Fantasy Golf Picks: Putters, Irons & Sleepers at The Memorial
The Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance
Defending Champ: Matt Kuchar
Matt Kuchar, Steve Stricker, Justin Rose, K.J. Choi, “Comely” Carl Pettersson; do any of those names sound like former long drive champions to you? If you mistakenly thought they did, they shouldn’t. All five have walked away from Jack’s as course champions during the past decade, and all five triumphed basically the same way: Irons and Putting. Sounds like a strong strategy for most courses, right? Obviously. But, a few of the annual events demand just a little more precision than the rest; deep, inaccurate drives can’t bomb their way out of trouble at Muirfield Village. There’s a reason it persists as one of the most difficult layouts every season, ranking third toughest of any regular course in 2013, trailing only Augusta and PGA National. A 110-yard Gap Wedge from the thick stuff just ain’t working this week.
Players make GIRs in Columbus by avoiding trouble, hitting as many fairways as possible. Much like the Harbour Town, another Nicklaus/Pete Dye collaboration btw, the opportunity to score is available; the path is simply fraught with peril. To go low, golfers A) must make a bevy of mid-range putts and B) not bleed any gimmes back to the field.
Now, Kenny Perry is a three-time winner, and Tiger has squeezed novelty checks from The Memorial into the back of his car on five separate occasions – no longer a Buick, presumably. There are always going to be exceptions; it’s golf. But loading up on those who enjoy frolicking in the short grass is the safest blueprint for success this week.
HIT THE LINKS
Monty finally won a major. Too bad he’s 51, and it happened on the Senior Tour. Better late than never, I suppose.
Cal was having one of the best NCAA golf seasons ever, but now that time is over. In other news, NCAA golf is a thing. It’s even on TV.
Why did Adam Scott win last week’s playoff? Because Jason Dufner was TOO RATTLED by his handsomeness.
Padraig Harrington won’t be competing for the hilariously named US Open Trophy for the first time since 1999. He missed The Masters for the first time in 14 years earlier this year too. Was it really that long ago that Paddy was so good he tried out the Happy Gilmore swing, just for kicks. Damn... it has been.
Did you know Ernie Els writes a blog? Well, he does, and he’s “seeking good vibes” in Columbus, i.e., He lost the number of his regular hookup.
Phil Mickelson thinks he can win “maybe two” US Opens before his career his is over, along with making the next two American Olympic teams. I don’t want to live in that world.
Want to marry a babe? Be a pro golfer.
Luke Donald & Matt Kuchar – I know we’re running short on Kuchar usages, but you’re better off getting him on the squad while he’s still cranking out Top 10s, especially at courses where he’s basically golf’s answer to McGarnagle – HE GETS RESULTS YOU STUPID CHIEF!!!! –never finishing worse than a T13 in any of his six starts ay Muirfield Village. It’s not surprising, though, basically all Kuch’s career success is derived from exploiting Dye inspired layouts for his gain. Donald’s game is very much tailored the same way, except he leans a little heavier on his putting. He’s eighth in Strokes Gained-Putting, while still ranking respectably well in driving accuracy (46th) and sand save percentage (45th). Plus, the Brit’s only missed one cut in eight 2014 starts, and comes in fresh off a T3 against a loaded field at the BMW PGA Championship last week in England. It should have been a win, but Donald opened his final round with a bogey and a triple in his opening six holes; making his five birdies on the closing 13 only good enough for a "didn't win" (Not yet a recognized Fantasy Golf stat... yet). Eventually, he’ll escape a full 72 holes disaster free, and when that happens he’s going to immediately cash a giant payday. Ever wonder how the prize money is actually given to the winner? Do they have to set up direct deposit with some someone each event, or do they just submit that info to some dude in accounts payable at PGA HQ when they join the Tour? Wondering is fun!
Justin Rose & Rory McIlroy –Rory said his split from Caroline Wozniacki “won’t be easy,” and by that he meant, “it won’t be easy not immediately winning without THE WOZ projecting her unclutchness on me". Seriously. Oh, Rory’s also second on Tour in Stroke Differential Field Scoring, averaging a daily score more than two strokes better than the field (+2.09). Sergio Garcia is the leader in that category, if that sort information intrigues you. And Rory's supposedly having a down year, please. Rose, well, he's a lock, and the pole-sitter in my weekly power rankings. The defending US Open champ is one of two must-haves this week. Rose's four Top 10s the last six years are impressive enough, especially considering those finishes include a win and a runner up.
David Hearn & Hunter Mahan – There’s simply no reason to take Hunter Mahan unless you suffer from a case of the crazies. So, BOOM, BABY, BOOM... I’m getting him in my lineup. Mahan’s turned in fairly middling results since tweaking his back in March at Bay Hill, but there have been brief glimpses of his terrific early season play lately; he just hasn’t been able to retain any consistency through all four rounds. However, I’m wagering familiarity will snap him out of his malaise – he's not Jimmy Carter – he’s posted three consecutive Top 20s at this site. And in better news, Mahan won't be appearing on many rosters, so if he hits, I'm reaping a bounty of points on the competition. Hearn is the same way, except, his style truly does set up perfectly for Muirfield Village. He ranks 30th in driving accuracy, third in total putting and, maybe most importantly this week, ninth in 3-Putt avoidance from 25-feet and beyond.
Charl Schwartzel & Scott Stallings - Only four times in history has a player claimed their first career victory at The Memorial, so a dash of winning experience isn’t an awful idea. That’s my excuse for choosing Stallings, since his stats don’t necessarily jibe with the prototypical successful player on this site. Although, he possesses the proper course management skills to make some circles on his scorecard. Stallings has proven he can adjust his game to fit the demands of this layout, finishing T4, 25th and T20 the past three years. Not bad for a 200-to-1 long shot. And Schwartzel has never placed lower than 22nd in three career starts, has five Top 20s in eight 2014 events and hasn’t three-putted in 150 straight holes - ranking second on Tour in 3-Putt avoidance.
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