Gamblers and fantasy players are trained to ignore potentially false narratives. Data and stats are always more trustworthy sources than storylines conjured up by members of the media or players opining themselves. As it relates to Tiger Woods and him closing in on history, though, we'll allow ourselves to momentarily subscribe to how certain things might play out.
Consider that Tiger Woods is one win away from tying Sam Snead's record for the most PGA Tour wins (82), and then imagine a better place for that victory to come but at the tournament hosted by perhaps the greatest player in golf history. OK, we're not ones to believe the hype, but we can see it. And so can our PGA Tour caddie reporting from the range at the Memorial Tournament this week.
Our expert picks this week, just like every week, includes a PGA Tour caddie offering insight from the range and putting green of this week's Memorial Tournament, thanks to our partnership with The Caddie Network; handicapping from our friends at The Action Network, a leader in premium handicapping data for sports bettors, which is becoming a must-follow in golf with senior writer Jason Sobel. We also have picks and analysis from two fantasy golf experts, Reid Fowler of DraftKings and Brandon Gdula of FanDuel; plus Columbia University senior lecturer and Ph.D. Lou Riccio, who uses predictive analysis and modeling to forecast winners in golf.
Does everybody agree with a win being in the cards for Tiger? Not exactly. See where our anonymous PGA Tour caddie—and our other experts—fall this week on Tiger and the other players in this strong field.
2019 Memorial Tournament Picks To Win (Odds from FanDuel Sportsbook)
PGA Tour Caddie Guest Picker of the Week: Tiger Woods (10-1) — Tiger’s always a good bet at the Memorial—a tournament he’s won five times in his career. His dominance at particular PGA Tour venues—eight wins at Bay Hill, Firestone and Torrey Pines, etc.—makes him especially dangerous at certain tournaments. The host site of the Memorial Tournament puts a premium on second shots to these severely sloped, Jack Nicklaus-designed greens, and so Tiger, maybe the best iron player of all-time, would figure to own this course, too.
Muirfield is a good spot for him to bounce back after the surprising missed cut at Bethpage Black in the PGA Championship. The other cool thing about this week is that Tiger has a chance to pick up career win No. 82, which would match the all-time record belonging to Sam Snead . . . and it could happen at the home of Jack Nicklaus, who’s basically the only legend Tiger is left chasing. There might be some added significance for Tiger—like he’s ever really needed it—to get it done at Jack’s place.
Reid Fowler, DraftKings analyst: Gary Woodland (37-1) — Woodland has been inside the top-10 four times this season, with his most recent coming at the PGA Championship a few weeks ago. Woodland has four runner-up finishes and one victory since 2016, all of which are a result of gaining double-digit strokes tee-to-green. His ball-striking has been elite of late, ranking second over the last 24 rounds and top-10 in proximity from 175 to 200 yards over the last 100 rounds. All the necessary boxes have been checked, right? Not exactly. Although putting is extremely variant every week, Woodland’s putting has consistently been bad, losing strokes on the greens in five of his last six tournaments. Muirfield should be a ball-striker's paradise, setting up nicely for Woodland to club down with a three-metal off the tee, get the ball in the fairway and rely on his irons. His elite ball-striking should hopefully be enough to get him into contention, but he needs to equalize the flatstick and have a ‘normal’ putting week, even if that means only losing a couple of strokes and not half a dozen.
Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire editor: Justin Rose (17-1) — Rose will be without Fooch, his longtime caddie, but Rose did win Torrey Pines this year with Gareth Lord on the bag. Rose won at Muirfield Village in 2010 and has five top-eight finishes to his name at this course. He also grades out in the top-15 in all three strokes gained: tee-to-green subsections over the past 100 rounds on the PGA Tour, via FantasyNational.com, and has the accuracy to avoid the penal rough.
Dr. Lou Riccio, Columbia University: Jordan Spieth (21-1) — We were close with Spieth last week. The glimpses continue to show themselves. Don't you want to back Jordan Spieth when all parts of his game click? We know the putting is there, in a big way. Muirfield Village doesn't necessarily require the greatest off-the-tee game. It does necessitate a great ball-striking week on approaches. If you look back at the 2017 Memorial (Spieth was mid-struggles in 2018), Spieth gained 6.5 strokes on the field on his approaches. With him being so close, I wouldn't be surprised that this is where Spieth finds the winner's circle again.
Jason Sobel, Action Network senior golf writer: Adam Scott (33-1) — Without a PGA Tour title in over three years, Scott is overdue for a victory. We all know he can hit it as well as anyone on the planet, but this might be the clincher: His putting stats are actually better than his ball-striking stats this year. The Aussie doesn’t play much superfluous golf, as his last three starts have been at The Players, Masters and PGA Championship, but he’s finished T-12, T-18, T-8 in those. At a tourney where he owns three career top-five finishes, Scott should own plenty of confidence.
Golf Digest editors: Patrick Cantlay (15-1) — The third biggest favorite in one of the best non-major fields of the year . . . is Patrick Cantlay? At surface level, that seems somewhat absurd. Not when you dig deeper into the stats. In his past 36 rounds according to FantasyNational.com, Cantlay is 10th in the field in strokes gained/approaches, 11th in strokes gained/tee-to-green and second in strokes gained/total. He finished fourth here last year, and was just one back of Bryson DeChambeau's lead after 54 holes. Cantlay's eight top-10s since October is behind only Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm for the most on tour. He's due for a win at a spot he has a ton of confidence. That's enough to convince us to pony up at these low odds.
(Results on the season: We’ve correctly predicted five of the season’s 26 events. Pat Mayo has correctly picked Bryson DeChambeau (12-1, Shriners); Matt Kuchar (60-1 at the OHL Classic) and Phil Mickelson (25-1 at Pebble Beach). Golf Digest editor Christopher Powers correctly picked Kevin Tway (55-1) to start the season at the Safeway Open. Lou Riccio called Rickie Fowler's win (16-1) in Phoenix and had a runner-up (Dustin Johnson) at the PGA. And Brandon Gdula has four picks of his who have finished runner-up. We're due for another winner.)
Sleepers/Dark Horses That Could Win at the 2019 Memorial Tournament (odds from FanDuel Sportsbook)
PGA Tour Caddie: Rory Sabbatini (55-1) — Look out for the Slovakian at Muirfield Village. He’s quietly—sort of (because he’s making some noise with his great play lately)—having a really solid season. Sabbatini, who tied for second at Memorial in 2012, has four top-10 finishes this season – all of them coming in his last five starts. He’s in Ohio this week after a T6 at Colonial. I just love the way he’s playing right now.
Fowler: Sung Kang (80-1) — With a victory at the Byron Nelson, Kang could’ve easily showed up fatigued the following week at the PGA Championship, but instead was in contention all throughout the major carding a 7th place gaining just under nine strokes tee-to-green. Kang ranks just outside the top-25 in strokes gain ball striking and 15th in strokes gained par-five. We witnessed his aggressive nature at the Byron Nelson and I’m always going to take a player who willing go for win at the risk of losing as opposed to playing sheepishly playing for a 22nd place finish. Kang should stay aggressive into these small greens and with the driver ranking 10th in strokes gained off-the-tee, 19th in sand saves gained, and second in strokes gained short game over the last two tournaments. I’ll also be on the top-10 at +750.
Gdula: Emiliano Grillo (80-1) — Grillo has had success at Muirfield Village, finishing 11th, 40th, and 23rd in his three tries. He does well to hit fairways and pick up strokes on second shots, which is what I’m looking for this week. Grillo also grades out 14th in strokes gained on par 5s over the past 100 rounds, giving him a chance to score well enough to contend.
Riccio: Phil Mickelson (55-1) — In a successful career with 45 PGA Tour wins, it's surprising Lefty has never won at Jack's Place. He owns enough solid finishes at Muirfield Village, with 10 top-25 finishes and three top-10s in 18 appearances. Phil's been streaky of late, but he's always been streaky. You know he's going to be motivated to find his game heading into the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Phil's ranked fourth on my model for this week, so there is serious value at this 55-1 number.
Sobel, Action Network: Luke List (80-1) — Over the last few years, List has shown a propensity to post strong results in bunches – and he’s coming off a T-6 at Bethpage Black two weeks ago. One of the better drivers on the PGA Tour (he ranks 11th in strokes gained off the tee), his skill set should correlate well for Muirfield Village. I also considered Matt Fitzpatrick, Aaron Wise and Peter Uihlein in this spot – I think each could be primed for a solid week – but List rates as my favorite longshot.
Golf Digest editors: Henrik Stenson (50-1) — Henrik Stenson's iron game is too good to not play well at Muirfield Village. Over his past 36 rounds, the Swede is second in the field in strokes gained/approach. The issue? He's 91st in strokes gained/putting; 92nd in strokes gained/short game and 93rd in strokes gained/off-the-tee. But Stenson is back on some familiar confines in Muirfield Village, so if his putting and short game were to turn around, this would be a place we'd expect it to happen. Stenson finished T-13 here last year. With his iron play so elite right now, it's worth the risk at 50-1.
Players to Fade This Week (who will disappoint)
PGA Tour Caddie: Justin Rose (17-1) — Justin Rose. There’s a big change for Rose this week, with the news that his caddie of 11 years, Mark “Fooch” Fulcher, has been sidelined indefinitely to recover from the heart procedure he had in January. They’ve been such a good team. Rose will have veteran caddie Gareth Lord (Henrik Stenson's former caddie) with him at Memorial. They did win together earlier this year in Fooch’s absence at Torrey Pines, but I just think this could be a tough week for both of them (Lordy and Fooch are great friends) because of the circumstances.
Fowler: Jason Day (24-1) — The Aussie usually gets a lot of buzz this week with the ‘Ohio-native’ narrative living here during the season (his wife is from Lucas, Ohio), but Day has never cracked the top 10, with his best finish coming in 2017 (15th). His mediocre finishes obviously scare me, but not as much as his iron play of late; he has lost strokes through approach in four of his last seven tournaments and has been relying heavily on his putting to get him through the bad iron-play. Memorial is all about the approach, and Day has been atrocious, ranking 64th over the last 24 rounds.
Gdula: Jordan Spieth (21-1) — As a fan, I want Spieth to do well, so the past few weeks have been fun. However, he has gained nearly every stroke on the field simply with his putter. We know Spieth can putt better than anyone on the planet when he’s hot, but at a course where errant tee shots and approach shots can be problematic, he could find himself in too much trouble to ride the putter to a win.
Riccio: Xander Schauffele (29-1) — This is a pretty attractive price for Schauffele, but there are too many other elite players to back in this range. Xander missed the cut here last year. And he also missed the cut at Colonial. Though these are different type of golf courses, Xander lost 2.1 strokes relative to the field on his approaches. That's enough to keep me off Xander and pivot to other players I have ranked ahead of him in this range.
Sobel, Action Network: Jordan Spieth (21-1) — Two weeks ago, Spieth entered the PGA Championship at 66-1. Following results of T-3 and T-8, he’s moved up to the fifth-lowest odds on the board. I think this is too much of an overreaction for a player who’s been basically doing it with smoke and mirrors on the greens, picking up a whopping 18 strokes on the field in his last eight rounds. There’s a common sentiment, which suggests torrid putting isn’t sustainable, and I tend to agree. He might be regaining the form of the world’s best rock-roller once again, but he simply can’t keep up these types of gains.
Golf Digest editors: Kevin Kisner (55-1) — Kisner has had a great year, so the prevailing opinion of him is definitely high. Look a little closer at the stats, and you'll see that Kisner has actually struggled recently. In his past 36 rounds, according to FantasyNational.com, Kisner is 68th in this field in strokes gained/approaches, 111th in strokes gained/around the green and 73rd in strokes gained/off-the-tee. Those numbers do not inspire confidence. We liked him last week at Colonial and he missed the cut. Call it a short memory, but when you take a closer look at those stats, it's tough to ignore the recent struggles.
2019 Memorial Tournament: Matchups
PGA Tour Caddie: Matt Kuchar (-120) over Justin Thomas (Sportbet) — Kuchar is having a great season but taking him in this particular matchup is more about Thomas . . . specifically, his injured wrist. JT hasn’t played since the Masters, where he tied for 12th. It had to kill him to miss a major (the PGA) to heal up, but that was a sign of maturity and seeing the bigger picture. Probably didn’t hurt to see what has become of Brooks Koepka, who gave an injury proper time to heal, and ever since, has gone on an absolute tear. JT’s year—until the injury—has been spectacular, just as you’d expect. I’m just a little timid on him in this matchup because he hasn’t had competitive reps in over a month.
Fowler: Hideki Matsuyama (-118) over Jordan Spieth (DraftKings Sportsbook) — Hideki Matsuyama has played well here in the past ranking fourth in strokes gained total over the last five years as well as winning in 2014. He’s also been gaining strokes with his irons in every tournament since August of last year. Conversely, the unconscious efficiency Spieth has been displaying with the flatstick is prime for regression – he’s been gaining an average of eight strokes on the greens over the last 12 rounds, but has lost strokes through approach in six of his last seven tournaments.
Gdula: Rickie Fowler (-122) over Jordan Spieth (FanDuel Sportsbook) — Jordan Spieth’s putting is insanely good right now, but his tee-to-green game has been almost exactly neutral over the past 12 rounds. That’s just not a sustainable game, especially when heading to a course with small greens that require precision. Fowler is also reliant on his putter—more than you may think—but has significantly better ball-striking and consecutive top-eight finishes at Muirfield Village.
Riccio: Phil Mickelson (+125) over Rory Sabbatini (Sportbet) — We can't ignore the plus-number on Phil relative to Sabbatini. Sabbatini rates out 53rd in my model for this week, whereas Phil is fourth. The sportsbook is putting too much of a premium on recent performance. Phil's due for a good week, while Sabbatini is due for a regression.
Riccio: Aaron Wise (-115) over Charley Hoffman (Sportbet) — My model also favors Aaron Wise at nearly even money in this matchup against Charley Hoffman. Wise is in the top 20 in my model, whereas Charley Hoffman is 61st. Wise's length should be an advantage over the more precise Hoffman. We've seen Wise do well at big tracks with wide fairways like Muirfield Village. Hoffman is OK in strokes gained/ball-striking stats, but Wise has the firepower that's worth backing at this number.
Sobel, Action Network: Peter Uihlein (+115) over Sung Kang — I was tempted to take Luke List, whom I like a lot this week, in this spot, but a matchup over a similarly capable Matt Fitzpatrick felt like too close a call. Instead, I’m fading one of the game’s hottest players in Kang, who chased his first career PGA Tour win at the AT&T Byron Nelson with a solo seventh at the PGA. Really, though, this is less of a Kang fade than a Uihlein value bet. I’ve been waiting about three years for the Massachusetts native to step into the next echelon, but it just hasn’t quite happened yet. There are signs it’s coming, though. He was T-5 at the Nelson and T-13 at Colonial, on both occasions going low on the weekend, playing those four rounds in a combined 19-under-par.
Golf Digest editors: Patrick Cantlay (-125) over Justin Thomas (Sportsbook) — Not only do we love Patrick Cantlay this week, but we don't expect too much from Justin Thomas this week. This isn't just a one-off injury—JT's wrist has been an issue since the Florida swing in March. Without laying too much, this is a number that's too good to pass up.
(Matchup results last week: PGA Tour Caddie: 1 for 1 (C.T. Pan (-135) over Kevin Tway); Riccio: 1 for 1 (Nate Lashley (+105) over Nick Taylor); Action Network: 1 for 1 (Joel Dahmen (+115) over Zach Johnson); GD Editors: Halved (Kisner over DeChambeau); Mayo: 0 for 1; Gdula: 0 for 1.)
(Matchup results for the year: Action Network guest picker: 4 for 4; GD Editors: 12 wins, 6 losses, two pushes; Riccio: 11-6; PGA Tour Caddie: 10-10; Mayo: 8-9-2; Gdula: 8-10-1.)
Top 10 (odds from FanDuel Sportsbook)
PGA Tour Caddie: Bryson DeChambeau (+410) — Bryson is the defending champ. He’s been struggling lately, having missed the cut in each of his last three starts. He’s got three top-10 finishes on the season but hasn’t had one since the Genesis Open in February. By his standards, Bryson is in a slump. Look for him to snap out of it at Muirfield Village. There’s too much talent there for a rut like this to last. He should have some added confidence coming to a place where he knows he’s gotten it done before.
Fowler: Andrew Landry (+3300) — Landry has had a difficult 2019 season with his best finish at TOC (22nd) in January. Since then, he’s missed five cuts with his most recent coming last week at Colonial. Memorial should be a little more suited for Landry as we get him back on Bentgrass and if we look closer at his play, it’s not been too far off - he’s been gaining strokes through approach in three of his last five tournaments, gaining strokes tee-to-green in five of his last six tournaments, and ranks inside the top-half of the field in strokes gained ball striking over the last two tournaments. Hopefully, he can put it all together this week AND rely on his long-iron approach ranking 3rd in proximity from 175 to 200 yards over the last 24 rounds.
Gdula: Keegan Bradley (+720) — Bradley and Jason Kokrak (+610) profile similarly, but Bradley offers better value for a top-10 finish. Bradley is one of three golfers in the field to have gained more than 77.7 strokes via approach shots over the past 100 rounds. He leads with 91.7 in that span and has two top-10 finishes here in the past four years.
Riccio: Tony Finau (+245) — Finau's coming off the T-2 at the Charles Schwab Challenge last week, and that was without his A-game. The biggest bugaboo for Finau has been his putting, and he gained almost five strokes on the field last week on the greens. If he figured out the putter, look out: Big things could be in store for the big-hitting Utah native.
Perry, Action Network: Patrick Cantlay (+196) — There aren’t usually many pre-tournament odds which surprise me, but I was fairly shocked that one-time PGA Tour champion Cantlay owns lower odds than the likes of Justin Thomas and Jason Day this week. And yet, I still really like him. Cantlay finished one stroke out of last year’s playoff and has claimed a share of third place in each of his last two starts. He’s clearly a superstar-in-the-making and this week could be a big step toward that end result.
Golf Digest editors: Adam Scott (+320) — Adam Scott has been as consistent as anybody over his past 36 rounds, not ranking worse than 35th in any key strokes-gained metric over that time. He has threatened at the PGA Championship and the Masters—pretty much any time he's teed it up. There's no reason to think he stops contending this week at a ball-striker's venue built for his game.
(Top-10 results last week: Riccio: 1 for 1 (Kevin Na, +400); Everyone else: 0 for 1)
(Top-10 results for the year: Action Network: 2 for 4 (+800 and +1000 hits); Mayo: 7 for 20; Gdula: 5 for 19; PGA Tour Caddie: 5 for 20; GD Editors: 4 for 19; Riccio: 4 for 19)
Fowler: The field is similar to last week with only 120 players making the trek to Muirfield Village. It’s a strong event with arguably the best non-major/WGC field on tour, which may lead people to go with a balanced lineup. It’s a fine strategy, but with a smaller field there’s a better chance to get some cheap longshots through the cut and hopefully in contention. The proverbial cream rises to the top at Jack’s tourney so I’m starting with two studs up top with Justin Rose and Justin Thomas and then dropping down to Andrew Landry for some salary relief. If not Landry, Matt Every, Nick Watney, or Vaughn Taylor would suffice.
Justin Rose ($10,800), Justin Thomas ($9,300), Jason Kokrak ($8,200), Sung Kang ($7,700), Keegan Bradley ($7,600), Andrew Landry ($6,400).
Riccio: Justin Thomas will be a bit controversial this week. His wrist injury was bad enough to keep him out of the PGA Championship. But he's making his return this week, likely as a warm-up before the U.S. Open in a few weeks. Looking at the stats, even if JT isn't 100-percent, his stats rate out so well here—he rates out in the top-10 in nearly every iron stat you look at. And at the rare price break on him this week, he's an attractive play. We also like Jason Day playing at Muirfield Village, where he lives in Ohio. Phil and Spieth have the experience here, as does Steve Stricker, who rates out well on par-4 scoring in this range.
Jordan Spieth ($9,900); Justin Thomas ($9,300); Jason Day ($9,200); Phil Mickelson ($8,100); Austin Cook ($7,000); Steve Stricker ($6,300).
Golf Digest Editors: Patrick Cantlay and Matt Kuchar will be chalky choices this week, but they're also some of the safest—so I like starting my lineups with these two this week. I also really like the consistency of the back end of this lineup: Andrew Putnam had a great weekend in Fort Worth. And Keegan Bradley's ball-striking prowess is built for Muirfield Village. Sung Kang is coming off his win at Trinity Forest, where approach precision is key, and a seventh-place at Bethpage, so his confidence is riding high. And Kyle Stanley owns top-10s in each of the past two years at Muirfield Village. Really like this lineup, as chalky as the top half might be, Stanley and Putnam are likely enough to differentiate yourself.
Patrick Cantlay ($10,200); Matt Kuchar ($9,400); Kyle Stanley ($7,800); Sung Kang ($7,700); Keegan Bradley ($7,600); Andrew Putnam ($7,200).
Gdula: We have a lot of flexibility this week given the small field. Most of my lineups will be starting with Rory McIlroy at $12,000 or Tiger Woods at $11,700. Patrick Cantlay ($11,000) and Matt Kuchar ($10,900) are also safe bets for head-to-head and double-ups. However, in big tournaments, we should think about avoiding the chalky picks and look instead to any number of lower-owned studs, such as Justin Thomas ($11,600) and Justin Rose ($11,500).
Mid-range value is there with Gary Woodland ($10,400), Adam Scott ($10,300), Henrik Stenson ($10,200), and Emiliano Grillo ($9,700), and the low $9,000 range gives us numerous players to roster, primarily Jason Kokrak ($9,400), Keegan Bradley ($9,200). Riccio: Here are my picks for the Memorial:
Jordan Spieth ($11,400); Rickie Fowler ($11,300); Tony Finau ($10,800); Phil Mickelson ($10,100); Steve Stricker ($8,100); Austin Cook ($8,000).
GD Editors: Is starting a FanDuel lineup with Patrick Cantlay as your highest stud a risk? Sure. He and Kuchar, like Brandon Gdula said above, will be ultra chalky. But we don't anticipate this specific lineup being too chalky. Matsuyama, a past winner at Memorial, will also be chalky. But pair this safe trio with Phil, who won't garner too much of a look, and you have enough to differentiate yourself. This course suits up well for Keegan. A decent week for Max Homa, who just won at a similar venue in Quail Hollow, and you have a winning lineup.
Patrick Cantlay ($11,000); Matt Kuchar ($10,900); Hideki Matsuyama ($10,700); Phil Mickelson ($10,100); Keegan Bradley ($9,200); Max Homa ($8,100).
About our experts
Dr. Lou Riccio, a PhD senior lecturer, teaches rational decision making at Columbia's Graduate School of Business and has served on the USGA's handicap research team for three decades. His predictive analysis and modeling helps him make expert picks for our column.
Brandon Gdula, a senior editor and analyst for NumberFire, a FanDuel daily-fantasy analysis company, recently won the 2018 fantasy sports-writers association Golf Writer of the Year (congrats, Brandon!). Gdula also co-hosts the DFS Heat Check podcast.
Jason Sobel is the Action Network's senior golf writer, and one of the most respected writers on tour, having previously covered the PGA Tour for ESPN.com and the Golf Channel. One of the Action Network's experts will join our weekly column every week. Click here to read Action Network's full Memorial Tournament coverage.
Reid Fowler, filling in for Pat Mayo this week, has been a DraftKings analyst since 2017 and is developing a strong reputation in the daily-fantasy sports community, focusing on golf handicapping. He appears nightly on DraftKings’ evening daily fantasy show and is featured on his very own show aptly named, “Reid The Green," where he analyzes each PGA tournament throughout the season. He also appears weekly on The Pat Mayo Experience covering the PGA specifically and works with ESPN Radio in Los Angeles as well as NBC Sports Radio covering everything from the PGA to the NFL (as well as surfing). Follow him on twitter (@reidtfowler) where you can find links to all of his work.