Jeff’s Hardcore Core- The Memorial

Jeff Bergerson
By Jeff Bergerson May 31, 2021 17:07

Jeff’s Hardcore Core- The Memorial

Another stacked field, this week for The Memorial at Muirfield Golf club, where we got to see back to back events played last year, first with the Workday Classic and then the following week with The Memorial.  The Memorial played significantly more difficult with longer rough, speedier greens, and tougher pin placements, not to mention some brutal winds during several periods. There have been some alterations to some greens, bunkers, and fairways since we last saw the course.  It is tough to imagine it can play any more difficult then for the Memorial last year, but we will see.  Only two weeks until the U.S Open, so we will likely see the top names this week and then not again until Torrey Pines.  Best of luck this week Team FGI!

Jeff’s Strategy and Core- The Memorial-

Here are the details for Muirfield- 7,543 yards, Par 72.  Fast bentgrass greens.  Wide fairways, but long, thick rough.  The winning score should be somewhere around 9 or 10 under par. As I mentioned earlier, a renovation began right after last years Memorial.  Bunkers were added, greens were redone, and 140 trees found there way onto the course as well.  The course will now play up to 100 yards longer than previously.

The courses that I will include in our Course Comparison Tool include:

#1 TPC Boston

#2 Glen Abbey

#3 Sheshan International

#4 The Old White TPC

#5 Augusta

#6 Liberty National

Much like I have done in years past I will be placing emphasis on SG:OTT and SG:APP.  Unlike last week at Colonial, bombers clearly have an advantage at Muirfield and we have seen that repeat itself over the years. This will be even more the case with the added distance to Muirfield as part of the renovation. The course is long, the fairways are wide, the rough is difficult, and the greens are below average in size.  As we see often on difficult courses, the top names in the world tend to rise to the top of the leaderboard, much like they do in major tournaments.  I have been sticking to many of the same guys the last month or so who are in good form and they consistently produce for us.  It is early in the week, but I do not see ownership getting out of hand for anybody, although Patrick Cantlay, Charley Hoffman, and Viktor Hovland all look to be on the higher side I would estimate.  I might be adding more names to my core as the week goes by, so be sure to check back.

My FGI Model will look like this- 45% Current Form, 30% Key Stats, 10% Vegas, and 15% Course HIstory.  Current Form- 10% Last 52, 50% Last 13, 25% Last 2, and 15% Last 1.  Key Stats 20% SG:T2G, 10% SG:OTT, 13% SG:APP, 20% SG:P, 5% DD,  10% PROX, 12% BOB, and 10% SCRAM.

 

Since The Players Championship, Justin Thomas has not been himself, but he is one of the few in the world that I feel comfortable backing with absolutely no form.  If you have been watching Thomas close, it feels like his putter is absolutely killing him, but he has actually gained strokes on the field the last two events (.342 at Charles Schwab and .354 at The PGA Championship), which is mind blowing to me.  He only gained .408 on the greens at TPC Sawgrass in his win.  His tee to green game remains elite ranking 3rd in SG:T2G, 12th in SG:OTT, and 7th in SG:APP over his last 16 rounds.  He has been hit or miss here at Muirfield with a couple of Top 10s and a few missed cuts over the past six years. Although he did finish runner-up at The Workday last year.   We get a slight price break this week and possible a break in ownership as well based on his last few times out.  35%

Viktor Hovland is the complete package and does everything well (29th in SG:T2G, 23rd in SG:OTT, 33rd in SG:APP, and 20th in SG:P.  A T30 finish at the PGA Championship was a bit disappointing, but he posted back to back T3s at Valspar and Wells Fargo the two events prior.  He finished T48 last year for the Memorial, but 3rd at Workday.  I like that he remains priced just out of the upper top tier and he is due for a win in a big time event very soon.

I was overweight the field on a popular Xander Schauffele for the PGA Championship and that ended up very poorly as he missed the cut.  Xander has done that to me on a couple of different occasions, but I am going to go back to him at Muirfield this week where his last three results have been T14, T13, and T14 (including Workday last year).  In typical Xander fashion, he is doing everything pretty well lately (26th in SG:T2G, 25th in SG:APP, 33rd in SG:OTT, and 15th in SG:P).  Its that kind of balance in his game that makes him a threat to win any week he steps on the course.  We have seen him win in tough fields in big tournaments and this is certainly one of those. 35%

I have not owned much Tony Finau this year as he has been very hit and miss ( MC, T28, MC, T10, MC, T8, T20) over his last seven events.  Muirfield is a great course fit for Finau with its wide fairways and bentgrass greens.  He has had good success here as well with a T11, T40, T13, MC, and 8th here the last five years.  The numbers remain good for Finau who ranks 6th in this field in SG:T2G, 31st in SG:OTT, and 15th in SG:APP. I certainly prefer Finau on difficult courses and in difficult fields where his salary is not so high that I need a win (which he has not had in a very long time), is not necessarily needed to pay off his price.  A T6 for $9,200 would not be all that bad.

If Muirfield becomes a meat grinder like it did last year, then a guy like Patrick Reed as a $9k anchor makes a ton of sense.  Very up and down lately with a couple of missed cuts, but also a couple of Top 10s, Reeds short game remains elite (12th in SG:ATG and 9th in SG:P over his last 24 rounds).  Besides his Top 10 here last year he also recorded a T8 here back in 2016 and has made the cut in each of his appearances here.

His worst finish all year last week at Colonial, but that is no surprise to me, because I try to make it a point to never target Joaquin Niemann on tight courses.  This week however we have wide fairways, which is exactly where I like to own Niemann.  Mix in the fact that it is on bentgrass greens where he is a better putter by .165 strokes and I am in.  He has had some success on tighter courses over his brief career, but overwhelmingly it is much greater on tracks with wide open spaces (Kapalua, Old White, Muirfield, etc.).  In 2018 he finished T6 here and in 2019 T27. Last year he missed the cut for this event after finishing T31 for the Workday.  Over his last 24 rounds he ranks 13th in SG:OTT and 27th in SG:APP.  He is a stud and get him on the right course and he can do some damage.

I went with Charley Hoffman last week and it did not look good early, but a blistering second round 62 and final round 65 catapulted him up to another big finish (T3).  That now makes ten straight cuts for Charley, and five consecutive Top 20 finishes.  That consistency is invaluable for a low $8k guy.  Over his last 16 rounds he ranks 6th in SG:T2G, 24th in SG:OTT, and 5th in SG:APP. Not the best tournament history at Muirfield, but there have been a few places that has been the case for Charley this year that he was able to overcome, because he is in such good form.  He did finish T7 at the Workday here last year.  I will just continue to ride the form for now.

It has been a really nice last three visits to Muirfield for Billy Horschel as they have resulted in a T9 and T13 for the Memorial and a T7 for Workday.  He is not the longest off the tee (121st in driving distance), but with his tremendous accuracy he actually ranks 18th in SG:OTT.  He remains a great putter (33rd in PGA Tour) and ranks 24th in SG:P in this field over his last 24 rounds.  He looked really good and really bad last week at Colonial during different parts of the tournament, lets hope we see the really good for the most part this week.

As long as he keeps producing for us, I am going to keep going back to Keegan Bradley.  He has Top 30 finishes in each of his last seven events played, including a T10 at Arnold Palmer, and runner up at Valspar.  His tee to green game has been sensational for most of the year ranking 19th in SG:OTT, 16th in SG:APP, and 3rd in SG:T2G.  It has been his putting however that has made him more successful and consistent lately as he currently ranks 61st in SG:P, which is far better than his 185th rank in SG:P on the PGA Tour last year.  He has been hit and miss at Muirfield over the year with a couple missed cuts and a couple Top 25s in his last five years.  It is his current form that I am buying and will continue to as long as he remains in this zone.

Is it safe to come back to Gary Woodland after a brutal end to 2020 and start of 2021?  He has now made five of his last six cuts, including a T6 at Valero and 5th at Wells Fargo.  Last week at Colonial he played decent and finished T14. What is encouraging is his statistics most recently, which are much improved.  He has gained strokes off the tee in 11 of his last 16 rounds and 13 in SG:APP.  Considering he ranks 166th in SG:OTT for the entire 2021 season and 52nd in SG:APP, those are very telling numbers that he might be back.  Memorial has been a great course for Woodland in the past as he took T4 here in 2016, T23 in 2018, and T22 last year.  I like the idea of a more wide open course for Gary this week. Plus his putting has improved as well and actually gained strokes in that department in each of his last three rounds at Colonial.

Kevin Steelman has a lot going for him this week including a stellar history at Muirfield including made cuts the last seven times he has played here including a T54 at The Memorial last year and a T7 at Workday.  Steelman also has some pretty good form going for him as well with 10 made cuts in his last 12 events played, including a 13th at Pebble Beach, T8 at the PGA Championship, and a T20 last week at Colonial.

The low $7k range features a bunch of guys in great form who would normally be up in the high $7k to low $8k range, but because of the field strength find themselves down here.  Matt Wallace, who has made eight straight cuts, with four Top 25s will try and follow up a terrific showing last year here at Muirfield with a T4.  Talor Gooch continues to be a cut maker (9 of his last 10).  He has missed the cut here the last two years for the Memorial, but finished T17 for the Workday last year.  Brendon Todd has been making cuts (7 of last 8) and had a little upside as well (T18 at WGC Workday and T8 last week at Colonial).  He has actually been great at the Memorial with a T22, 17th, and T8 in four tries.

Kind of like with Joaquin Niemann, the only time I really target Aaron Wise is on wide open courses like Muirfield.  Most of his top finishes in his young career have been those with wide fairways including Trinity Forest (win in 2018), Mayakoba (2nd in 2020 and T10 in 2018), and most recently a T11 at Memorial Park Golf Course for the Houston Open.  Overall he has been better lately far having made 6 of his last 7 cuts with a T9 at Quail Hollow and T17 at the PGA Championship. He has missed the cut in the two appearances he has had here in the past, which does not breed confidence, so I will not own a ton, but I don’t think anybody will own him, so 10% should put us 2X overweight.

His approach game has not been good lately, but most everything else has been for Wyndham Clark.  23rd in SG:OTT, 17th in SG:ATG, and 38th in SG:P over his last 12 rounds. He has made six consecutive cuts and took T20 at Charles Schwab last week.  Clark is certainly a bomber ranking 6th in driving distance in this field over his last 12 rounds. 8%

A cheap punt play that I like to use on long, open courses is Brandon Hagy.  He ranks 11th on tour in driving distance, but 208th in driving accuracy.  Its usually missed cuts for Hagy, but he does have a few real nice finishes this year including a T21 at American Express, runner-up at Honda, and T17 at Valero.  He also added a T26 at Quail Hollow.  His strokes gained off the tee are unsurprisingly high (12th in SG:OTT), all hos other stats are mediocre to poor.  I will just own about 6-7% as a cap saver.

$6,100 for Kyle Stanley this week? Seems a bit cheap for a guy with a T14, T26, T39, and T8 in four of his last five outings.  Not to mention three Top 6 finishes here at Muirfield over his career.  Over his last 16 rounds he ranks 14th in SG:T2G, 17th in SG:OTT, and 24th in SG:APP. Not surprisingly Stanley rocked the top position in our odds vs daily pricing tool with a whopping +58.  Looking for a salary saver, in good form, and a bit of course history.

 

Thomas $10,200

Hovland $9,900

Schauffele $9,700

Finau $9,200

Reed $9,100

Niemann $8,800

Hoffman $8,300

Horschel $8,100

Bradley $8,000

Woodland $7,900

Streelman $7,500

Wallace $7,400

Todd $7,200

Gooch $7,100

Wise $7,000

Clark $6,700

Hagy $6,200

Stanley $6,100

Jeff Bergerson
By Jeff Bergerson May 31, 2021 17:07

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