Ever since its inception in 1976, very few events can boast a more impressive roll-call of winners than the Memorial. Seventeen of the last 25 champions had either already won, or went on to win a Major. Course specialist Kenny Perry, who has twice lost a Major from a very strong position, won three of the other eight. And even when it hasn’t been won by a Major champion, previous winners have dominated the places. In the last five years, 25 of the last 29 players to make the top-5 had already won either on the PGA Tour at the very highest level or the European Tour.
The reason is that Muirfield Village is very much a ‘second-shot course’, which usually results in the difference between the best and the rest being accentuated. Driving distance and accuracy are less relevant than most other weeks because of the wider fairways, from where the quality of iron approach play makes the difference between success and failure. These greens, measuring an ultra-fast 13 on the stimp-meter, are some of hardest to hold seen all year, making pinpoint iron accuracy and world-class scrambling skills imperative.
However, focussing on the very best players is not quite so simple as there is a lot of quality on display. As usual, the field for this prestigious event is headed by Tiger Woods, and naturally the market revolves around him. If Woods were certain to be at or near his best, I’d be betting in the ‘without Woods’ market, but it would require a huge leap of faith to assume that he will improve vastly on the distinctly patchy golf seen on his two latest appearances at Quail Hollow and Sawgrass. Of course to anyone else, 4th and 8th in two elite events on championship courses would represent success, but when considering a bet at 3/1 a little more is required.
Tiger’s problems, if they can be called that, seem to be a combination of inaccuracy from the tee and a general lack of sharpness around the greens since returning from injury. The latter will be resolved in due course; probably in time for the US Open; and the former reason shouldn’t be too damaging around Muirfield Village. Here, his superb iron play and peerless scrambling skills should be more important than usual, and there must be every chance he’ll land a fourth Memorial title, his first since 2001. But that chance represents no better than the 3/1 on offer, and I’ll be very surprised if bigger odds aren’t available at some stage in-running.