Scott Shapiro's 2021 Memorial Tournament preview
After Jason Kokrak outdueled Jordan Spieth at the Charles Schwab Challenge last week, the PGA Tour has moved to Ohio for one of the most coveted non-major events on the calendar.
As always, the Memorial Tournament will be played at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Muirfield Village Golf Club. The Dublin, Ohio course is a mainstay on the PGA Tour, but will look different this year, after a major renovation project following Jon Rahm’s victory in July. How the modifications will impact one of the more challenging courses on tour remains to be seen, but the changes are definitely worth noting, especially for those who rely heavily on course history in their handicapping.
Muirfield Village is a par 72 that measures slightly more than 7,500 yards. The golfers will be putting on reconstructed Bentgrass greens, which are likely to play very firm, barring significant rain throughout the four-day event. Like at most difficult tracks, a well-rounded game is ideal at the Memorial, but I leaned most on golfers with strong approach games and play around the greens in my handicapping. Driving it accurately off the tee and scoring on par 4s between 450 and 500 yards and par 5s will also be extremely important.
Rahm has yet to win an event in 2021, but returns to Muirfield Village in solid form for his attempt to be the first golfer since Tiger Woods (1999-2001) to win the Memorial in back-to-back years. The 26-year-old Spaniard has finished in the top 10 in six of his 10 tournaments this season, including a fifth-place finish at the Masters and eighth-place effort at the PGA Championship a couple weeks back. He is listed as the favorite in the outright market (+1100), with Victor Hovland and Justin Thomas the co-second choices (+1400).
The Memorial Tournament Presented by Nationwide 2021
Sun, June 6 2021, 7:59 PM
I respect their chances, but I will look to a couple of golfers who provide a little more bang for my buck.
Patrick Reed (+3300, +600 top 5)
The nine-time winner on the PGA Tour got his 2021 campaign off to a strong start with a victory in the Farmers Insurance Open, but he has been up and down since his controversial win at Torrey Pines.
The 2018 Masters champion has three top 10 finishes over the past three and a half months, including an eighth-place finish at Augusta National, but he has also missed three cuts since late February. The good thing about Reed is that he is capable of stepping up and besting a high-quality field, even if he played poorly in his prior start. That is the case heading into Ohio, after a missed cut at Colonial last week.
Reed will need to avoid spraying the ball off the tee to be at his best, but if he can keep it in the fairways, he should be in contention Sunday afternoon. His short game is one of the best in the world, he ranks ninth in the field over the last 24 rounds in scoring on par 4s between 450 and 500 yards, and he thrives on difficult courses.
I expect a strong performance from Reed, and he is an overlay in the outright market.
Louis Oosthuizen (+500 top 5, +200 top 10)
It is difficult to believe the 38-year-old South African still has yet to win a PGA tour event in North America.
The 2010 Open Championship victor has a plethora of top 5 finishes, including runner-up efforts at the Masters (2012), U.S. Open (2015), and PGA Championship (2017, 2021). He is a world-class golfer who will break through in the States before long.
Endorsing Oosthuzien at 20-1 to win is not an ideal strategy, given his history, but his current form makes him one of the better bets to finish in the top 10 this week. He ranks sixth in the field over the last 24 rounds in par 5 scoring, fifth in par 4 scoring between 450 and 500 yards, and 11th in strokes gained around the green. Like Reed, if Oosthuizen can keep the ball in the fairway, he should be in contention once again Sunday afternoon.