Last week definitely had me scratching my head at certain times and I won’t lie, even though it was entertaining at times I’m glad it’s over. There’s nothing that bothers me more then weather delays in sports and this past week was pretty much all about the weather. A hole had to be shortened, in-tournament, the cut didn’t take place until Saturday and there was standing water every where on the course. No one’s fault obviously except Mother Nature but it’s hard to say weather was not the big winner this week. Many solid fantasy plays went astray this week and I can’t help thinking how different this tourney might have looked had the course been dry and weather been sunny. But such is life playing fantasy golf, you predicting how players will react to bad weather is likely an impossible task and thus rolling with the punches and praying for good weather this week is likely the best strategy…
On to this week…
The Memorial is an Invitational status tournament. That means that it has a reduced field of around 120 players and is generally harder to get an invite to. This year there are a few top players who are noticeably absent (Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and Bubba Watson) but the field is still very solid. The Memorial is essentially Jack Nicklaus’ tournament and is played out in Dublin, Ohio on a course he created. Muirfield Village is a par 72 that plays between 7300 and 7400 yards and was designed to be one of the best championship courses/complexes in the country. Each year it has proven to be one of the best and most interesting courses the players visit and after the rain drenched Byron Nelson, its well-manicured greens and high tech drainage systems will be a site for sore eyes. Muirfield isn’t super long, nor is it short but it is tough. The greens are large and sloping and some of the fastest on tour. Additionally, sand and water hazards line the course and most holes are set up to challenge the players with some sort of risk reward shot. It should also be noted that the course was designed to mimic the set up of the famous Augusta National and the course shares many of the same visual features.
This course has featured some very prolific winners through the years. Although experience is important Hideki Matsuyama proved last year that new comers can win at Muirfield on their first visit if they possess a world class tee-to-green game and good resolve around the greens. Because of this I’ve definitely used strokes gained: tee to green and scrambling as two of my most important statistics this week while also giving a nod to players who rank highly in par 5 scoring. Like Augusta, Muirfield has four reachable par 5’s and present the scoring opportunities the players will face throughout the week. Finally, many of the past winners here have ranked within the top 20 in scoring average in the year of their victory. Hence, I used this stat as a way weeding out certain players and to identify who is playing well coming into this event. Muirfield is not a place where you would expect a player to “find their game” and those ranked highly in scoring average represent the players who have consistently been the best on tour for the most part.
Odds to win: 25-1
There’s zero doubt who the best fit for this course is from a statically perspective this week. With many other top players out of the field Matsuyama should have an excellent chance of repeating as champion. Matsuyama currently ranks 17th in scoring average, 10th in scrambling, 2nd in strokes gained: tee to green and 11th in par five scoring. Given that he isn’t in the top three on either site salary-wise for fantasy means he will likely be higher owned than many, and I can’t discount that using other top tier options over him isn’t a good tournament strategy. Still, the fact that he’s such a good fit for the course means that fading him comes with risk and he’s someone I simply couldn’t not preview this week. I’d consider him in all formats. Even if he doesn’t win he’ll likely rack up numerous birdies and eagles on this course which will mean more bonus points over on DraftKings.
Odds to win: 30-1
The more I think about Phil Mickelson this week the more I like him for fantasy. The Memorial is one of the few events on tour that Mickelson has never won, and don’t think that Phil doesn’t know that. Why he’s never won it probably has something to do with Tiger Woods’ past dominance because in truth the course should fit Phil perfectly. Muirfield requires a great short game, good bunker play, the ability to score on par 5’s and accurate iron shots. When Phil is on he has all of these components. Moreover, the course was built to mimic Augusta and Phil has obviously had plenty of success there. Phil’s actually been playing quite solidly outside of a small hiccup at TPC Sawgrass, a course that he quite frankly does not like, and it was less than two months ago that he finished 2nd at the year’s first major. I think Phil has been trending in the right direction for a couple months now and won’t be shocked to see him put together a huge week here before he readies himself for another shot at the US Open.
Odds to win: 35-1
I think in a week where experience playing the course and good solid form are both key Bill Haas is someone you have to like for fantasy. Haas hasn’t been great since his early season victory but he displayed a very solid tee to green game in his 4th place finish a few weeks ago at the Players. Over the past few years Haas seems to have figured out how to play Muirfield and his last two visits to the course have seen him land 4th and 8th place finishes respectively. Even though he isn’t a statistical superstar, Haas ranks above-average in nearly every statistical category of importance this week, and looks to be about as a solid a fit for the course as there is. I think Haas is a great cash game option this week and will be someone I’ll be looking to get exposure to.
Odds to win: 40-1
Whatever you think about Kevin Na as a player there is no doubting he is having a phenomenal year on tour. Na ranks 16th in scoring average thus far and also ranks 20th in scrambling. Na’s biggest weakness on a course like Muirfield is his lack of par five scoring but he’s more than made up for it this year by scoring much better than the field on par 4’s. There are a lot of decent options around Na’s price range this week for fantasy, however when you look at recent winners at Muirfield and see the names of Matt Kuchar and Steve Stricker you have to like Na’s chances to possibly walk out as the champion. I think fantasy players still have trouble trusting Na, even with his second place finish at this event last year, and so I think Na will go somewhat under owned this week. My own opinion is that Na has loads of potential and is someone who could land you a big score here, use him in gpps where possible.
Odds to win: 50-1
This week sets up almost too well for Reed and I’m hoping he stays somewhat under the radar because of it. Reed is a terrific scrambler/putter who also happens to rank 26th in strokes gained: tee to green and 16th in par 5 scoring. Like past champion Kenny Perry, Reed likes to play a huge draw and the latter’s success at this course is definitely a reason for me to like Reed even more than I already do. Reed has been playing very solid golf recently and has already proven he’s capable of winning on tough courses whether or not he’s played them before. This will be Reeds first time playing this event, but with a few other top players gone I really like him to rise up this week and grab a top finish.
Odds to win: 50-1
Ever since his victory early in the year Brooks Koepka has been rather quiet. However after a brief stint over in Europe Brooks returned last week and had a pretty solid showing at the Byron Nelson. However, even though he played solidly last week Brooks hasn’t seen much of a jump in his fantasy price-tag. From a statistical perspective Koepka shines in almost every area of interest for me this week, including being top ten in scoring average and par 5 scoring. While he’s a somewhat deficient scrambler, given his price-tag this week that is something I can overlook. Much like last year’s winner, Koepka can absolutely destroy short par 5’s and I expect he’ll churn out a huge number of birdies and eagles on this course, making him an extra attractive play for me on DraftKings.
Odds to win: 90-1
Outside of one second place finish English has had somewhat of an average season by his standards. But even with his sometimes poor play, English still ranks highly in many statistical categories of importance this week and when you combine that with his decrease in price you have to take notice. English ranks 11th in scoring average and also ranks inside the top 25 in scrambling and strokes gained: putting. English returned last week and put together three solid rounds before fading on Sunday. While not super encouraging I think you might see English start to turn it around soon and this week might be the place. I’m more than willing to chance English at his price-tag this week as he can dominate the par 5’s and land you a ton of birdies when is playing well (especially good for DraftKings). He’s an under the radar pick this week who I think could be a great gpp play.
Odds to win: 75-1
Whenever Steve Stricker is in the field he is in play for me for fantasy purposes. Over the past 3-4 years no one has a better made cut percentage on tour. This week though Stricker becomes an even hotter commodity due to his ridiculously low price-tag and the fact that he’s performed well at this venue in the past. Stricker won this event in 2011 and has made his last 5 cuts at the event. He’s a terrific scrambler and his entire game has looked to be rounding into form in his last two starts. Given that some of the top players have skipped this event I would actually give Stricker an outside shot of winning this week if his putter gets hot again. At his price, he’s the cash game must of the week for fantasy purposes on both major sites.
Odds to win: 125-1
Once you venture under 7k in salary on DraftKings this week I think you are essentially forced to take some chances with some underwhelming players, so why not do so with a guy who has the potential to nab you a whole ton of bonus points? Finau is a great young player who hits a mile and is currently ranked 19th in par 5 scoring. He doesn’t have the short game pedigree I like this week but he is coming into this event playing great. Finau has now gone 16th, 19th, 10th in his last three events and comes in red hot. Last year Hideki Matsuyama showed how a great tee to green game can do well on this course and there’s no reason to think Finau can’t have some success here too. I like Finau as a gpp punt play (even if there are safer options for cash games) and is someone I’ll be trying to get into some lineups.
Odds to win: 300-1
On Victiv you don’t need to worry about bonus points and instead just need to focus on where your golfer will place. Perry may not seem like the most exciting option but his record at this event speaks for itself. Perry is a past champ who may be past his prime but he proved last week he can still compete on tour with a top 20 finish. Perry loves this course and it sets up very well for him. I think he makes an incredibly cheap and reliable 7th option for Victiv and is someone who could surprise and carry your team if need be. Look for him to be playing the weekend and possibly move up on Sunday while others struggle to figure out the course.
Fade: I’m going back to old reliable Keegan Bradley this week. Nothing personal, but for whatever reason this course doesn’t seem to suit him and even though he played ok last week he’s not someone I trust a whole lot for fantasy right now regardless.
My Pick: I think we might finally get to see some of that old Phil Mickelson magic. He’s been playing much better than most people realize in the past couple months and I think he can swoop in here and take advantage of the fact many top players are skipping this event. I do like Reed and Matsuyama this week too but ultimately I think it’s Phil who takes it down.