The Cheat Sheet provides fantasy golf players with course information, player history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help them with their roster selections.
The field this week looks strong, and with the US Open just two weeks away, many players will be using this event to get their games ready for the year’s third major. Not everyone is playing this week, but the field is littered with big names like Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose. There are also quite a few holdovers from last week as well, with names like Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Colonial runner-up Tony Finau all participating, too. Past champions abound in this field as the likes of David Lingmerth (2015), Jason Dufner (2017) and Steve Stricker (2011) are in attendance. Justin Thomas (wrist) and Louis Oosthuizen (undisclosed) are both in the field this week despite pulling out of various events over the past couple of weeks. Thomas has undergone treatment and looks ready to go via social media, while Oosthuizen remains a mystery but has played well in spurts when he’s chosen to actually play. The field this week is limited to around 120 players, but the cut rules of the top 70 players plus ties making the weekend remain in effect for DFS purposes.
Muirfield Village, Dublin, Ohio
Muirfield Village is a true championship course. It was built in 1972 and named after Jack Nicklaus’ favorite Open Championship venue (Muirfield); it also has some design similarities to Augusta National. Like Augusta, Muirfield Village is a par 72 and carries four par 5s that are quite reachable in two by many of the players, with the longest being only 567 yards. However, outside of these holes, scoring opportunities do become limited and playing the par 5s in well under par for the week is often crucial to success at Muirfield. In 2015, runner-up Justin Rose played the par 5s in 10-under for the week and 2016 winner William McGirt ranked fifth in Par 5 Scoring for the week.
Outside of the par 5s the rest of the course can be quite challenging. The faster Bentgrass greens play smaller than normal and often play extremely fast with severe sloping that makes getting up and down on them tough. The rough here can vary but often plays quite thick and promotes accuracy off the tee. Past winners here have tended not to be bombers, so while venue isn’t long, it still plays quite fair to most skillsets. The fairways are wider than a normal tour course in many spots but there’s still plenty of trouble as water comes into play on 10 or more holes.
The par 4s vary in length but five of them play at 450 yards or greater and require a tough and usually longer approach shot, which will be made even harder if your player hits it in the rough. For the longer hitters the ones who can keep it in the fairways or can handle approaches from the thick stuff will have a huge advantage on these holes. The par 3s all fall within the 175-200-yard range for the most part, so looking at efficiency stats from that range could be useful. Most have severe bunkering or water protecting the greens, so being good from this range is a near must this week.
While big hitters have done well at Muirfield, accuracy shouldn’t be discounted this week as thick rough and difficult green complexes make hitting greens an absolute must. Missing greens in the wrong spots here potentially can cost players more than a stroke.
2019 Weather Report: There are thunderstorms scheduled for almost every day this week, with Friday being the first day we are expected to see sunny skies. The good news is the wind and rain are expected to die out on the weekend and give way to temperatures in the mid-70s and sunny skies. Expect a wet beginning, though, as rain is expected to pelt the course from Tuesday to Thursday though. As of writing, there’s a chance Thursday could be a rainout with thunderstorms in the forecast. If play does get delayed, it’s possible the p.m. wave could play their entire two rounds in sunny conditions in Friday but don’t count on anything until later in the week when the forecast is more predictable.
Past five winners
Bryson DeChambeau-2018 (-15 over Byeong Hun-An playoff)
Jason Dufner—2017 (-13 over Fowler and Lahiri -10)
William McGirt—2016 (-15 over Jon Curran in a Playoff)
David Lingmerth—2015 (-15 over Justin Rose in Playoff)
Hideki Matsuyama—2014 (-12 over Kevin Na in Playoff)
— Ten of the past 11 winners had a T5 finish or better on tour in the year of their victory before winning the Memorial.
— Of the past 12 winners of the Memorial, Jason Dufner, David Lingmerth and William McGirt are the only ones to rank outside the top 15 in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green at the end of the season (88th, 54th and 41st, respectively).
Strokes Gained: Tee to Green
Strokes Gained: Approach
Par 4 scoring/efficiency from 450-500 yards
Muirfield Village is very much an all-around test, and for that reason, emphasizing strong tee-to-green play this week might be more important here than most venues. This event has seen a couple of fluke winners, but two of the past five winners here also have led the field in SG: Tee to Green on the weeks of their win (Dufner ’17 and Matsuyama ’14). Last year all three playoff combatants were 12th or better in this stat.
Muirfield Village also has smaller-than-normal greens, which require good accuracy to get close to pins. Since 2013, the top three players at the end of the week all have been players who have ranked inside the top 50 in SG: Approaches for the year they finished T3 or better — this includes last year with the three playoff combatants (Stanley, An, DeChambeau).
I also am looking at Par 4 Efficiency from 450-500 yards again. Muirfield Village has some easy to score on par fives that most players will do well on but also contains five par 4s that will play within the 450-500-yard range this week. Of note is the fact the past five winners all have ranked inside the top 10 in this stat for the week they won.
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful of putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value comparative to their odds of winning this week.
|Emiliano Grillo||55-1||$7,900||Phil Mickelson $8,100 and 55-1
Kevin Kisner $7,900 and 70-1
Marc Leishman $8,000 and 60-1
|Tony Finau||20-1||$9,600||Jordan Spieth $9,900 and 20-1
Rickie Fowler $10,600 and 20-1
HORSES FOR COURSES
1. Justin Rose (best finishes: win-2010; playoff loss-2015): Rose has flashed ridiculous upside at this event over the years. Despite missing two of his past seven cuts here, in the years he’s made the weekend, Rose has never finished worse than T8, and he also has a win and playoff loss to his credit. He’s a massive upside target at Jack’s place.
2. Matt Kuchar (best finishes: win-2013; T2-2011): In 11 appearances Kuchar has never missed a cut at Muirfield, and his worst finishing position over that span is 26th (2015). On top of winning this event in 2013, Kooch also has five separate finishes of 10th or better, including a T4 from 2017. He’s a true horse this week.
3. Tiger Woods (best finishes: win-2012, 2009, 1999-2001): Tiger has won on this week’s venue five times, but his recent history here has been a touch spotty. Still, he finished T23 at this event last season and given what he’s done in 2018 already a big week easily could be ahead.
4. Kyle Stanley (best finishes: T2-2018; T6-2017): Stanley made the playoff last season but lost out to Bryson DeChambeau. The American has taken to this week’s venue, posting finishes of T6 or better in three of his past four starts. He’s started to flash better form of late, too.
5. Hideki Matsuyama (best finishes: win-2014): Matsuyama bagged his first win at this week’s venue five years ago and has followed that up with some decent efforts. A T13 last season and T5 in 2015 make him a solid course history play, and his recent form isn’t looking too shabby, either.
Cash Games: Despite the temptation to play some big names at the top this week, starting cash games with cheaper plays like Matt Kuchar ($9,400) and Hideki Matsuyama ($9,100) seems more efficient. Both have great recent form and course history. Below them, Gary Woodland ($8,800) and Emiliano Grillo ($7,900) look like good plays for this format, as do both Aaron Wise ($7,300) and Russell Knox (7,100), the latter of which has not missed a cut at Muirfield in the past four years.
Tournaments: With enough people looking to go cheaper at the top, there’s no reason that paying up for Tiger Woods ($11,200) at this week’s event can’t pay off. He looked in poor shape at the PGA but has won on this venue five times and played very solid here last season. Below Tiger, the likes of Adam Scott ($8,700) and Henrik Stenson ($8,500) make for good upper-tier targets while down below names like Bud Cauley ($6,700), Si Woo Kim ($7,000) and Vaughn Taylor ($6,200) make for good GPP plays.
Top Recent Form
1. Patrick Cantlay: Cantlay comes in ranked fifth in SG: Tee to Green on the season and with T3 finishes in each of his past two solo starts. He finished T3 and T9 at the year’s first two majors and is looking like a player on the verge of a breakthrough soon.
2. Matt Kuchar: Kuchar is quietly humming along. He has not finished worse than T12 in his past five starts and is fresh off a T8 at the PGA Championship. Kuchar is fifth in SG: Approaches on the season and eighth in Driving Accuracy.
3. Kevin Na: Na completely scorched the field last week, ranking first in most major ball-striking categories. He’s finished T10 or better in three of his past four starts and comes into this event on a major heater after last week’s win.
4. Jordan Spieth: Spieth has posted back-to-back top-10 finishes and, despite the struggles this year, has made seven cuts in a row coming in. The worry here is Spieth’s ball-striking has continued to be poor despite the better results. If his putter remains hot, though, he no doubt will continue to contend.
5. Rory Sabbatini: Nothing can stop the Slovakian Slugger. Sabbatini finished a strong T6 last week and has finished inside the top 10 in three of his four starts and hasn’t missed a cut in three months. He’ll continue to be a DFS play until he isn’t.
MY PICK: Aaron Wise ($7,300)
There are a lot of big names in play at this week’s event, but I’m going to follow a bit of trend here and go with a younger player who might be on the verge of a breakthrough. Wise has stepped up his game nicely of late after enduring a few missed cuts in a row early in the season. The 22-year-old followed up his best-ever finish in a major championship — T17 at Augusta — with another made cut at the PGA Championship, where he finished T41.
Over his past three events he’s been solid, flashing ranks of seventh, ninth and 25th in tee-to-green stats against the field and also comes into the week ranked 12th in Par 4 Efficiency from 450-500 yards and 16th in Birdie or Better Percentage on par 4s. He’s by no means bulletproof yet but already has proven his talent and fantasy upside with a win and some big finishes in the playoffs from last year.
For DFS purposes you’re getting him at a huge discount this week at event that has featured multiple younger winners, breaking through over the past few years. It all sets up well for Wise, who I’d have no issues tapping as a possible dark-horse contender this week.
MY SLEEPER: Bud Cauley ($6,700)
Cauley’s been a spotty play this year, popping for a few decent finishes but no big weeks. The 29-year-old looks like he might be a good value target at the Memorial as his iron play is starting to show signs of improvement. Cauley lost more than five strokes on the greens at Colonial last week before missing the cut — basically the opposite of Jordan Spieth — but actually gained more than a stroke on the field with his irons in each of the first two rounds.
Cauley also has some decent experience at Muirfield Village to rely on, as this will be his sixth time playing the event this season, and he already has finished inside the top 40 here on three of his past four visits, including a T25 from two years ago. Currently ranked first in Strokes Gained: Around the Green on tour, Cauley’s skill greenside also should give him a vital edge here, too, as Muirfield boasts some of the toughest green complexes on tour. At well under $7K this week he sets up as a solid DFS target with perhaps better upside than we realize even coming off a missed cut.
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