Workday Charity Open
It is fair to say that last week in Detroit wasn’t our week….
Six picks and two ended up withdrawing over the first couple of days with back problems says it all for the week.
We did have Brian Stuard right in the mix for us after a couple of rounds however he had a shocker of a Saturday, which unfortunately is symptomatic of how things have been going for us of late.
In the end the event was won by Bryson Dechambeau who rubber stamped his brilliant recent play with the victory it deserved. That’s a win and nothing worse than eighth place in his last seven starts. Pretty impressive!
So we move on and the tour heads a couple of hundred miles and three hours South to Muirfield Village GC in Dublin, Ohio and for the first of what will be a unique happening, two consecutive events at the same venue.
Next week it will be the turn of the traditional Memorial Tournament hosted by Jack Nicklaus however first up we have the Workday Charity Open, a one off event, which was put together after the original scheduled event, The John Deere Classic in Illinois was unable to go ahead.
Despite Tiger Woods deciding not to spend a fortnight at one of his favourite haunts [one assumes he’ll be there next week], the field is a reasonably strong one with the market headed up by Justin Thomas. Behind Thomas we then have last years Memorial Champion Patrick Cantlay, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama and Brooks Koepka.
Muirfield Village is a Par 72 measuring usually to just over 7350 yards for The Memorial, however we are expecting something a tad shorter this week.
The greens are Bent Grass.
Muirfield Village is seen as a classical test. Approach play is normally the key as it is imperative to find the correct part of the undulating greens.
With a bit more room of the tee compared to some recent courses that have been played since the restart Muirfield Village is basically a second shot and in course.
Although plenty of birdies are available particularly on the par 5s there is also a lot of danger lurking with water in play on more than half of the holes, and historically thick rough around the greens.
The closing stretch of the course 16 through 18 is historically the toughest.
The Par 5s is where you make your score at Muirfield Village with all four Par 5s playing under Par year in year out.
I would therefore see Par 5 scoring as a key stat to look at.
I would also suggest that form on other Nicklaus courses is worth taking in to consideration and one fact that stands out is that 2017 winner Jason Dufner is a past winner at the CareerBuilder which uses a Nicklaus course. Similarly David Lingmerth who won here in 2015 has also come close at the CareerBuilder [when losing to Dufner in a playoff].
In addition it may be worth looking at results at Glen Abbey for the Canadian Open, which is also a Nicklaus track or PGA National used for the Honda, which is a Nicklaus redesign.
With the course unprecedently to be used on consecutive weeks perhaps the most important factor to consider is how this weeks set up may vary from what we normally see at the Memorial to both differentiate the event and importantly to protect the course. With that in mind a memo sent to the players may well give us the biggest clues.
This memo apparently advised that the Workday will feature a variety of tee boxes that are expected to make the course shorter while protecting tee areas normally used for The Memorial. In addition the rough will be cut to 3½ inches tall; and green surfaces will be running at around 11 on the Stimpmeter.
The Memorial meanwhile will have higher rough and green speeds are planned to increase to the normal 13-13½ on the Stimpmeter that is a feature of the event.
Obviously we have no event history however even with the variation in set up anticipated it would be foolish not to look at past Memorial results so let’s take a look at the last ten winners of Jack’s event;
2019 – Patrick Cantlay
2018 – Bryson Dechambeau
2017 Jason Dufner
2016 William McGirt
2015 David Lingmerth
2014 Hideki Matsuyama
2013 Matt Kuchar
2012 Tiger Woods
2011 Steve Stricker
2010 Justin Rose
As we can see from this list it’s been a fairly mixed bag of winners here over the past decade and we have seen four players, Rose, Matsuyama, Lingmerth and McGirt gain there first PGA Tour wins here, with McGirt and Lingmerth’s successes in particular coming from left field.
Whilst past course form is never a minus it does not appear to be a requisite here. In fact while last year’s Memorial winner Patrick Cantlay had finished fourth here in 2018 the previous five winners Dechambeau, Dufner, McGirt, Lingmerth and Matsuyama had a best place finish of 19th between them in eleven previous starts. [Hideki was making his course debut.] So don’t be put off if the man you have a hunch for has not done much here before.
Current form coming in is a bit more interesting and I have provided a table below to show this;
2019 – Patrick Cantlay 3 3 9 24 MC
2018 – Bryson Dechambeau 42 37 4 3 38
2017 Jason Dufner MC 13 60 5 11
2016 William McGirt 47 43 17 37 9
2015 David Lingmerth MC 33 MC MC MC
2014 Hideki Matsuyama 10 23 38 MC MC
2013 Matt Kuchar 2 33 48 35 8
2012 Tiger Woods 40 MC 40 1 WD
2011 Steve Stricker 12 13 11 4 18
2010 Justin Rose 71 MC 43 14 MC
As we can see from this all but two of these last ten Memorial winners [Lingmerth & Rose] had posted a top ten finish in there previous five starts on tour and even Rose had finished third at the Honda a couple of starts previously to that. It would seem therefore that current form for the Memorial is a better way in here than course form. Again though whether this will be the same this week with a more straightforward challenge expected is open to debate.
One other angle I feel merits consideration is par 5 scoring and it’s correlation to similar style tracks like Bay Hill where taking advantage of the par 5s is key. Longer term readers may remember that this was a large part of the case I built for Bryson in 2018 when putting him up as he had finished second at Bay Hill [also fourth at Quail Hollow, which rewards par 5 performance], and lead the tour coming in to the week in par 5 scoring.
Finally as always the winning score is influenced by the elements with last years winner Patrick Cantlay posting -19, the lowest score here in the past ten years.
This week with an easier set up than we normally see at Jack’s party and no great wind anticipated I would again expect the players to get close to if not reach the -20 mark.
You know the drill by now….Hot, high 80s to low 90s, possibility of storms and wind not predicted to be a factor. More of the same in other words!
As I always say though this could all change!.
As has been the case in recent weeks we are faced with the usual conundrum with do we focus on the elite players at the top end of the market or look for e/w value elsewhere.
My thoughts this week are that with the course looking to be set up easier than we would normally see at Muirfield Village, that there is more scope for an outsider to come through, particularly as there are some question marks over most at the very top of the market whether it be current form or lack of course form/experience.
On that basis I have gone with six players this week as follows;
BYEONG-HUN AN – 66-1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED - MC
First up this week at the odds on offer I feel compelled to give another opportunity to Ben An to continue his love affair with Nicklaus layouts and finally notch his first PGA Tour victory.
An has made five visits to Muirfield Village for the Memorial over the years and if we discount his missed cut here on debut way back in 2010 form figures of 17 2 25 11 over the last four years show his clear liking for the track.
Furthermore if we look at Ben’s record at the Nicklaus designed PGA National host of the Honda Classic we’ll see that he has finished 4 36 5 in his three visits. A pretty good return then of three placed finishes in seven recent starts across the two tracks.
If we then look at Ben’s form this season further encouragement is given by the fact that he has posted five top ten finishes in seventeen starts, four of which have seen him hit the frame. All in all then a really solid campaign to date, which currently sees him in 30th place in the Fedex Cup standings.
Looking at An’s stats for the season and as anyone who follows him closely will be only too aware the area that has held him back from posting a win on the PGA Tour to date is the flat stick – he currently ranks 210th with the putter on tour this season.
It may just be though that this week with green speeds down compared to normal at Memorial this acts as a bit of leveller on the putting stakes with the regulars at the event having to adapt to this.
Either way there is no doubt that the South Korean is too talented a player to not eventually find the winners enclosure and my hope is that a return to one of his favourite venues on tour could be the trigger for this to be the week it finally happens for him.
JOEL DAHMEN – 80-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
Next up for me this week is another player who is surely due to break through on the PGA Tour soon, Joel Dahmen.
2019/20 has been a hugely consistent campaign to date for the man from Washington State however like Ben An the club that has held him back from really competing at the business end is the putter and he currently ranks 145th in this department.
Prior to lockdown Joel posted finishes of 14 5 5 in his last three starts and since the tour returned he has been in solid form finishing 19 48 20.
The problem has been for Dahmen though that as well as his shortcomings with the flat stick he has simply struggled to put all four rounds together. To expand further - at Hilton Head he sat right in the hunt after three rounds of 68, 68 and 63, the latter of which was a ball striking clinic, only to tumble down the board on Sunday courtesy of a final round of 75. Meanwhile at the Charles Schwab a level par 70 on Saturday where he was negative in all key stats cost him.
Similarly if we go back further to his first event of 2020 Joel opened up in Hawaii with a 74 only to go 66 68 66 the rest of the way.
One week Joel was steady all the way through though was at Bay Hill where he finished fifth and when this is coupled with his second place finish at Quail Hollow last season [when we were onboard] this is enough for me to think that the more ‘straightforward version’ we will see of Muirfield Village this week will be to Dahmen’s liking, despite the fact that he has only been here once before when finishing 68th last year.
Furthermore it is worth noting that Joel does have a top ten finish to his name at the Nicklaus designed Glenn Abbey in the RBC Canadian Open.
All in all I am convinced that things are going to click for Dahmen sooner rather than later and I am happy to have him onside this week.
EMILLIANO GRILLO – 100-1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
Another player who has shown a liking for Muirfield Village over recent years is Emilliano Grillo and there has been enough in the Argentine’s two outings since lockdown to believe he is worth chancing this week.
Firstly at the Travelers Grillo opened up with rounds of 67 and 66 over the first two days only to stall at the weekend with efforts of 71 and 72, similarly in Detroit last week the 27yr old was quick out of the blocks on Thursday with another opening day 66 before finishing the week in 39th.
So some good stuff from Grillo in both events at venues that he has no great history on.
This weeks track though is another story as finishes of 9 23 40 11 in four visits show. Furthermore in addition to his strong efforts here Grillo has posted top ten finishes at the Nicklaus designed PGA National and at the correlating Bay Hill and Quail Hollow in his time on tour.
At TPC River Highlands Emilliano finished the week ninth in approach play, a category he ranks 13th in for the season as a whole to date and with Muirfield Village being a ‘second shot course’ this may well be a clue to his success here over the recent years, as his iron play is consistently the strongest area to his game.
From that point of view and in keeping with our first two selections any kind of improvement in his main area of weakness, with the putter, should lead to a strong performance from him and I am happy to take a chance that this happens.
LUKE LIST – 150-1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
Having put up Luke List in this last year at 70/1 I was pleasantly surprised to see double the odds available this time around and am more than happy to chance him again.
The 35yr old had been having a pretty unforgettable 2019/20 campaign on the PGA Tour with nothing better than a 13th place to his name in Houston however a drop down in grade to the Korn Ferry Tour upon its return reaped huge dividends as he posted his first victory since 2012.
List followed this victory with back to back MC’s however last week in Detroit he picked up again to finish 21st.
Currently ranked 33rd on tour in Par 5 scoring big hitting List should be able to take advantage of the par fives this week and this is something he has shown he is more than capable of doing at the correlating Bay Hill over the years with two top tens to his name.
Furthermore he has a top ten at the Correlating Quail Hollow and to round off he has posted two top ten’s at the Jack Nicklaus redesigned PGA National in the Honda Classic, including a second place finish to Justin Thomas.
List has undoubtedly been a nearly man over recent years on the PGA Tour, however when he came in behind JT at the Honda he could not be faulted at all and there is no doubt in my mind that his day in the big league will eventually come. From that point of view and at a Muirfield Village that shouldn’t rely so much on a strong touch on and around the greens I am happy to chance that buoyed by his recent win this could be the week it happens.
MICHAEL THOMPSON – 150-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
Next in our team of longshots this week is Michael Thompson.
It’s been a lean 19/20 campaign to date for Thompson however since lockdown the signs have been far more encouraging with three made cuts in three starts and a highlight of a seasons best finish of eighth place at the RBC Heritage.
At Hilton Head all components of Thompson’s game were in great working order and it was particularly encouraging to see him finish the week ranked 10th in approach play, an area which had been letting him down badly this season. Similarly at TPC River Highlands where he opened up with a 64 and at the Rocket Mortgage he has been solid in this area, so encouraging signs all round.
What makes Michael of particular interest this week though is his uptick in form coincides with a visit to a Nicklaus layout that he has played strongly at over the years finishing 14 37 8 in his last three visits. Furthermore his 14th place last year came when he was in no great form at all missing three of his previous four cuts.
To build the case further for Thompson we then of course have only to look at the scene of his greatest success to date, PGA National the home of the Honda Classic and where he landed his lone PGA Tour title in 2013 and of course this leads us back to the Nicklaus link.
A strong putter over the years Thompson has proven he can perform in a birdie fest as much as on a windy tougher track and with his iron play showing signs of improvement I can see him being a factor at a big price this week on a course he is clearly comfortable on.
BO HOAG – 600-1 – 1/2pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
Finally this week I am going to take a real roll of the dice on PGA Tour rookie Bo Hoag.
While Hoag has produced some decent stuff in patches in his maiden season in the big league the case for him this week is nothing to do with his current form and is all about his affinity to the venue.
For those unaware Hoag’s grandfather Robert was a close friend of Jack Nicklaus’ with there paths first crossing when Nicklaus was 13. As a result a friendship was born, which resulted in Robert Hoag being involved in the construction and planning for Muirfield Village. Furthermore along with Jack Nicklaus and two others he played the first round at Muirfield Village before becoming the Club Chairman for many years.
Bo’s Grandfather sadly passed away in 2013 however the affinity to Jack Nicklaus is obviously there and after Hoag won the Portland Open last season to wrap up his PGA Card one of the first calls he received was from Jack.
An All American from Ohio State University Bo when he received a sponsors exemption to play in the 2012 Memorial he stated he had played well over 100 rounds at Muirfield Village and I am sure he will have racked many more up since.
On that occasion Hoag missed the cut however he is a far more accomplished player now of course, in addition it may just be the Muirfield he sees this week is more like the one he is used to on a regular basis rather than the set up we’ll see next week.
All of this is of course speculative however for a small investment at massive odds I am happy to take a chance that Bo has the week of his life on a venue he knows like the back of his hand.
UPDATED 7th JULY - FANTASY DRAFT KINGS PICKS
PICK 1 - HUDSON SWAFFORD - DK VALUE - $6600 - FINISHED MC
It is worth noting that two of our main team for the week, Thompson & Hoag, sit in the sub $7k market with Hoag right down on $6k, however as always I will pick a couple of further DK plays in this bracket.
First up is Hydson Swafford. Swafford played solidly last week in Detroit finishing in 30th place with his approach play, which has always been his strength, particularly dialled in, ranking third in this department for the week.
A former winner of the American Express, which of course incorporates a Nicklaus layout Hudson has also posted a top ten finish at the API in his time on tour, which fits well here.
Never at his best over the years on the slick surfaces we usually see at the Memorial Swafford should be better suited to this weeks set up at Muirfield Village and if he can bring last weeks Iron play to Ohio I would expect another strong performance from him.
PICK 2 - JAMIE LOVEMARK - DK VALUE - $6300 - FINISHED MC
For my second value play I am going to take a chance that this is the week Jamie Lovemark gets himself back on track with a solid performance.
Since returning from a lengthy hiatus due to a shoulder injury it has been a real struggle for Lovemark to find any momentum, however the enforced lockdown gave him an opportunity to restart his target for his MME thus giving him 20 starts to make just under 310 Fedex cup points.
Last week at the Rocket Mortgage Jamie looked good to make it through to the weekend and to start making a dent in this target, however unfortunately two late bogeys on Friday cost him another 36 holes.
Despite this disappointment there were some positive signs over the first two days and this week the 32yr old has an oppoortunity to build on those signs on the type of layout he normally performs well on.
To expand on this theory further Jamie has finished seventh and 27th on his last two visits to PGA National for the Honda while his last three visits to the correlating Bay Hill have seen him make the cut posting a best placed finish of sixth. Finally his last three visits to Muirfield village have also seen him make the cut and post a best place finish of tenth.
Lovemark has too much quality to not get back on track eventually and this looks an ideal place for him to turn the corner and I am happy to chance him as a value play this week.