The PGA heads to Dublin, Ohio, for the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club. This is a course that has extensive data with the PGA having played here every year since 1976. It’s a par 72, over 7,500 yards, and although it has seen some renovations, it still holds the original bones.
For this event, I’m largely looking for great ball strikers who can keep out of trouble. Miss the fairway, and you can find yourself in a penalty area. It’s a type of course that gets tougher as you get closer to the hole, so I’m also looking for players that can navigate around the greens. Here’s one full tournament matchup to consider.
Rory McIlroy -130 > Cam Smith
Smith is typically an auto bet for me in tough field, tough track events. He was starting to check all the boxes of what I was looking for this week until I looked at his course history. Smith has played Muirfield on six occasions, has four missed cuts (including last year) and has finished no better than a T65. Is Smith a better player now? Yes. However, one way players could find themselves in some trouble is by hitting errant shots off the tee. The fairway bunkers have been rebuilt and shifted to narrow the landing zone from the tee. Muirfield is a penal course. If you miss the fairway, your ball could be buried in the thick ryegrass rough or find a hazard. Smith is outside the top 100 in the field for strokes gained off the tee.
Then there’s the need to be great around the green. Smith lost over three strokes around the green to miss the cut at RBC Heritage. He’s now had back-to-back events losing strokes on his short game, including three strokes putting in the PGA Championship — at a Southern Hills course with bentgrass greens, which is now what Muirfield has.
In the field, McIlroy is third in strokes gained off the tee and fourth in strokes gained around the green. Also, unlike Smith, he has good course history at Memorial with only two missed cuts in the last 10 years and six top-20 finishes, including a T18 last year. Now, unfortunately, McIlroy has lost strokes around the green at Muirfield in six of those events, but he makes up for it with his ball striking and putting. I put trust in consistency and McIlroy has that here.
Miss the cut: Daniel Berger +350
I was on this play last week for Charles Schwab and it nearly came through with Berger landing on the cut line at +1. A birdie on 15 is what got him there. Maybe I’m being stingy here but I'm going back to Berger to miss the cut. The problems he’s had in the last few tournaments showed up last week through individual rounds. In his last eight events, Berger has lost strokes either off the tee, on approach, around the green and putting. It hasn’t been pretty with his stat lines bleeding red. Despite this, he only has two missed cuts, in February’s Phoenix Open and the PGA Championship two weeks ago.
Last week was a close call. In the first round at Schwab, Berger hit only 43% accuracy and 55% greens in regulation. He managed to stay one over par relying on his putter. The next day, he improved in both categories but lost three strokes putting. His game is just so volatile and inconsistent right now. Another reason to risk on plus money, Berger has played the Memorial just three times and has missed the cut twice, with the last coming in 2020. I’m not convinced Berger has found his way back to form and on a track like this, he could fall back into doubt.