

In addition to the greens, all fairways were regrassed and added better draining options. New tee boxes added over 100 yards to the scorecard and every bunker was rebuilt with some strategically moved. Old trees were removed and 80 new ones planted to prepare for the future and challenge the present. Fairways didn’t expand as just 24 acres are available.

Also helping protect par is four inches of Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass and fescue to catch errant shots. New closely mown areas appear around selected greens to add more options and make players think. The milkshakes in the clubhouse will remain the same and so will the date on the TOUR calendar but that’s about it.

Stretching to 7,543 yards and playing as Par-72, the new grass on the fairways, approach areas and greens should be quite firm as they haven’t had a year to grow in. At only 5,000 square feet on average, they weren’t easy to hit in the first place. The putting surfaces will also be cause for concern. Greens books from previous events won’t be of any help plus it’s hard to get them really slick in such an early part of development. Yes, they can be firm and slow.

With 68 bunkers and 13 holes with water in play, this week screams out for ball-strikers. Any advantage for the putters from prior knowledge on the greens is out the window. Contenders this week will find greens, take advantage of the Par-5 holes and hole enough putts to save pars. We’re all excited to see the changes but with Nicklaus design elements some things never change. Finding fairways and greens will be challenging and there are no gimmes on the greens as putting tends to become more difficult inside 10 feet.

Last year two events were played at Muirfield in back-to-back weeks. Collin Morikawa won the duel with Justin Thomas in the Workday Charity Open before Jon Rahm thrived in impossible conditions to win the Memorial. The greens for the Memorial ran two feet faster than Workday. Plus the course, which was being ripped up as the leaders turned to the back nine on Sunday, was baked out and lightning fast as all of the changes were beginning to take place. I’m more interested in the actual Memorial event but it all needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

On the line this week is a $9.3 million prize pool ($1.674 million to the winner plus 550 FedExCup points) and a three year exemption on TOUR..

Recent Event Winners Stats

 Jon RahmPatrick CantlayBryson DeChambeau
MOV323-man playoff
Cut3 over1 overEven
Distance – All DrivesT1527
Driving AccuarcyT4T51T58
Putting: Birdie or Better %T11212
SG: Off-the-Tee4825
SG: Approach-the-Green4524
SG: Around-the-Green3526
SG: Putting2876
SG: Tee-to-Green1212
Bogey AvoidanceT1 T2T2
Par-3 ScoringT8T4T2
Par-4 ScoringT4T2T11
Par-5 ScoringT2T1T18

Recent Winners and Notables

2020: Jon Rahm (-9, 279)

Led by four after 54 holes and won easily by three shots. … Final round 75 in 96 degree heat with 30 mph wind gusts. … One of seven players to break 70 in Round 1. … One of two players to break 70 in Round 3 (69, T-best). … Only third player to win by three shots or more in 16 years. … Picks up his fourth tour win at age 25. … Moved to No. 1 OWGR after the victory. … Fourth consecutive season on TOUR with a victory. … Wins in just his second start here (MC, 2017). … Entered the week with nothing better than T27 after the restart in June.

Notables in the field this week:

Matt Fitzpatrick (3rd) shot 68 on Sunday, one of the THREE ROUNDS in the 60s for the entire weekend. … Columbus native Jason Day (T4) was one of seven who posted 66, tying the low round of the week. … Matt Wallace (T4) posted all four rounds at par or better and was the only member of that club. … Mackenzie Hughes (T6) ranked T4 in total putting. … Henrik Norlander (T6) hit the top 10 in his first visit. … Tony Finau (8th) led after 18 holes and co-led after 36 holes before 73-78 on the weekend. … Luke List (T10) picked up his best paycheck in his fourth consecutive start. … Xinjun Zhang (T10) was one of just 12 players to post Even or better. … Defending champion Patrick Cantlay (T32) opened 70-70 but stumbled on the weekend when the conditions deteriorated. … 75.959 final round average was the highest non-major scoring in four years on TOUR. … Cut was 3-over. … Field was 132 (COVID-19). … Only five bogey-free rounds for the week. … Only three players made LESS THAN 10 bogeys. … 74.007 average for the week.

2019: Patrick Cantlay (-19, 269)

Signed for a bogey-free 64 on Sunday to win by two shots. … Lowest winning score by a champion at MVGC. … Missed tying Tom Lehman’s tournament record by a shot as he posted all four rounds in the 60s. … Trailed by four entering Sunday. … Best round of the day by two. … Last bogey-free round by a winner was 2016 (William McGirt). … Second win on TOUR at age 27. … Won in his third start at MVGC and followed up solo fourth in 2018. … 70.13 scoring average here. … Did not lead at any point prior to Sunday. … T11 or better in most every major stat category. … T3 PGA Championship previous start; T3 RBC and T9 Masters two event before PGA Championship.

Notables in the field this week:

Adam Scott (2nd) played in the final group, shot 68 and lost by two. … Kevin Streelman (4th) closed with 66, tied for the second best round of the day. … Marc Leishman (5th) cashed his biggest check and is currently on a streak of 10 straight here entering 2021. … Only debut winner outside of the inaugural event, 2014 champion Hideki Matsuyama (6th), cashed his third top 10 in six starts. … 2017 victor Jason Dufner (T7) picked up his second top 10 in his last three starts here. … Jordan Spieth (T7) opened with 66 to trail by one after 18 holes. … Emiliano Grillo (T9) made 415 feet of putts to lead the field. … Billy Horschel (T9) only made six bogeys and was T4 GIR. … Defending champion Bryson DeChambeau (T22) stormed home with 66. … KH Lee (T37) and Troy Merritt (T17) shared the 36-hole lead. … Cut was 1-over. … Only five rounds ABOVE par for the top 21 players. … 11 bogey-free rounds. … 72.081 scoring average.

2018: Bryson DeChambeau (-15, 273)

Won the first ever three-man playoff in event history. … Kyle Stanley (not entered) was knocked out on the first playoff hole. … Defeated Byeong-Hun An on the third playoff hole with birdie. … Became the third youngest winner at age 24 at the event. … Playoff was forced after he three putted the final hole for 71. … Led by one after 54 holes, his first 54-hole lead on TOUR. … Three back after 36 and T16 after 18. … Won in his second attempt after T38 on debut. … Entered the week T42 Colonial and T37 Masters were his last two events.

Notables in the field this week:

Byeong-Hun An (P2) was the only player to post four rounds in the 60s. … Patrick Cantlay (4th) played in the final group and shot 71 and missed the playoff by a shot. … Joaquin Niemann (T6) made a splash on debut as he co-led the field with Hideki Matsuyama (T13) after 18 holes and Kyle Stanley after 36. … Rickie Fowler (T8) backed up T2 in 2017 and added T14 in 2019 before MC last year. … Rory McIlroy (T8) used the low round of the week, 64, on Saturday to jump into contention. … Patrick Rodgers (T8) led the field with over 410 feet of putts made. … Defending champion Jason Dufner (MC) didn’t see the weekend. … Only Tiger Woods and Hideki Matsuyama are younger winners here. … Cut was Even. … 14 bogey-free rounds. … Gusty, windy Sunday. … 71.366 average.

Key stat leaders

Top golfers in each statistic on the 2020-2021 PGA TOUR are listed only if they are scheduled to compete this week.

Strokes Gained: Tee to Green
Rank Player
1Collin Morikawa
2Bryson DeChambeau
3Jon Rahm
4Keegan Bradley
5Tony Finau
6Justin Thomas
7Corey Conners
9Viktor Hovland
11Patrick Cantlay
13Rory McIlroy
14Charley Hoffman
17Hideki Matsuyama
18Xander Schauffele
19Doug Ghim
20Joaquin Niemann
21Jordan Spieth
22Shane Lowry
23Matt Wallace
24Harold Varner III
26Aaron Wise
Strokes Gained: Putting
1Louis Oosthuizen
2Brendon Todd
3Patrick Reed
5Christiaan Bezuidenhout
8JT Poston
9Xander Schauffele
12Cameron Smith
15Patton Kizzire
16Matt Fitzpatrick
20Matt Jones
21Joaquin Niemann
23Sam Burns
26Lanto Griffin
27Mackenzie Hughes
31Jordan Spieth
32Sungjae Im
33Billy Horschel
34Cameron Tringale
Par-5 Scoring
1Cameron Smith
1Xander Schauffele
3Jon Rahm
5Sam Burns
9Max Homa
9Byrson DeChambeau
9Viktor Hovland
13Carlos Ortiz
13Marc Leishman
13Brendon Todd
17Justin Thomas
17Hideki Matsuyama
20Keegan Bradley
20Louis Oosthuizen
20Joaquin Niemann
24Patrick Rodgers
24Tony Finau
24Jordan Spieth
24Luke List
31Sebastian Munoz
31Patton Kizzire
31Patrick Cantlay
31Matthew NeSmith
31Patrick Red
31Matt Jones

Horses for Courses

Player (Starts/Cuts Made)Top  10sTop 25Most RecentRecent Others
Jon Rahm (1/2)11Win (2020)Difficult conditons, won easily; MC debut 2017
Matt Fitzpatrick (2/2)113rd (2020)T68 2019
Jason Day (8/12)12T4 (2020)Local picked up his first top 10 last year
Matt Wallace (1/1)11T4 (2020)Par or better all 4 rounds
Mackenzie Hughes (2/3)11T6 (2020)Just one round below 70
Henrik Norlander (1/1)11T6 (2020)Opened 74, closed 74; Round 2 66
Tony Finau (5/6)248th (2020)T8 debut 2015; T13 or better 4 of 6
Patrick Reed (5/5)22T10 (2020)T8 2016; T29 or better in 4 of 5
Luke List (2/4)11T10 (2020)T37 2018; making 5th consecutive start
Patrick Cantlay (4/4)22Win (2019)4th 2018; T32 defense; T35 debut; 70.19 avg.
Adam Scott (11/12)452nd (2019)T4 2014; DNS 2020; 71.13 avg.
Kevin Streelman (8/12)554th (2019)T8 2016; T13 2017; 6 straight; 4 of those T18 or better
Marc Leishman (11/12)245th (2019)T5 2015; cashed 10 straight
Hideki Matsuyama (5/7)346th (2019)Debut win 2014; T5 defense; MC 2020; 70.71 avg.
Jason Dufner (6/9)24T7 (2019)2017 winner; 4 of the last 7 T24 or better
Jordan Spieth (7/8)25T7 (2019)T3 2015; T13 2020; 
Billy Horschel (5/7)14T9 (2019)T13 2020; T15 or better 4 times
Emiliano Grillo (4/5)13T9 (2019)T11 2016 debut; MC 2020 busted a streak of 4 straight
Bryson DeChambeau (3/4)12Win (2018)T22 defense next best; 70.43
Byeong Hun An (4/6)14P2 (2018)T25 or better 4 straight before 2020 MC
Joaquin Niemann (2/3)11T6 (2018)MC-T27 last 2
Rickie Fowler (7/11)35T8 (2018)T2 2017; 2nd debut 2010
Rory McIlroy (7/9)45T8 (2018)T4 2016; T32-MC last 2 visits
Justin Thomas (4/7)23T8 (2018)T4 2017; best are last three of four
Patrick Rodgers (4/5)12T8 (2018)T18 2020
Jason Dufner (6/9)24Win (2017)T7 2019; made the cut in last 6 of 7
Matt Kuchar (13/15)710T4 (2017)Winner 2013; T2 2011; T4 2016; T32-MC last 2
Bubba Watson (11/13)24T6 (2017)3rd 2014; 6 straight with 2 top 10s
James Hahn (2/4)11T6 (2017)T52 other
OthersTop 10sTop 25Most RecentRecent Others
Gary Woodland (8/10)25T4 (2016)6th 2011 debut; cashed 5 straight
JB Holmes (7/12)14T4 (2016)MC-T13-MC-T4 last four

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