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Opinion & Analysis

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 @giannimosquito

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Opinion & Analysis

Chat with a Champion: Keegan Bradley

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Since bursting on the scene in 2011 as Rookie of the Year and joining a very short list of first-time winners in their major championship debut, Keegan Bradley has been part of the PGA Tour landscape for almost a decade now. It hasn’t always been an easy road for the New Englander, with some down years in 2016 and 2017. He jumped back into the winners circle in 2018 with his victory at the BMW Championship, which also propelled him to an 8th place finish in the 2018 FedEx Cup standings.

I had a chance to catch up with Keegan recently. From his early days to his love of the Ryder an Presidents Cups, we covered a bunch of topics related to his golf journey to this point.

What was your earliest memory of the game? Being your dad is a PGA Professional, I’m sure that he was an early influencer…

KB: I’ve been holding a golf club as long as I can remember. I am guessing I started swinging it around 2 years of age… I used to love going to the golf course with my dad.

When did you realize that golf was “Your Sport” over skiing? As you think back, was there something that sticks out as the biggest influence on your decision?

KB: I was probably a better skier than golfer, growing up in the Northeast. I remember one day, challenging for a title while I was in high school, standing on the top of the mountain, in the freezing cold thinking, ya, I am probably done now, golf it is. I was 16 at the time.

How much did your Aunt (Pat Bradley) play a role in your development as a player?

KB: Aunt Pat has been an unbelievable mentor for me over the years. She has had such a great influence on me and I like to think that we are both very similar. She has taught me the importance of focus and intensity. Not only in competition, but in practice.

Growing up in the Northeast (as I did) golf is very seasonal. What did you do to practice in the winter? Or did you just kind of shut it down for a few months?

KB: I didn’t play and I rarely even practiced in the winter months in the Northeast. I think it prevented me from burning out as a kid. People tell me that it was a disadvantage, I thought it was a huge help! I was on skis all winter and then couldn’t wait to get my clubs out in the spring!

What lead to your decision to attend St. Johns? How important was your College experience in your development?

KB: Honestly, at the time, I just had to go somewhere that offered me a full scholarship. Coach Darby showed belief in me and that meant a lot. Once I started having success, I got offers from bigger golf schools to transfer, but I stayed loyal to Coach, as he did to me. To this day, my best friends are the guys I played golf with during my college career. We all still hang out together today.

Obviously, a rookie year like yours must have been a dream. How did it feel to not only be Rookie of the Year in 2011 but to also join the likes of Willie Park, Sr. and Francis Ouimet as one of only 4 players in the history of the game to win in their debut in a Major?

KB: It was a complete whirlwind, I started out trying to figure out how to keep my PGA Tour card and trying to plan a schedule, to all of a sudden, becoming a PGA Tour winner and a Major Champion. Winning the PGA was beyond a dream, and to be one of only four players to win a Major at their first attempt is something I am very proud of.

I was in attendance for your win at the PGA, I’m curious what you felt was your biggest takeaway from that experience?

KB: It validated that I could play under the most intense pressure and gave me the launchpad for my career.

I was also in attendance at the Ryder Cup in Chicago. Considering the much different outcome of that experience over the win at the Atlanta Athletic Club, what were your take away from that Ryder Cup?

KB: I love team golf and it kills me when I am not on a team now, representing the USA and I can’t wait to get back there. I played some of the best golf of my life, at Medinah and the memories will last a lifetime. Playing alongside Phil, who has become a friend, as well as a mentor was inspirational.

How much do you love the team events?

KB: I love team events. The fact that we play an individual sport, but we can come together and be such a tightknit group, under a crazy amount of pressure is awesome and it is so much fun. I am going to be working very hard to play on the next USA Team!

You have become close with Michael Jordan over the years. What influence has he had on your career?

KB: MJ may be the greatest athlete of all time. I feel very privileged to call him a friend. He has been around during both the peaks and the valleys of my career and he always knows the right thing to say. He is a very inspirational and motivational person and just great to be around.

How big was your win last year for your confidence going into this season?

KB: My win last year was huge for me. It was a validation of all the work I had been doing with my instructor Darren May. It is no secret that I had struggled for a couple of seasons, even though technically, but I was improving and felt good. The way I won and the field I beat to win, gave me an incredible amount of satisfaction and has set me up to keep moving forward.

I asked Jack Nicklaus in his interview (which will post in a few weeks) about the work-life balance for a world ranked PGA Tour Professional. Obviously, it was a different time in his era but how do you manage this as a husband and fairly new father?

KB: I am always learning, and I try to keep as balanced as possible. I love spending time with my wife, Jillian, and my son, Logan, but like any husband/father there is a need to work in order to provide. I think I have just got better at structuring my practice, so that I am more efficient with my time.

What are your feelings on the overall health of the game? From both a professional and recreational standpoint?

KB: I think the game is in a GREAT place right now. Tiger is back and that is huge for our sport, add to that the great young players contending each week and the personalities we have on the PGA Tour and internationally, I think we are in a great position to grow the game.

What is your advice for a young golfer looking to pursue a career in golf? Either as a player or club Professional?

KB: I will always advise all children to play as many sports as possible, have fun, don’t take it too seriously too early or you will burn out. You have to make the game fun. Once you have made the decision to pursue golf, work hard. You need to make sure that when you are done for the day, that no one else you are competing with, could have out worked you. It is a mindset more than anything. Golf is a very competitive industry, but there are many ways to get into it. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again!

Lastly, what in your opinion is one way we as an industry can bring more people to our game?

KB: Make it fun and make it more affordable for the masses. Encourage 9-hole competitions; time is one of the biggest barriers to entry for golf, as a sport.

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive: Sacks Parente Golf

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In this episode of The Gear Dive brought to you by Titleist Golf, Johnny chats with longtime club designers Steve Sacks and Rich Parente on the old days with Callaway, Goldwin Golf, Carbite and the new endeavor Sacks Parente.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

There’s a major omission in Brandel Chamblee’s list of the 10 best seasons in men’s golf

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Brandel’s list is great, but he’s missing a BIG one…maybe the BEST one. Earlier this week Brandel Chamblee, whom I respect and enjoy, tweeted a list of the top 10 years in men’s golf.

It’s a great list and one that was very well thought out. However, there is one season that is missing, and in my opinion, it could go down as one of the top 5 of all time, if not the best: Tiger Woods’ 2008 season.

Yes, the year he played only the first half of the season

Before the trolls start to engage, let’s look at all the facts…

Tournaments worldwide: 7
Wins: 5 (Dubai, Torrey, Bay Hill, Match Play, U.S. Open)
Top 5s: 7
Majors: 1
Scoring average: 67.65
*also won the Tavistock Cup

So, let’s put this in perspective, the guy teed it up eight times total (including the Tavistock). He won six times. His worst finish was fifth. He came from behind to win in Dubai, Bay Hill, and the U.S. Open. The only tournament that he didn’t really have a chance to win was the Masters, and frankly, if he makes any putts at all he wins that too.

He dealt with serious left leg and knee injuries all season; having arthroscopic knee surgery two days after the Masters, hurrying his comeback, and suffering stress fractures in his tibia and continued ACL issues. AND TW also revealed in 2010 that he injured and re-injured his right Achilles tendon multiple times throughout 2008.

In regards to the competition: Phil, Ernie, Padraig, Sergio, Westwood, Adam Scott, and many others were in their primes and gunning for him harder than ever before. Keep in mind that from 2005-2007, Tiger won 21 times in 52 starts on the PGA Tour. What would he have done if he was healthy?

Let’s also discuss the moments in this season. The nuclear putt on the 18th at Dubai, the utter dominance at Torrey, the hat throw on 18 at Bay Hill, The absolute smackdown of Stewart Cink in the Match Play final, Tiger’s back 9 on Friday at U.S. Open, Tiger’s back 9 on Saturday at U.S. Open, Tiger’s final round at U.S. Open, Tiger’s playoff vs. Rocco. So, in perspective, he had maybe 20 moments that year that probably land in his top 100 highlight reel.

While you are all taking this in, go to YouTube and watch videos from that year, and I guarantee you will get lost in the countless moments of absolute greatness. What he did in 2000, 2006, 2007, etc was unbelievable BUT what he did in ’08 is truly unworldly.

And, oh yeah, one other thing: Tiger played six times on the PGA Tour, finished second on the money list just $1 million behind Vijay who played 23 times. He was No. 1 in Fed Ex Cup points going into the playoffs….in 6 events.

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