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Fantasy Preview: 2018 The Memorial Tournament

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As is always the case at the Memorial Tournament, an elite field has arrived. Eight out of the top-10 players in the Official World Golf Rankings will take on the stern challenge that Muirfield Village provides. The Memorial will be the final stop for many of the world’s elite in their preparation for the U.S. Open, which is just two weeks away.

Muirfield Village was designed by Jack Nicklaus, and it’s one of the most demanding courses on the PGA Tour. At just under 7,400 yards, it’s a long golf course that suits excellent drivers of the ball. Pinpoint accuracy will be vital on approach shots on a course that will truly test all facets of players games. In 2017, Jason Dufner put on a clinic on his way to posting 13-under par to take the title by three strokes.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Dustin Johnson 12/1
  • Jason Day 12/1
  • Justin Rose 14/1
  • Justin Thomas 14/1
  • Rory Mcilroy 14/1
  • Jordan Spieth 18/1
  • Rickie Fowler 18/1

Justin Thomas (14/1, DK Price $10,300), the new No. 1 in the OWGR, finally got to grips with Muirfield Village last year. There’s plenty of reason to believe that he can do even better this year. So far, 2018 has been an incredible year for Thomas. His worst finish came at the Tournament of Champions in January, where he finished in a tie for 22nd. His consistency has been remarkable, and it’s no surprise that he has reached the summit of the sport.

Thomas is arguably the only player on the PGA Tour who has shown no weaknesses this year, and the only surprise is that he has won only once this calendar year. Over his previous 24 rounds, Thomas ranks 13th in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee, fourth in Strokes Gained-Approaching The Green, sixth in Strokes Gained-Short Game, 12th in Strokes Gained-Putting, and second in Strokes Gained-Total.

More victories are certainly on their way for Thomas, and looking at his form it’s hard not to think of Dustin Johnson and Jason Day, who both won multiple events in quick succession when they reached the top of the OWGR. Attaining the No. 1 spot may well have the same effect on Thomas, and approaching the meat of the 2018 schedule, the signs are looking good for the 25-year-old. He should be the favorite this week, and at 14/1 he’s undervalued.

Phil Mickelson (45/1, DK Price $8,300) is another man who is having a fine 2018, and he also looks to be undervalued this week at a course where he has steadily improved over the past few years. Mickelson is four for four in cuts made over the past few years at Muirfield Village, and on the last two occasions, he has posted back-to-back top-25 finishes.

It’s his performance last year at The Memorial that intrigues me most. A T-22 finish doesn’t look that impressive for a player of Mickelson’s caliber; however, Mickelson was second in the field that week for Strokes Gained-Tee to Green and was only let down by a miserable week on the greens. The flat stick has been exceptional for Mickelson this year. He’s second in Strokes Gained-Putting for the season and first for his last 12 rounds.

Mickelson’s missed cut at The Players Championship shouldn’t be a concern, as TPC Sawgrass has never been a course that Mickelson has enjoyed. Muirfield Village is a far better fit for his game, and he deserves more respect (and offers greater value) than others in a similar price range.

Another man who struggled at The Players Championship was Luke List (125/1, DK Price $7,400). Just like Mickelson, however, TPC Sawgrass is a course that doesn’t suit List’s game. If you strip away that performance, you are left with a very talented young player who is enjoying a fantastic season. In his 10 events before The Players, List made nine cuts, finishing no worse than T-26 in those nine events. He recorded four top-10 finishes in that period, and he certainly has the game to tackle Muirfield Village.

On a long golf course that demands excellent play off the tee, List should be able to thrive around Nicklaus’ course. Over his previous 24 rounds, List ranks first in Strokes Gained-Off the Tee, first in Ball Striking, and first in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green. List has a scoring average of 70 on the PGA Tour this year, which is ranked 20th overall. He’s also 22nd in this field for Strokes Gained-Total on Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses over his young career.

At such a low price, I’m willing to take another shot this week with Sean O’Hair (350/1, DK Price $6,600). He missed the cut last week at Colonial, but the Texan is a very streaky player. With his DraftKings price being next to nothing, he deserves some attention considering he ranks 25th in the field for DraftKings points attained over his last 24 rounds. O’Hair also ranks 19th in Strokes Gained-Off the Tee over the same period, which should bode well for this week, and he has recorded a top-5 finish at Muirfield Village in the past.

Recommended Plays

  • Justin Thomas 14/1, DK Price $10,300
  • Phil Mickelson 45/1, DK Price $8,300
  • Luke List 125/1, DK Price $7,400
  • Sean O’Hair 350/1, DK Price $6,600
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Gianni is a freelance writer. He holds a Bachelor of Arts as well as a Diploma in Sports Journalism. He can be contacted at gmagliocco@outlook.com. Follow him on Twitter @giancarlomag

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