The Nicklaus-designed layout at Muirfield Village takes centre stage this week and although a Rolex Series Event lies alongside in Italy it is the Memorial which attracts the better field of the two. This event is one of the more coveted titles on the tour and the pros fall over themselves to get the Nicklaus handshake greenside on Sunday evening for winning the event. It is a classical layout which demands accuracy from the tee and an ability to hit small targets with plenty of trouble surrounding the greens. One of the most important stats around here is par 4 scoring. The placings here in the last few years are littered with those who ranked top or very near the top of par 4 scoring that week.
Dufner, McGirt and Lingmerth are the past three champions here so it is worth noting that bigger priced runners can't be ruled out easily. There is a familiarity in previous years with Tiger winning plenty alongside top players like Rose, Stricker, Els and Furyk. Nevertheless it is a tough job to whittle down the field to a smaller more workable heat. Dustin Johnson heads the betting alongside the in form Jason Day. Both have credible chances but with only two top tens (both Dustin) in around 20 attempts here you could not have a whole pile of confidence behind them. Johnson is nearly double the price he was here last year so is tempting enough given the fact he hasn't done a lot wrong lately.
My vote for the best bet is Marc Leishman. He went mighty close for followers of this column a few weeks ago at the Byron Nelson when he was edged out by a rampant Aaron Wise. Nevertheless Leishman is now a serious powerhouse in the game and inside the top 20 in the world. He is certainly on my radar for the US Open in a few weeks time. He has made his last 7 cuts here on the bounce and with finishes of 15-11-5 he holds some of the best course form in recent years of the entire field. Stenson and Fowler are shorter than the Aussie yet neither have shown anything special of late. Leishman ranks 9th in par 4 scoring which is essential for this track and given how dialled in his long game has been lately he must hold every chance. The win only price on the exchange is lovely as is the each-way with the bookmakers.
M.Leishman to Win
I thought Patrick Reed would be a shade shorter this week and given his confidence I wouldn't be surprised if he beats his previous best here of 8th place. He came into that week in good form and this year is no different with his win at the Masters backed up by a top ten since. He ranks 12th in par 4 scoring this year and given his ability around the greens too I think he is a decent fit for Muirfield. Granted, recent winners here haven't exactly leapt off the page but I think there is an ounce of value in his price this week. Three made cuts from three here is certainly no negative and with it difficult to choose between the top of the market he stands out more than most.
Each-way P. Reed
My two main stat pointers this week are par 4 scoring and GIR and there isn't many more consistent in both departments this year than Bryson DeChambeau. The eccentric DeChambeau has posted three top 5 finishes in his last 6 starts and is currently in the form of his career. Winners here tend to be a little old fashioned and mechanical and Bryson fits that mould. Only one attempt here at Muirfield yielded a top 40 finish and a winner such as him would be a good tribute to this event and the type of golfers it attracts. He has climbed to a career high mark of 38 in the world and I think another win is just around the corner. A plodding type who is gaining in confidence must be supported here.
Each-way B. De Chambeau
My final pick and another plodding similar golfer to DeChambeau is Russell Knox. I noticed a few tipsters backing Knox last week and it was a sensible play and it may pay to stick with him this week. Two top 20s on the trot now is a sign Knox has found some form and he must be considered around tracks that play into his solid long game. His best form seems to come in bursts also as was evident when he won the Travelers in late 2016 and go on a run a further ten made cuts with 8 top 20s in that period. This may just be the beginning of another run of form for the Scot and given he was well backed last week I was surprised the bookmakers didn't shave off another layer or two off his price this time around. Hadley was another who interested me this week with some interesting stats to support his chances but I can't help but feel bookies underprice him most weeks with his only win coming in the low grade event in Puerto Rico.
Each-way R. Knox