Two weeks removed from the second major of the 2021 season, the PGA Tour heads to Jack’s Place this week, as Muirfield Village Golf Club again hosts the best sporting event in Columbus, Ohio that is not played in something shaped like a horseshoe: The Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide.
A year ago, Muirfield Village provided a fascinating study in how different the professional golf game can be from week-to-week. To accommodate the frantic rescheduling amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Jack Nicklaus’ gift to golf hosted Tour events in back-to-back weeks.
The Workplace Charity Open saw a winning score of 19-under with 57 players finishing under par. Just one week later for The Memorial Tournament, the winning score dropped to 9-under, with just nine players finishing under par. It was a testament to what we assume is a phenomenal grounds crew.
Seven of the world’s top 10 will be teeing it up at this year’s Memorial edition, hoping to win the prestige of one of the Tour’s highest-regarded non-majors, along with the Tour legend who hosts it. The field is deep, making a top 15 list exceptionally difficult.
The following is our best attempt:
15. Charley Hoffman
Don’t look now, but the 44-year-old UNLV product is playing some of the best golf of his underrated career. Hoffman’s field-low final-round 65 at last week’s Charles Schwab Challenge netted him a T3 finish, his sixth consecutive finish of T18 or better, and eighth in his last nine starts.
The hot streak can be credited to a prodigious improvement in his iron play, as he currently ranks fifth on Tour in strokes gained: approach-the-green.
Someone looking to bet on him would love his recent form, but might be better off ignoring his course history. In 11 career starts at The Memorial, a T19 in 2014 was his only finish inside the top 40.
Hoffman looks like a different golfer than the one who played most of those versions, though.
World Rank: 60th
Odds To Win: 50-1
Last Six Starts: 3, 17, 18, 18, 2, 34
Best Memorial Finish: T19 (2014)
14. Rickie Fowler
The extremely-popular 32-year-old finally showed some signs of life two weeks ago at the PGA Championship, bouncing back from a Friday 76 to post a T8, his first top 10 in 18 starts this season.
That makes three top 10s over the past two seasons, after tallying at least five of them in each of the previous eight seasons. It is really strange to not see his name in the top 100 on the OWGR (he is 101st).
Could his performance at Kiawah Island get him going again? He has twice finished runner-up at The Memorial, most recently in 2017, and while he missed the cut last year, it was encouraging that he was able to shoot a second-round 68 after an abysmal 81 in the opening round.
World Rank: 101st
Odds To Win: 66-1
Last Six Starts: 8, MC, MC, 17, 65, MC
Best Memorial Finish: T2 (2017, 2010)
13. Patrick Reed
The world No. 8 has been consistently good in the 2021 season, with 10 top 25s highlighted by a victory at January’s Farmers Insurance Open. He missed the cut at last week’s Charles Schwab Challenge, which was surprising coming off a T17 at the PGA Championship and two top 10s in the last two months.
Reed’s putting will keep him in the mix anywhere, and we saw that flatstick competency at Muirfield Village last year, where one of the better weekends in the field engendered a T10 result.
World Rank: 9th
Odds To Win: 33-1
Last Six Starts: MC, 17, 6, MC, 8, 28
Best Memorial Finish: T8 (2016)
12. Joaquin Niemann
While a T50 last week at Colonial was nothing special, it represented the 22-year-old’s 20th consecutive cut made, making him a perfect 12-for-12 on making 2021 weekends.
Niemann’s first taste of true Tour contention came at Muirfield Village three years ago, when a 65-68 start gave him the 54-hole lead at just 19 years of age. In that 2018 edition, he dazzled with his iron play and displayed precocious putting ability.
With the increased consistency he has shown this season, we see another week in the mix on the immediate horizon.
World Rank: 30th
Odds To Win: 50-1
Last Six Starts: 50, 30, 18, 8, 40, 18
Best Memorial Finish: T6 (2018)
11. Tony Finau
Statistically, Finau remains one of the best on Tour, most notably ranking fifth in strokes gained: tee-to-green and scoring average. The story with the powerful 31-year-old continues to be Sunday struggles, as he now has five straight made cuts where he shot 71 or worse in the final round.
At last week’s Charles Schwab Challenge, he could have at least made a run with the leaders struggling, but a Sunday 2-over 72 knocked him from T9 to T20.
That makes 39(!) top 10s since his sole Tour victory in 2016. He was tied for second place at the 54-hole-mark of last year’s event, but again, he gave away nine strokes on Sunday to shoot a 6-over 78 and finish T8.
Four of his six starts at The Memorial have resulted in a finish of 13th or better.
World Rank: 13th
Odds To Win: 28-1
Last Six Starts: 20, 8, MC, 10, MC, 28
Best Memorial Finish: 8th (2020)
10. Rory McIlroy
Well, that did not last long. The four-time major champion was re-welcomed to the PGA Tour winners circle, and the top 10 of the world rankings, when he won the Wells Fargo Championship three weeks ago, putting an emphatic end to a winless streak that had been his longest since 2009.
The win at Quail Hollow Rory him a betting favorite at last week’s PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, a venue where he won a major championship by eight strokes. He failed to reward those better with a T49.
Perhaps he will feel more comfortable in this week’s comparatively lower-pressure environment. He has four top 10s in his Muirfield Village career, with a best result of T4 in 2016.
Can McIlroy avoid that one (or more) big number?
World Rank: 8th
Odds To Win: 14-1
Last Six Starts: 49, 1, MC, 28, MC, 10
Best Memorial Finish: T4 (2016)
9. Justin Thomas
It does not feel right to have JT ranked any lower than this, but something is just off with the world No. 2 since his March victory at THE PLAYERS Championship.
He tanked his weekend at The Masters, missed the cut at the PGA Championship, and was a mediocre T40 at last week’s Charles Schwab Challenge, where he had three rounds of at least three bogeys or worse.
Still, he boasts the Tour’s second best scoring average, is second in birdie average, and rarely stays down long. Thomas’ best showing at The Memorial was a T4 in 2017.
World Rank: 2nd
Odds To Win: 16-1
Last Six Starts: 40, MC, 26, 13, 21, 42
Best Memorial Finish: T4 (2017)
8. Xander Schauffele
The PGA Championship two weeks ago did not feel right without Xander on the first page of the leaderboard, as he missed the cut entirely, something that he just does not do in majors.
Still, the world No. 5 is dead solid week-in and week-out posting 12 results of T18 or better in 15 2021 season starts. He would be an appropriate next top player to end a lengthy winless drought, with the most recent of his four career victories coming in January of 2019. Schauffele has finished runner-up eight times since, including three times this season.
A T13 at last year’s Memorial was impressive given that he opened the week with a 78.
World Rank: 5th
Odds To Win: 20-1
Last Six Starts: MC, 14, 3, 18, MC, 39
Best Memorial Finish: T13 (2020)
7. Matt Fitzpatrick
The Englishman’s 4-under 68 to wrap-up last year’s Memorial was the lowest in the field by three strokes. That should work to give him confidence for this year’s edition in a 2021 calendar year where he already has five finishes of T11 or better in just nine starts.
The 26-year-old has won six times in Europe, but is still looking for that first victory in the U.S. Unlike a number of European Tour stars, however, Fitzpatrick has posted a number of quality finishes in the states, having at least one top 25 finish in all four majors. The kind of consistency he flashes with his game is reminiscent of a number of past Memorial winners.
World Rank: 18th
Odds To Win: 33-1
Last Six Starts: 23, MC, 4, 34, 18, 9
Best Memorial Finish: 3rd (2020)
6. Louis Oosthuizen
If this was a major, we would have the South African higher, as he never seems to be off the first page of the leaderboard on that stage.
In three of his last four Memorial starts, he left for the week on a round of 76 or worse, which is not promising, although that other was a Sunday 65 in 2018, where he finished T13.
Oosty currently leads the Tour in strokes gained: putting and his current game does not seem to sport any conspicuous weakness, so we have a hard time looking too much into his struggles at Muirfield Village in the last two years.
He is currently in a 2-T8-T2 stretch, with four additional top-20s. This could finally be the week the 2010 Open Champion Golfer of the Year nets that first career victory on U.S. soil.
World Rank: 19th
Odds To Win: 40-1
Last Six Starts: 2, 8, 26, 61, 41, 6
Best Memorial Finish: T13 (2018)
5. Jordan Spieth
Spieth’s current form cannot be overly scrutinized: he has eight top-10s in his last 11 starts, with a win and five other finishes of T4 or better among them.
However, watching him with the Sunday lead at last week’s Charles Schwab Challenge was painful, and it is fair to wonder if there will be any scar tissue from his implosion, which he capped off a with an approach into the water on 18 when he needed a birdie to put pressure on the man who overtook his 54-hole lead.
The Texan is resilient, but also the ultimate own worst enemy. A tertiary finish in 2015 is his best result at Jack’s Place, among five top 20s in eight Memorial starts.
World Rank: 23rd
Odds To Win: 14-1
Last Six Starts: 2, 30, 9, 3, 1, 9
Best Memorial Finish: T3 (2015)
4. Collin Morikawa
The world No. 6 leads the Tour in strokes gained: tee-to-green and in greens in regulation, and seems to be on the verge of another contending week, with four straight finishes of T18 or better in individual events.
His putting is still a disaster, but the 24-year-old seems to do enough everywhere else to win, as evidenced by his four career victories in fewer than 50 starts.
Whether Muirfield Village really suits his eye is something of a mystery; he won last year’s Workday Charity Open, which the course hosted the week before The Memorial. However, at this event, he opened with a 76 and closed with a 77 to finish T48.
World Rank: 6th
Odds To Win: 16-1
Last Six Starts: 14, 8, 7, 18, 56, 41
Best Memorial Finish: T48 (2020)
3. Hideki Matsuyama
The reigning Masters champion notched his first career win at The Memorial, taking the 2014 edition in a playoff over Kevin Na. That win does not appear to have been a fluke, as the 29-year-old has finished double-digits under par four times in this event.
Matsuyama’s results look odd this year: he has just two top 10s in 19 starts, but among those were a win and a runner-up, and he made the cut in 16 of those starts.
Despite the weekend struggles two weeks ago at Kiawah Island, there is considerable reason for confidence in the elite shotmaker at an elite shotmaking course.
World Rank: 14th
Odds To Win: 25-1
Last Six Starts: 23, 39, 1, 30, 42, MC
Best Memorial Finish: W (2014)
2. Jon Rahm
The defending champion was a one-man show at last year’s event, building a four-stroke 54-hole lead before winning by three despite a questionable two-stroke penalty late.
The world No. 3 has been a little hit-or-miss the past three months, with the birth of his first child possibly playing into that some. Still, he has ten top-10s on the season, and between the two events at Muirfield Village last season, he’s shot in the 60s in four of his last five rounds, which is ridiculous on such a brutal course, while facing brutal conditions.
After winning 11 events worldwide in the previous four seasons, Rahm is still looking for his first win of 2021, and it feels more like a matter of when than if.
World Rank: 3rd
Odds To Win: 10-1
Last Six Starts: 8, 34, MC, 5, 5, 9
Best Memorial Finish: W (2020)
1. Bryson DeChambeau
Brooks Koepka is not in the field this week. We thought we would get that out of the way first.
The 2018 Memorial champion is someone who especially respects the history of the game, and the significance of adding his second win at Jack’s Place in the same year that he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational (back in March) would not be lost on him.
DeChambeau is in a bit of a funk at the moment, with four of his past five starts resulting in finishes outside the top 35, but he always seems to get in the mix at the bigger events, and even despite his more recent results, he leads the Tour in strokes gained: off-the-tee and strokes gained: total, and is second in strokes gained: tee-to-green.
World Rank: 4th
Odds To Win: 14-1
Last Six Starts: 38, 55, 9, 46, 42, 3
Best Memorial Finish: W (2018)
Next Five: Patton Kizzire, Jason Day, Viktor Hovland, Sungjae Im, Shane Lowry