The Memorial Tournament betting preview and tips

Golf
Billy Horschel
Billy Horschel

Following a winner last week, in-form golf expert Ben Coley has six selections for the Memorial Tournament.

Recommended bets: The Memorial


1pt e.w. Scott Piercy at 150/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5) - encouraging upturn in form figures lately and good enough to go very close

1pt e.w. Billy Horschel at 80/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5,6) - no reason he can't win again at a course where he's gone well in all three visits

1pt e.w. Emiliano Grillo at 80/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5) - similar type to 2015 champion and was in position to win here last year before late mistakes

1pt e.w. Graham DeLaet 150/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5,6) - positive Presidents Cup memories could help him get and stay in contention

0.5pt e.w. Ryan Ruffels at 350/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5) - asking a lot but he's a huge talent who played well here a year ago

0.5pt e.w. Patrick Rodgers at 300/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5,6) - too big a price considering latent ability

Scheduled two weeks before the US Open, three weeks after the PLAYERS and played on an immaculate golf course, the Memorial Tournament serves as an ideal way for some of the world's top players to prepare for the second major of the campaign.

World numbers one, three, four and six are in attendance, as well as on-the-rise number nine Jon Rahm, and while the enforced absence of Rory McIlroy is a blow, the bottom line is this is almost as strong as it gets outside of the majors.

Muirfield Village is a par 72 which is neither brutally long nor especially short, and just like most Jack Nicklaus designs it's known as a second-shot golf course. That's why you'll see big-hitters, nudgers and bit-of-both-ers on the roll-of-honour: anything goes off the tee, and then things get interesting.

If you don't flush your irons like Hideki Matsuyama, you'd better scramble like Matt Kuchar to contend here but if there's one stat which somehow ties things together it's proximity to the hole.

As it says on the tin, this one measures how close players hit it from the fairway and it tends to reveal the very best iron players as a result. In 2015, the season-ending list had that year's one-two, Justin Rose and David Lingmerth, inside the top 40 along with William McGirt and Jon Curran, who played out a play-off one year later.

SPORTING LIFE REQUEST-A-BET - Piercy, Horschel, Rodgers, Ruffels, DeLaet or Grillo to win outright - 16/1 

Given the strength of this field, some of those names are surprising and it's pretty clear that field strength doesn't guarantee a well-known champion. Just why that's the case is hard to say, but as well as Lingmerth and McGirt, recent renewals have seen the likes of Curran, Kevin Na, Andres Romero and Brandt Jobe go close and that's worth remembering before steaming into 6/1 favourite Dustin Johnson.

Not to say that DJ won't be hard to beat. He could've won this event last year, bogeys at 10, 12 and 13 meaning that a closing birdie wasn't quite enough to join the play-off, and has completed his graduation since. It's a testament to how far he's come that 12th in the PLAYERS and 13th in the Byron Nelson represents low-key golf over the last few weeks.

Still, having missed the Masters he'll have eyes on a US Open title defence and doesn't scream value in this event, while Jordan Spieth and Rahm are trading at the same odds as when sharing second in a significantly weaker field in Texas last week.

Jason Day will by now have turned a play-off defeat at the Nelson into a positive, but while this event is played close to his Ohio base, his record at Muirfield Village suggests that either the course isn't to his liking, or he really does use this as a prep for the US Open.

Whatever the case, the market leaders are there to be shot at, with only Johnson making any real appeal, and I'd much rather chance  Scott Piercy at 150/1.

A couple of weeks ago, Piercy hinted that his game was on the mend with a subtle tweet and he followed it up with 20th place in the aforementioned Byron Nelson, despite ranking last of those who made the cut in strokes-gained putting.

Last Wednesday, Piercy noticed that his putting ball position was off and made a slight adjustment, and the results were immediate as he took another step forward, finishing seventh in the Dean & Deluca and improving markedly on the greens.

If anything, his effort petered out a shade over the back nine on Saturday and then into Sunday, but in his defence the 38-year-old was feeling under the weather, struggling to breathe at one stage as he downed medication to get through each day.

The hope is he's feeling better now and if that's the case, three-figure prices look generous given that he does tend to hit form and hold onto it, as he showed almost exactly a year ago when second in the US Open and then again at Firestone.

The latter is form which ties in well with the Memorial, largely due to tree-lined fairways and lightning-fast greens, and while Piercy's record here is patchy he did open with a round of 66 on his way to 16th in 2013.

Not often has he arrived in such obviously strong, progressive shape, and Piercy can also call upon previous Nicklaus form having won the Reno-Tahoe Open at Montreux.

Another factor to note is the quality of his approach play - Piercy is ninth in the aforementioned proximity to the hole list - and it also can't hurt that he's close friends with recent winner Billy Horschel, who is second on my list.

On the face of it, Horschel's win at the Nelson came out of the blue and was followed by a so-so effort in the Dean & Deluca.

However, there was no fluke about his fourth PGA Tour win and he was making his debut at Colonial last week, where a late first-round tee-time meant the worst of conditions left him vulnerable.

All in all, a share of 34th was by no means a disaster and it was encouraging to see him so sharp around the greens.

Of course, winning twice in three starts is not easy, but Horschel went 2-1-1 on his way to FedEx Cup glory almost three years ago and even when needing time to adjust to his breakthrough win in 2013, just a handful of starts later was seen finishing fourth in the US Open.

He's definitely a confidence player and when on-song there are few more reliable from tee-to-green, which is why he's compiled a strong record here, making the cut in all three visits, twice finishing inside the top 15, and even when down the field on debut finishing T2 for birdies.

In terms of wider Nicklaus form, Horschel was third at Annandale a few years back, a classic Nicklaus design, and it's encouraging that McGirt was fifth in the same renewal.

It's also encouraging that both McGirt and Lingmerth had finished in the top 10 at the Honda Classic - another event on a Nicklaus course - prior to winning here. Horschel was fourth there in the spring and eighth, alongside McGirt, in 2016.

Bud Cauley is a similar player without the wins and makes some appeal - he separated Horschel and McGirt at Annandale and has caught the eye every week for a long time now - but at around the same price it has to be the proven winner who gets the nod, even in light of the maidens who've broken through here.

While Horschel closed with a bogey at Colonial, Emiliano Grillo finished birdie-birdie for 24th and some momentum ahead of his return to this event.

A year ago, Grillo was 16-under with nine to play but, under pressure from Johnson first of all, he crumbled to a back-nine 41 to finish 11th.

Given that the play-off was fought out between two who shot 15-under, it was clearly a golden opportunity missed for the Argentinian, but he's worth backing to gain compensation now.

Clearly, he took to the course and it was interesting to hear Jordan Spieth's assessment as to why. Spieth, a former classmate, said Grillo's gentle, smooth putting stroke can struggle on slow greens, but thrives on ones as fast as these and it was a claim backed up by the numbers, with Grillo producing his second best performance of the season here.

Spieth also spoke of how highly-regarded Grillo is and that's certainly my view. He's yet to back up a breakthrough win on a tree-lined course in the Frys.com Open but it's a matter of time and there was a lot to like about his performance at Sawgrass three weeks ago.

Grillo's proximity stats are solid - he ranks 40th, inside the top 20 percent - and he arrives at the Memorial in much better shape than when spurning a good opportunity as a PGA Tour rookie last year.

Lucas Glover and Kyle Stanley are two reliable ball-strikers who should go well if recovering from disappointing displays last time, while Brendan Steele has won this season and at the same track as Grillo. It's one which, through some of the other contenders, might correlate quite nicely with Muirfield Village.

Steele also played really well at the PLAYERS and is worth considering at 80/1, while it's really tempting to side with Sean O'Hair after back-to-back top-five finishes.

Yes, they came back in Texas, where he's really comfortable, but there's no obvious reason he can't bring that form here having been just one shot short of Kevin Kisner's total on Sunday.

O'Hair led the field in putting and boasts a really strong book of form at the Honda which, as mentioned, appears the best place to look for course correlation.

However, it's asking a lot for a player who has been in and out of form and winless for some time to contend three weeks in succession, so I'll instead chance Canada's Graham DeLaet at a bigger price.

I just wonder whether an event like the Memorial, where first-time winners have become common and where Jack Nicklaus awaits to greet the winner, might be right for DeLaet finally shedding his maiden tag.

What's more, he made his Presidents Cup debut here at Muirfield Village, winning three and a half points for his side including when seeing off Spieth in a tight singles match.

Those memories might just come flooding back if he can get into contention and we know that the ability is there, especially from the fairway where DeLaet is deadly accurate at his best.

The 35-year-old has only played here once since that Presidents Cup, finishing a solid 26th having opened with a pair of three-under 69s, and was 21st on his previous appearance in 2013.

That's solid enough form and having come home in 33 on Sunday there are enough signs that he could be ready for another crack at winning, having been in position to do so at the Heritage before a triple-bogey midway through the final round made for a familiar ending.

DeLaet took the positives from that, as he has had to for some years, and it has to help that this season has seen two fellow Canadians win, as well as another of the 'best golfers yet to win a PGA Tour event' in Kevin Chappell, a former runner-up here.

Of course, there's a chance that his short game woes return but while that would put me off backing him at a short price, at 150/1 it's a risk worth taking.

Next, the most speculative of plays on Ryan Ruffels.

This young Australian is almost certainly their next big thing and he played really nicely here last year, when just 18 years old.

He also caught the eye at the Zurich Classic alongside Kyle Stanley and earlier this month finished second on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica, where he's been banging on the door for a while now.

This is a massive rise in grade but he's made his last four PGA Tour cuts, showing something promising in each of them, and sooner or later a superstar teenager is going to win an event like this one.

With experience of the course, the fact that his friend Cameron Smith landed the Zurich and stablemate Marc Leishman the Arnold Palmer and a really solid second last time, Ruffels is worth the smallest of bets at not far off the biggest of prices.

With Scott and Day both having something to prove, it's also worth considering Ruffels and compatriot Curtis Luck as options in the top Australian market.

And finally, I can't resist Patrick Rodgers at a similar price.

Two years ago, Rodgers secured temporary membership with a share of 40th here, showing both class and resolve to birdie the final two holes and just scrape together the money required.

Alongside him that day was McGirt, as it happens, and Rodgers returned to shoot 68 in round one last year. Although missing the cut in the end, it was by just one shot and half of his six rounds at the track have been sub-70.

Indeed, Rodgers was fifth at halfway in 2015 so the course does look to suit and the fact he's from neighbouring Indiana means he'll have extra support this week.

The reason he's such a big price is he was abysmal last week, but a top-30 at the Byron Nelson offered plenty of encouragement and each of his five top-six finishes on the PGA Tour has come somewhat out of the blue.

He is, quite simply, young, raw and still working things out, but Rodgers is a class act going to the top of the game in my eyes and his best finishes have all come on serious golf courses like this one.

Posted at 1705 BST on 29/05/17.


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