Two events to get our teeth into this week on the PGA and European Tour as the countdown to the US Open continues.
On the PGA Tour we have the annual pilgrimage to ‘Jack’s place’, for the Memorial Tournament, while on the European Tour we have the Belgian Knockout, a unique event, which was introduced to the tour last year. Paddy’s paying 8 places on both before tee off.
The more conventional stuff takes place at the Memorial in Ohio. A par 72 playing to 7,392 yards, Muirfield Village was the dream of Jack Nicklaus and was opened for play in his hometown of Dublin, Ohio, in 1976.
Par-five scoring is key here, with four reachable par fives in play, but this is not an out and out bombers’ course. Finding fairways is important in order to play into the right portions of fast, sloping greens.
We have a stellar field, headed by five-time Memorial Champion, Tiger Woods.
Alongside Tiger, we have a great supporting cast of Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. Of these, with Tiger only having played two competitive rounds since the Masters, it is Rory who makes the most appeal.
It’s no coincidence that we have seen a spate of bigger-priced winners in the bread and butter events lately, as the elite players look to peak for the Majors, which are dropping once a month in the re-jigged schedule.
On this basis, I am happy to pass over the bigger names and instead look just below them for our headline pick, Patrick Cantlay at 14/1.
Long destined for the top of the game, Cantlay is starting to fulfil his potential and has posted top 10 finishes his last three starts, including the Masters and the PGA Championship. Fourth here last year and a model of consistency this season, Patrick can finally post a long over-due second victory on tour.
Next on the list is another who has been on fire of late, Rory Sabbatini @ 50/1.
Sabbatini made headlines for more bizarre reasons recently when, with an eye on playing in the Olympics, he switched allegiances from his native South Africa to his wife’s native Slovakia. More recently though, he has been letting his golf do the talking. With four consecutive top 18 finishes, Sabbatini, has always been a ‘streak’ player who wins when in hot form and can strike soon.
Two who appeal at bigger prices are Luke List at 70/1 and Ryan Moore at 90/1. Moore has already posted two top-three finishes this season and has a great record at this course, while List was sixth last time out at the PGA Championship and has been knocking on the door of a first tour win for a while.
I shall complete my team for the Memorial with a big-priced play on Matt Every at 150/1, who has emerged from the doldrums and is enjoying his best season in a long while. He came close to winning a couple of starts ago and I can see this two-time former Bay Hill champion, making an impact at a big price.
On to the Belgian Knockout and we have a unique format. Players compete over 36 holes of stroke play for the first two days, with the top 64 then qualifying for an FA Cup-style matchplay knock-out event, of nine holes of stroke play per match over the weekend.
With such an unusual and volatile format, it is probably prudent to side with players who have shown an aptitude in this before. So I’ll take defending champion Adrian Otaegui at 30/1 who has won both of his tour titles in events involving Matchplay, to thrive once again. Alongside Otaegui, fellow Spaniard Victor Perez @ 70/1 ranks highly in the season’s birdie averages – a key ingredient in this format – and he finished sixth here last year.
*Prices correct at time of publication