The First Tee – The Memorial by Adam Daly

Fantasy Golf Insider Staff
By Fantasy Golf Insider Staff May 29, 2017 22:15

The First Tee – The Memorial by Adam Daly

The Course

Memorial (Presented by Nationwide!) takes place in Dublin, Ohio at Muirfield G.C. – the house that Jack built. It’s an invitational (so a field of ~120), and is one of the more prestigious events that’s not a major because of the weight behind the Nicklaus name – not to mention the run-up to the summer majors, and one of the last shots at qualifying for Erin Hills.

As a par-72 listed at 7,392 yards, Memorial had typically been one of the hardest courses on Tour until the last few years; prior to 2014 Muirfield had the sixth-lowest score relative to par, but in the three years since it’s played much easier. Formerly known as a course with few scoring opportunities, last year Muirfield saw 1646 birdies (eighth-most) and 43 eagles to go with it; 2015 saw similar scoring, so that trend should continue this week.

The four par-3s here all range between 184-201 yards, with water in front of the 16th green seeming to be the only “tough” par-3 here, but three of the four actually played over par last year (even with a Rod Pampling ace). They’ll be one of the keys to finishing high on the leaderboard, so Par-3 Scoring will have to get looked at. The par-5s on the other hand are all very scoreable, playing an average combined score of around -1.5 over the four holes; not circling a number on the scorecard on these four holes would be a tough situation to win from.

The course itself is relatively straight-forward, with large ponds guarding the greens on four holes and relatively few green-side bunkers, but there are enough fairway bunkers and little creeks on the course that can make it a challenge.

The loosely tree-lined fairways are slightly above average width, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a bomber’s paradise – as the correlations below will show, Muirfield is still a second-shot course where distance off the tee won’t be as impactful. With lots of doglegs (mostly right), putting the ball in the right position matters more than how far the ball traveled; one thing to note though is that missing the fairway is a bad idea, as the rough is thicker than most non-Majors.

Around the greens at Muirfield is a large part of what makes the week – Scrambling% has the highest correlation to Finish Position here than on most courses – so that’s really where to focus. The bentgrass greens at Memorial are very small (~5000sq. ft. on average), very fast and firm (around 13’ on the stimpmeter), with some undulation – what that all stresses is that it’s tough to stick balls on the greens, and getting creative with wedges when off the greens is crucial.

One last note about Memorial: as always, it’s so important to avoid bogeys – and this week is no exception (slightly more important than on average) – but here’s what’s led to big numbers here:

Avoid Bogeys:
Scrambling % – 72.76%
SG: Tee to Green – 68.79%
GIR – 66.05%
SG: Approach – 56.04%
3-Putt % – 42.04%
Prox to Hole – 40.92%

Most of the bogeys are made not so much on the greens, but around them and getting to them.


Largest Correlations
SGTG – 70.57%
Bogey Avoidance % – 63.59%
SG:APP – 60.25%
BoB% – 57.86%
GIR – 50.14%
Scr – 44.21%

Approach Shots
50-75 – 1.39%
75-100 – 6.10%
100-125 – 12.06%
125-150 – 15.63%
150-175 – 21.85%
175-200 – 25.53%
200+ – 17.43%

The Strokes Gained stats to focus on in order (not including Tee to Green):

  • Approach
  • Putting
  • Around the Green
  • Off-The-Tee

Counting stats to focus on in order:

  • Bogey Avoidance
  • Greens in Regulation %
  • Scrambling %
  • Par-3 Scoring

The Golfers

The Core

Tommy Fleetwood ($7700): Although he was fairly quiet at the PLAYERS, finishing T41, Fleetwood has still been an absolute monster in his time on the PGA Tour in terms of Strokes Gained, in every category save putting. His SG: Tee to Green would put him second after only Dustin Johnson if he had enough qualified rounds, and his 0.843 SG: Approach would have him sixth – it is a small tracked sample, but those numbers combined with his results on the European Tour show that this Brit is no fluke.

The approach numbers are the most tantalizing aspect of Fleetwood’s game for this course, and although his PGA GIR% of 61.51% doesn’t jump out as anything special, he’s currently ranked 2nd in that category across the pond (82.6%, although the Euro Tour average is higher overall than the PGA’s, at 68.7%). Fleetwood’s scrambling also leaves something to be desired, but a large part of that has come not from the wedge but from poor putting. On fast greens in Mexico, Fleetwood putted lights out, so he may not be at that much of a disadvantage here.

He’s coming off a missed cut at the BMW PGA across the pond, but finished 2nd in China, 2nd in the WGC Mexico, and 1st back in January in Abu Dhabi; all of these events had strong fields, and his top-10 finish at the Arnold Palmer has shown he can compete in tough fields stateside as well.

Phil Mickelson ($7700): On a course where scrambling and second shots matter, Phil is priced far too cheaply for his upside; it’s a given that he’ll end up in some odd spots off the tee from week to week, but Lefty is consistently one of the best around the greens (currently 25th in SG: ARG) and has been throughout his career.

Mickelson has struggled to get through four full rounds this year, whether it’s from mental lapses or physical exhaustion (he’s old), so that will be a concern – but he’s also 24th in Approach shots, an elite putter who puts up a ton of DK points with his great birdie average, and he’s 10th in scoring on Par-5s.

His best finish here was a T5 in 2010, and although he has two first round W/Ds to his history, he hasn’t missed the cut here going back to 2008. There’s not a lot to dislike about Mickelson for cheap, and paired with Fleetwood he leaves a lot of room up top.

Rickie Fowler ($8900): At this bargain basement price, expect Fowler to be fairly chalky this week, but for good reason. Before his 60th-place finish at TPC Sawgrass, Fowler had finishes of 4th, 1st, 16th, 12th, 3rd, and 11th (Zurich team play notwithstanding). To get a golfer of that form and calibre at that price is surprising until his course history is noted: Fowler has missed three straight cuts at Memorial, but he also finished solo 2nd in 2010, and had a top-25 as well. That history may be the one thing that keeps Fowler’s ownership down, which would be an added bonus.

In almost every important aspect as it relates to the course this week, Fowler is elite. He has the 7th best SG: Approach (as well as SG: Putting), sits 31st in Scrambling% , and is 14th in Par-3 scoring.

DraftKings-wise, Fowler always makes a good play in the same vein as Lefty, because he makes lots of birdies. On par-5s, Fowler’s made Birdie or Better a whopping 55.83% (4th), and his overall birdie average of 4.44 is currently 4th on Tour. When going for the green, there’s no one better than Fowler who’s circled his scorecard 75.91% of the time he’s gone for it – tops.


You can follow me on Twitter @adalyfrey, and if there’s something you’d like to see change in this column my DMs are open! Good luck this week

Fantasy Golf Insider Staff
By Fantasy Golf Insider Staff May 29, 2017 22:15

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