The Memorial Tournament 2020 betting preview

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The 2020 Memorial will prove to be a unique one and not just for the lack of fans. Many players at this year’s event will be playing Muirfield Village, host of this event since inception, for the second week in a row making this an interesting proposition for bettors. The event began back in 1976 and has gained Invitational status on the PGA, which means most seasons it features a smaller than normal field with some select golfers–often amateurs or international names–given special invites. 

Due to the Covid-19 stoppage, the event this season will have a fuller field than normal with 133-golfers in attendance. Yes, there’s names like Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka in the field, but players like Austrian-born Matthias Schwab, who finished T4 earlier at the HSBC Champions WGC event at the end of 2019, are also here. It’s an eclectic mix of names made even more interesting by the fact numerous players in the field this week won’t have had the benefit of playing in last week’s tournament. 

Workday Charity Open Roundup

Speaking of last week, we got one of the most entertaining finishes of the season at the inaugural Workday Charity Open when Collin Morikawa, who went off at +3000 or better last week, defeated Justin Thomas on the third playoff hole. Thomas had a two-stroke lead with three to play but missed putts from 9ft and 11ft that would have won it. 

Morikawa had a huge week with his irons, gaining +9.2 strokes on his approaches alone. He also had what was his best week statistically putting since he came on Tour, gaining +4.7 strokes on the greens. All three of the top finishers had great weeks off the tee, finishing inside the top-10 in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee stats and the same trio also led the field in SG: Tee to Green stats. In this regard, even the supposedly “easier” version of Muirfield we saw last week seemed to reward the players who were the best throughout the bag. 

Memorial Course Details

Muirfield Village

  • Par: 72, 7,456–Dublin, Ohio
  • Greens: Bentgrass (some poa)
  • Design: Jack Nicklaus (1974)
  • Course Record: John Huston 61 (1996)
  • Most wins: Tiger Woods (5)
  • Defending Event Champion: Patrick Cantlay (-19) 

As mentioned above, this will be the second week in a row that the players will be competing at Muirfield Village. While that may make this week a simplistic proposition for some–aka just bet the players that played well here last week–it’s never that easy. The discussion from the start was that the course would likely be setup harder/different in the second week and that seems likely to hold true. Thicker rough and quicker greens should only accentuate the classic venues hardest features and potentially will make this an even tougher test of golf than the first go-round. 

From a set-up perspective, Muirfield plays as a classic Par 72, with four Par 5’s that almost always play as the easiest holes on the course. This held true for last week at the Workday too but it’s worth noting that the 14th also played as a drivable Par-4 last week and ended up being the fifth-easiest hole on the course. That hole may be set-up quite differently for the Memorial and play much more difficult. 

For anyone who watched the playoff and end of regulation last week, it should also come as no shock that the final three holes at Muirfield play as some of the toughest on the course. The Par 4-18th was a monster last week, playing as the toughest hole and producing a 4.25 scoring average. The long Par 3-16th also was difficult and played as the second toughest for the week. For live betting purposes, hitting a player that is only a stroke or two back while going into this final stretch could be profitable as any leader is going to have a hard time just making pars on the way home. 

With the venue likely setting up tougher this week I would also expect there to be an even greater emphasis on Tee to Green play this week. The last two tournaments played at Muirfield have clearly rewarded the best players in this area as 2019 winner Patrick Cantlay gained +14.4 tee to green here last year and was only beaten in this area by runner-up Adam Scott. Last week played out much the same as the top-three finishers all finished 1-2-3 in this stat as well. 

2020 Memorial Discussion and Picks

The last five winners of the Memorial have included some classy winners, but mixed in have been some pretty massive longshots and surprises as well. David Lingmerth and William Mcgirt won the 2015 and 2016 iterations of this event and both were +10000 or more in the odds department, pre-event. Both are in the field this week but neither have regular PGA cards at the moment and have struggled since their victories here. 

Lately the event has been dominated by young players who have excelled in the tougher conditions and thorough test that Muirfield provides. Bryson DeChambeau won here in a playoff in 2018 (vs. Byeong Hun An and Kyle Stanley), going off around +5000 or better, pre-event, on most sportsbooks. Last year the event was won by now world number 10 Patrick Cantlay who was coming off a fantastic PGA Championship performance and went off at an even lower price, pre-event. 

The tournament has also seen numerous international players compete well here too. Germany’s Martin Kaymer held the lead here after 54-holes last season and the event has produced winners like Justin Rose (2010), David Lingmerth (2015) and Hideki Matsuyama (2014) in recent seasons. 

May 31, 2019; Dublin, OH, USA; Rory Sabbatini walks across a bridge during the second round of the 2019 Memorial golf tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Top of the Market 

If you’ve watched a lot of golf lately, you know that we seem to be entering a period with a lot of parity right now at the top of betting markets. The first five events have seen quality winners across the board with the biggest payoff from an odds perspective being Daniel Berger, who went off around +6600 or better at most sportsbooks that week pre-event. As good as he’s played in 2020, in two starts at the Memorial Berger’s only gone T67 and MC, which is probably enough–when combined with his recent layoff–to leave him out here for me. 

Bryson DeChambeau won at much smaller prices recently in Detroit and the 2018 Memorial champion now comes in this year as the one of the event favorites with Justin Thomas. Thomas was great last week but showed some inconsistency down the stretch off the tee. In a weaker field either of these two would be interesting bets at around the +1000 mark but there simply feels like better value lurking down the field. Despite winning his last time out, Bryson struggled with his irons in Detroit. Improvement in that area is likely from him soon but at a tough venue like Muirfield, it’s a big enough worry to leave him out at this price for me. 

A case could be made that Patrick Cantlay is where people should be starting their outright bets this week. He’s down to +1400 or better after being nearly double that last week though. The American had a great week throughout the bag at the Workday so the only argument against him is that he’s now the same price as Dustin Johnson, which is a tough comparison for him to win given DJ’s current form. Cantlay is also someone I highlighted in my 2020 PGA Championship preview and the form he showed at the Workday should have you more excited for his prospects there now as well. 

The next range, +2000 and above, is where I like starting cards. One of the names in that range is Tiger Woods, who opened at many places around +2500 or better. Is it too much to ask for Tiger to come off five months of layoff and win his first time out? Probably, but note that he didn’t play for a full two months before blasting the field at the Zozo Championship back in November. He loved Muirfield as a youngster but as a 44-year-old with competitive rust I’ll likely pass here but cheer for him anyways if he gets into contention. 

Brooks Koepka, Rickie Fowler and Hideki Matusyama are all looking to build on some decent showings of late, while Viktor Hovland and Collin Morikawa are simply looking to keep this roll they have going. Hovland at +2200 or better is hard to turn down considering he’s led the field in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green stats now for three straight weeks. I wouldn’t put anyone off him necessarily but playing six weeks in a row is a touch concerning, even if there’s no pro-am’s or fan commitments to deal with. 

Finally, let’s give Webb Simpson a shout out, a player who could legitimately be in the running for the best player in the world right now. He’s around +2200 or better right now and being disrespected in the odds most places due to a poor Muirfield Village record. If this were last week I’d probably bite, but the elite names at the top have pushed down a few other names I like more.

Favorite Bets (Outright and Each-ways)

For more info on types of golf bets available each week, be sure to check out more info here. Each way bets refer to bets that include a bet to win and a bet to place (usually to at least top-5 but sometimes are available up to top-8 or more). 

Jun 26, 2020; Cromwell, Connecticut, USA; Xander Schauffele tees off on the 6th during the second round of the Travelers Championship golf tournament at TPC River Highlands. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Xander Schauffele +2800 or better

With players like Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson dominating of late, and the fresh out of college crowd like Viktor Hovland, Matt Wolff and Collin Morikawa making the PGA their personal ATM machine, it can be easy to forget about a player like Schauffele. Despite not bagging a win since his Tournament of Champions victory in early 2019, Xander has been close in 2020 to breaking this drought, agonizingly close in fact, such that a couple made three-footers could have him at two wins on the year right now. Putting that heartbreak aside though, there’s reason to think the tribulations could lead to better things down the road soon and that end of the rainbow could certainly land here, in this second week at Muirfield Village. 

Schauffele managed to put a poor second round behind him last week, posting weekend rounds of 66 and 70 at Muirfield Village to move into T14, the same position he finished at the Memorial last season. Schauffele’s weekend rounds were eye-catching as he actually out-performed two of the three top-men in the standings from a Strokes Gained: Approach perspective, gaining +2.5 and +2.0 strokes with his irons in his last two rounds. Having now seen Muirfield three times in competition, a little clean-up with his driver–which he’s usually excellent with–and around the greens this week could easily lead to a bigger finish. With the venue looking set to play closer to major championship levels this week, and his form simmering off a strong weekend of play, making him a target here for me is a priority. 

Jon Rahm +2200 or better

I’m not usually someone who stans for Jon Rahm in these more elite fields, especially when his price is in the high teens or lower. However, now that we’re in the +2000 range, I’m interested. Rahm’s conversion rate on the PGA hasn’t been great over the last two years, as his only victories have come at niche events like the Hero Challenge and Zurich team event, with his last full field PGA win coming back in 2018 at what is now called the American Express. 

Still, the Spaniard is now grouped with players like Viktor Hovland and Collin Morikawa in the odds, players who may carry similar talent, but don’t necessarily have his experience or class around the greens yet. The short of it is, Rahm’s too talented to let this drought slide for much longer and his success over in Europe should be a good guide that eventually he’ll break through for a couple big wins on the mainland soon. He showed some serious progression last week, gaining over a stroke off the tee in his last three rounds, and also proceeded to end his tournament with a sizzling 64, which saw him gain +4.3 strokes against the field on his approaches alone. I like grabbing a piece here of a player who should hopefully outperform these outright odds as he gets deeper into his career. 

Tony Finau +6000 or better

Finau is coming into this week off two poor finishes in a row that has caused his betting price to balloon up a bit. Although he massively disappointed bettors in the much weaker field that inhabited the Rocket Mortgage Classic, Finau should be better suited for what is likely to be another thorough Tee to Green test this week at Muirfield. 

With top finishes at venues like Riviera (T2-2018), Torrey Pines (T6-2020 and 2017) and the US Open at Shinnecock Hills (T5-2018), it quickly becomes apparent that this is the kind of player who thrives when conditions are at their toughest. While he’s been slow to hit the gas since the break ended, his 2020 includes a heartbreaking playoff loss at the WMPO where he was only beaten by the now mercurial Webb Simpson in a playoff. An improved short game and a record at Memorial that includes a T8 here on debut and two other top-20 finishes could be the difference for him this week. I like grabbing an each-way on him here at what feels like a great number.  

Jason Day +6000 or better

The progression of Jason Day since the restart has been an interesting case study. Seemingly healthy for once after undergoing a small back operation after the Arnold Palmer event in March, Day’s shown a type of consistency in his long game that hasn’t been seen for a while. The Aussie gained +2.5 strokes off the tee last week, which is his best mark in that area on the year, and also has started to flash with his irons of late, gaining +2.6 strokes on approaches in round one last week. 

As much as health can be an issue with Day, confidence has also been an issue for him of late too, but that seems to be building now. His work on the greens at Muirfield over the weekend is likely the best sign of that actually occurring, as he gained a mammoth four strokes with the putter against the field in his last two rounds. Day’s done well at the more classic venues across the PGA over his career, picking up wins at venues like Torrey Pines and Quail Hollow, a grouping of which Muirfield would seemingly fit in perfectly with. Despite the good finish last week, his betting price hasn’t budged much if at all off last week’s prices, and I’ll happily take him as an each-way bet for one more try to see if the confidence he showed last week was real or just a mirage. 

Shane Lowry +10000 or better

Lowry’s the type of classy player you want to keep an eye on in these stronger fields, especially  when he starts to drop into the three figure range. The Irishman has won against the best fields in golf multiple times now, bagging both last year’s Open and a WGC win in 2015 on a classic setup similar to this week’s venue at the defunct Bridgestone event. His recent results may not stand out much, but he’s shown progression of late and gained a solid +3.7 strokes on his approaches last week. A small improvement off the tee this week could lead to a big finish at this week’s event and I don’t mind grabbing an each-way piece of him at these big prices at all. 

Matchups (72-holes)

For golf, not every sportsbook will have the same match-ups. Shopping around for the best price is also key. For more info on types of golf bets available each week, be sure to check out more info here

Jon Rahm -120 or better over Webb Simpson 

As mentioned above, Rahm showed improvement in his ball-striking throughout the bag last week. A tougher course, that may play quite long due to some rain and thick rough should also be in his favour here over short hitter Webb Simpson. Simpson’s playing well but has only cracked the top-20 at Muirfield once in four tries. At a venue like the one we’re at this week Rahm should win out in this match-up more times than not to make this profitable long-term. 

Tony Finau +100 or better over Gary Woodland 

Woodland is coming off a T5 finish from last week but was lucky to even make the cut and benefitted mainly from his putter getting hot over the weekend. Traditionally, that’s not a club that he’s good with long term so regression on the greens for Gary would not be shocking. I mentioned why I like Finau up above and a course that is playing longer and tougher this week should give him a slight edge in this match-up. At plus money, Finau looks like solid value here. 

First-round leader bet

Keegan Bradley +10000 or better

Bradley finished T39 last week at Muirfield Village but led the field last week in Strokes Gained: Approach stats, gaining +10.75 strokes against the field in this area for the week. He was bad (even for him) around and on the greens but with the sort of ball-striking he showed last week even a small improvement in that area could lead to a big round. 

The 2011 PGA Championship winner has traditionally been a fast starter, never finishing outside of the top-40 on Tour in any of the past five years in round one scoring. He’s also got a nice record at Muirfield that includes T8 finishes from 2015 and 2016. A triple digit price here and an early tee time (7:33 est) which should have him avoiding the wind later in the day–and possibly enjoying a soft course from rain the night before–all work in his favor here to make him a great each-way bet in the first-round leader market for me this week. 

UPDATED with first round bets!

First-round three-ball bet

Xander Schauffele +225 or better over Dustin Johnson/Justin Thomas

Ranked 20th in first-round scoring on Tour this year, Schauffele carries the highest ranking in this stat for 2020 of the three, and it was only three weeks ago that Xander shot a 63 in round one of the Travelers. Additionally, if we’re looking into stats from last week, Schauffele actually out-produced Thomas on his Approaches over the weekend, shooting 66-70, which was only one shot off what Thomas recorded. 

There’s little doubt that Thomas, the aforementioned playoff loser from last week, could carry a little fatigue in round one after being so agonizingly close to winning on this venue the week prior. Additionally, Johnson is coming off two non-competitive weeks now and has a history of spotty play at Muirfield that includes opening with a 78 here in 2017. There’s little room for error here for Schauffele but at these prices, there’s enough in his favour for me to take the risk on him winning out in round one. 

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