2015 Memorial Tournament: Preview, Strategy, Picks
The Memorial Tournament is one of the best non-majors on the PGA Tour, so we’ll see many of the biggest names this weekend. Rory McIlroy will be taking a much needed week off after playing each weekend since the WGC Match Play, which involved flying back and forth between the PGA and Eoropean Tour. But after that, we’ll see pretty much everyone.
Murfield Village, located just outside of Columbus, Ohio, is where Jack Nicklaus runs the show. This is one of my favorite courses on the PGA Tour, and I’m a huge fan of Nicklaus courses. With The Golden Bear always there beside the 18th green waiting for the players to finish on Sunday, this is always the best event before the U.S. Open.
Okay, let’s get into the bread and butter and what matters this week.
Breaking Down Murfield Village
Before I get into the par 5s, distance and accuracy are both important when it comes to Murfield. I’m a big fan of Nicklaus courses. They usually provide a great balance of holes, different types of golfers can all succeed and they are challenging, but fair.
It really comes down to this. If you hit a good shot, you’ll get rewarded. If you hit a bad shot, you’ll really get penalized. I know that sounds simple and stupid, but on a lot of golf courses (even on the PGA Tour), they can be particularly forgiving in some ways, or you can just have a lot of BS happen to you that’s unfair. You don’t get that at Murfield.
You need the accuracy off the tee, but the longer tee shots will also get particularly rewarded. There’s water on 11 holes, trouble in the woods waiting on almost every shot, several bunkers on every hole and usually challenging thick rough. However, the fairways are average width, there are plenty of friendly spots to hit to and you’ll have plenty of birdie opportunities if you don’t let a bad hole or two get to you. Length obviously helps those opportunities too, which is why you usually fins a balance of longer and shorter hitters on Tour near the top of the leaderboard each year.
Isn’t there a more effective way than just looking up driving distance and driving accuracy? There is. It’s a new statistic I’ll be talking about that will be really beneficial for DFS golf. You’ll want to use this, odds per dollar and who is playing well as of late. Again, being recently biased will cost you often in other sports, but golf is more appropriate to do so as long as you understand the context of who the player, what type of game he has and what tournaments he has been playing in to provide those results.
No drivable par 4s this week, and I’m still salty about the PGA Tour changing their minds last week on keeping No. 14, the 406 yard par 4, a par 4 when it was shortened to 106 yards when all the rain came in overnight. Okay, yes I used some Gary Woodland last week, it would have messed up a lot of the stats and it should have been a par 3 obviously, but don’t tease daily fantasy players of waking up to a double eagle and then finding out all those extra bonus points don’t exist!
Sorry, rant over. There are four par 5s, and they all have legit eagle possibilities. If you look up eagles here over the last several years, the hole that has given up the most eagles might give up the least the following year. It all depends on weather (which is expected to be sunny and around 70 degrees as a high all week as of now) and simply variance.
No. 5, 527 Yards – Despite being the shortest of the four par 5s and playing downhill off the tee, this isn’t necessarily the easiest to eagle. About 300 yards out from the green, a creek starts winding through the fairway and runs all the way up to the green. The green is also particularly small and severely sloped. Therefore, accuracy over length, but a longer tee shot will certainly help with a shorter and higher-lofted club into the small and tricky green. Plus, even if a player is only 240 yards out, he will decide to lay up because pitching from the rough behind the green can be a lot tougher than having 100 yards in from the fairway. You can expect anywhere from 5-to-15 eagles made on this hole.
No. 7, 563 Yards – Length is definitely a factor here. Approximately 50 yards out, the fairway ends, there’s essentially a ditch with heavy rough (basically one long grass bunker) running in front of the green and bunkers protecting the sides of the green. A long drive is necessary for players to take the all-carry second into the green. Usually this hole is on the lower side for eagles, but you can get between five and 10 still.
No. 11, 567 Yards – Probably my favorite hole on the golf course. The tee shot is straight downhill with a creek running along the left side, but the creek then cuts through the fairway at 320 yards out. This is problematic for longer hitters to just rip driver who can hit it 320 downhill. The creek then runs along the right side of the hole and cuts in front of the green. The green is also somewhat elevated, which makes the second shot a bit more challenging if players go for it in two. While accuracy and length are beneficial here, this will mainly come down to aggressiveness as most players will have the option in going for the green with a good tee shot. We’ll identify a few targets in the picks for aggressive play, and they are mainly the younger players.
No. 15, 529 Yards – Eagle or double bogey is the name of the game here for everyone. It’s a very tight drive that should take you to nearly the end of the fairway. Then, there’s a downslope with a patch of rough before the next section of fairway, followed by a creek running through the fairway, then another 50 yards of green leading up to the green with a huge bunker to the right of it. This is an accuracy hole as all players will have an opportunity to go for the green in two if they hit a reasonable drive in the fairway, but the aggressive mentality is important.
How to Factor in Aggressive Players
Okay, the aggressiveness factor. How the heck can you actually figure that out? Thankfully, the PGA Tour has an amazing assortment of statistics to dig through. After some further research and using this stat more recently, I’ve found it very helpful – Going for the Green -Birdie or Better Percentage.
Going for the green qualifies under two circumstances: 1. Going for the green in two on a par 5. 2. Trying to hit the green from the tee box on a par 4. The ball must land on, or near the green, for it to quality. Balls that land in a hazard count towards this as well, so you get a great feel for how often players actually do get up-and-down for birdie and avoid the water.
There are some other statistics as far as going for the green, but for daily fantasy players, this is the best one. Why? If you did just Going for the Green, it would factor in who goes for the green the most often, but it’s a list very similar to driving distance, which makes sense. You could do Going for the Green (Hit Green Percentage), but it wouldn’t factor in how bad your misses are, and if the person is taking advantage of huge greens and winds up 50 feet away from the hole a lot.
Going for the Green – Birdie or Better Percentage allows us to see how often players go for the green and actually post a score under par. Therefore, it factors in some scrambling, how good your misses are and that you’re actually going for the green in two. You’ll find longer and shorter hitters on this list, which is particularly great for Murfield. Plus, there are columns for conversions, attempts and success rate. With this, we can avoid some players who are really high up on the list but may have a small sample size. You need a decent-sized sample size for this to be relevant, which is why I didn’t introduce this stat earlier.
To recap, we want to use Going for the Green – Birdie or Better Percentage, odds per dollar and who is playing well as of late.
Jordan Spieth $12,500 – The salaries are really interesting on DraftKings this week. Typically we have had a few guys like Spieth and McIlroy who are just too expensive to play. This week is different. Spieth is the most expensive at $12,500, which is a lot. But he has twice as good of odds as Dustin Johnson, and he is only $500 cheaper. Several other top golfers are in the $11,000 range. I’m not a fan of spending this much on a guy, but given how well Spieth is playing, how the salaries came out and what the odds are, Spieth is definitely a great choice.
Hideki Matsuyama $11,500 – I normally don’t like picking defending champions, but he’s easily having his best season with six top 10s and has only missed one cut, which he missed by one shot during the first week of February at the Farmers insurance Open. His odds and price are all fair as a result. Matsuyama, a longer hitter, is also 36th in Going for the Green – Birdie or Better percentage and is 19th on going for the green attempts.
Jason Day $10,500 – I wrote a lengthy paragraph last week on Day and how he’s very underpriced in general today despite the odds being on par. Unfortunately, he was a WD on the Wednesday beforehand during the Pro-Am with severe dizziness. Here’s the thing though, about a dozen golfers withdrew last Wednesday for a number of different reasons. Not to single Day out, but if there was something wrong with him, he wouldn’t be playing this week, and most of those WDs were likely due to all the crazy rain Texas got with the potential for a very long and exhausting tournament. Day is one of the longest hitters on Tour, and he’s second on the Going for the Green – Birdie or Better list (third in going for the green attempts too). In terms of usage percentage and the possibility of winning, Day is the best high-salary guy.
Bill Haas $9,200 – Not the best option from an eagles perspective, but I really like his odds per dollar in particular. The last two years he’s finished T8 and T4 here, and he played well here at the 2013 Presidents Cup. However, that’s not enough to warrant a “public” line this week. Not that Haas is a nobody since he won the Humana Challenge, finished T4 at the Players Championship and T7 at the WGC Cadillac, but Haas would need to have just won a tournament, be a defending champion or having an exceptional season to warrant his odds being at a $10,000 level. Despite that he’ll probably have decent ownership, I’d follow the sportsbooks on this one.
Kevin Na $9,000 – Forget that Na lost in a playoff to win the Memorial last year. He’s finished in the top 20 in his last seven tournaments, five of which in the top 10. Events in this run include the Masters, Players Championship, Arnold Palmer invitational and WGC Cadillac. These aren’t cupcake fields, yet he’s being priced like he’s an occasional threat. Na is way down on the driving distance list at 188th, but he’s T47 on the Going for the Green – Birdie or Better list, and he’ll have plenty of opportunities to go for the green in two. Na’s odds are nearly as good as Haas’ and you need to run with it.
Brooks Koepka $8,000 – Koepka has made an astonishing 11 eagles and 11 played tournaments this season. Since he didn’t finish one of the rounds this year to boot, he averages one eagle per 60.5 holes, which is the best on Tour. Koepka is T31 in Going for the Green – Birdie or Better and is sixth in going for the green the most.
Keegan Bradley $7,800 – Keegan is 12th in Going for the Green – Birdie or Better percentage and has solid odds for his price. While he’s not having his best season, he still has three top 10s and only two missed cuts.
Russell Henley $7,400 – Simply fantastic odds and mispriced.
Justin Thomas $7,200 – While he’ll be insanely used (I’m actually expecting 40-50% in GPPs), he’s by far the best play. Odds are off the charts, he’s playing very well as of late for someone at his price level, and he’s first in Going for the Green – Birdie or Better percentage while being a long-ball hitter. Consider him my top play.
Daniel Berger $7,000 – Another longer hitter who is 25th in Going for the Green – Birdie or Better percentage. Odds are great too.
Tony Finau $6,700 – Finau is probably going to be used quite a bit considering that his odds are pretty good and that he’s finished top 20 in his last three tournaments. Finau is also 42nd in Going for the Green – Birdie or Better percentage and ranks eighth in going for the green attempts.View all posts by Nick Juskewycz