The Memorial Tournament 2021 Picks: Trust in Xander
Xander Schauffele is one of our PGA man's value bets ahead of The Memorial this week
12:45 Tuesday 1st June 2021 - 8 minute read
A major stop on the PGA Tour takes place in the once quiet farmland near Dublin just north of Columbus, Ohio. That is where a young Jack Nicklaus learned about values, hard work, and the discipline of golf. In the mid-1970s, Nicklaus who was already a legend, was determined to build a golf course that reflected his vision … a place where Tour professionals could come and have their mettle tested. When the “Golden Bear” reached his 80s, he was determined to “take one more bite out of the apple,” as he liked to say.
Our PGA man J.N. Campbell is here with his thoughts ahead of the tournament...
Weekly Preview: The Memorial Tournament, Dublin, Ohio
Course: Muirfield Village (named for Nicklaus’ 1966 Open Championship “Win”)
Just as soon as Jon Rahm notched his victory in last year’s tournament, the landscape architectural plans were put in motion. With Nicklaus leading the charge from start to finish, nearly every aspect of the course saw some kind of alteration. Distance was added (100+ yards), bunkers were shifted, and now as the 2021 edition of “Jack’s Tournament” is once again upon us, pinseekers will face a bevy of challenges. Whose game will most suit this new course? As the field takes shape, we will examine who has the inside track to win this prestigious contest.
Last week, we fared moderately well by predicting that Phil Mickelson would stumble at The Colonial, and Jordan Spieth should be bet “to win” with caution. Though we decidedly missed with Justin Thomas, who barely made the weekend, we did witness another furious charge on Sunday from Abe Ancer. It just was not enough in the end, especially considering how the 2nd and 3rd rounds went for the young man from the Texas Bordertown of Laredo.
Who do we look to this week, as The Memorial Tournament gets underway from Dublin, Ohio? Have a read …
For some time now I have watched and waited to give a nod to this Swedish-born striker who became an Okie Cowboy in Stillwater. Alex Noren has game, as he spent quite a bit of time in the shadow of countryman Henrik Stenson. Now, he is poised to take a step forward in this Tourney. Though his best finish this year was a 12th in the Genesis Invitational, he has shown some flashes of ability. Ranked 103rd in the FedEx Standings, a win here in Ohio would bring his first Tour victory. His work around the greens is a weapon, and we know he can perform under pressure in the Majors (tied 55 in the PGA Championship). Where he will be tested is his driving accuracy, which could use some work. As far as wagers go, playing the “make the Weekend” bet seems logical. A Top 30 finish could also be in the cards, especially considering he had a nice run in April-May doing as such in the RBC-Zurich-Valspar-Byron Nelson. Noren can keep it going with a price that is nice!
I am decidedly against Bryson, Patrick, and Jon … No, I am not talking about the latest “Boy Band,” rather the 3 former champions of Jack’s Memorial Tournament. Each one of them is going to arrive in Dublin and not know what hit them. The course is fundamentally different than the one they played when they shook Nicklaus’ hand and hoisted that laser cut-glass trophy. Fairways that were wide are now less so, and greens that were sloped away from the pin are now the other way around. Even with an extra week of preparation time since each of these guys skipped the trip to the Charles Schwab Colonial, it will not be easy. Compounding the situation is the fact that all 3 of these “Champs” have looked vulnerable this past month. Their titanic driving has not served them well (Jack pushed some tee boxes back …), and I am not convinced any of them are playing at their best. Wagering against them could yield some nice profits, since each of them will take money.
Green Jackets attire, mandatory … (Hideki +2200)
A quick lesson about Japanese names … because this is a pet peeve of mine. Golf announcers regularly get this wrong. Just remember that a “first” name is actually a surname, and what we think of in the West as “last” names are just the opposite. Thus, Hideki Matsuyama (pronounced just like it sounds …), the reigning Masters Champion, would not be known as Mr. Matsuyama, but Mr. Hideki. Nuisance and an understanding of culture(s) is key. As for this impressive golfer, he is having a banner year. His tee to green ability is impressive, and if he can be laser-focused this week, I think he has an excellent chance to become a 2-time winner of this contest. Though most were high on his PGA Championship prospects, I think the Ocean Course did not particularly play to his strong suits. The redesigned Muirfield Course which will not have as much wind in play, should set up nicely for Hideki’s touch. If he can minimize errors, saving par where he can, he could be a nice wager in the end hovering around 22/1 to 25/1. He and Nickalus have much in common when it comes to the color green!
Trust in Xander … (Schauffele +2000)
It is the perfect time for Xander Schauffele to get back on track. Ranked 6th in the FedEx Cup chase, he missed the cut at Kiawah, which is by no means a dark mark. That was an extremely tough course, with a field that was humbled by the conditions. The highlight so far of 2021 was his 3rd place at Augusta National, and when he is dancing well on those glass greens, he can be virtually impregnable. I like his numbers like “Off-the-Tee” (42nd) and Tee-to-Green (18th), and that bodes well considering the changes that Nicklaus has made to his home course. Schauffele can make this career Tour victory No. 5, and he has the winnings to go with that distinction at $4.4 Million. More to come from this San Diego State Aztec, as he ramps up his game for a return mid-month to his hometown. Competing in a matter of weeks at Torrey Pines for the U.S. Open should be a sweet moment, to say the least. A triumph in The Memorial Tournament would make him one of the favorites-to-beat going into the SoCal Major, I should think. If you could get him for 20/1 this week, then that is a wager worth making.