The Memorial: Back iron-players in matchups

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With players set to tee-off in less than 24 hours, a betting card would not be complete without a few full tournament head-to-head matchups. We will dive into a number of them as we put our running theories to the test.

Playing north of 7,500 yards, Muirfield Village has had the reputation of rewarding elite iron players. When looking back at past champions here, you have the likes of Tiger Woods and Collin Morikawa. Woods is the greatest iron player of all-time and Morikawa is arguably the best on approach these days. If you disagree with that, you also have Justin Thomas who was a playoff loser to Morikawa in last year’s Workday Charity Open.

That’s essentially what I will be relying on in our head-to-head matchups as I believe those who strike their irons the best will be in contention come Sunday. By no means is it a ground breaking theory, but we have seen Muirfield Village many times before, and while there will be some changes and subtle nuances to Jack’s Place, I believe this sentiment will still ring true.

The oddsmakers at PointsBet Sportsbook have laid out a number of head-to-head matchups for us to dissect. Truth be told, they’ve done a fantastic job pricing them for the Memorial as these are the some of the most difficult ones I’ve had to analyze in quite some time. Regardless, we march on.

Head-to-Head Matchups (Odds via PointsBet):

Jordan Spieth (-125) over Rory McIlroy

If we are going to stick with the theme of iron play, then we should really start with Spieth. He has arguably been the best iron player in the world over the past couple of months and some would say even the best player. People forget that it was this tournament last year where Spieth’s irons began to return, as evidenced by his T-13 finish.

He’s done just about everything but win at Jack’s Place over his career. A T-7 in 2019, T-13 in 2017, and a T-3 in 2015 highlight his best finishes at Muirfield Village. He now arrives in the midst of a resurgence with most of his game in sync. While last Sunday is still fresh on the mind and wayward tee shots are likely inevitable, the rest of the game should hold up to a new look Muirfield Village.

I am not entirely sure what to make of McIlroy’s chances this week. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if he won, but it also wouldn’t surprise anyone if he had a forgetful showing. The irons have been great the past couple of starts, but outside of Quail Hollow, he’s struggled to get the entire bag in sorts. McIlroy withdrew from Wednesday’s Pro-Am, citing personal reasons, which brings some concern as well. He does have some good vibes around this place, but Spieth appears to be the steadier player between the two and has my vote of confidence.

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Viktor Hovland (-120) over Bryson DeChambeau

It pains me to do this, it really does, but I will be avoiding DeChambeau this week, especially after such an eventful 2020 Memorial that gave the internet more than enough material for the next couple of decades. A 30-minute period in Dechambeau’s second round included a quintuple bogey 10 on the 15th hole, arguing with a rule's official, and counting his score which has since become a commonly used gif.

Lost in all of it is that I don’t believe Muirfield Village suits the new DeChambeau. Yes, he won here in 2018, but as a completely different player. His strength from off the tee is neutralized here as iron play is more important. And that’s exactly where DeChambeau has been struggling as of late, losing strokes in SG: Approach in two of his last three starts.

Hovland on the other hand appears prime for a victory. Before the PGA Championship, he was trending in all the right directions. If not for a poor third round at Kiawah Island, he was right in the mix, so it’s not like he played horribly en route to a T-30. The kicker for Hovland has always been his short-game, but as of late it has really shown signs of life. That could be the eventual difference maker for him as last year he was only able to capture a podium finish at the Workday Charity Open.

Justin Thomas (+110) over Jon Rahm

Both of these players have been extremely difficult to figure out. As such, I’ll happily go with the one who is listed at plus money. Thomas has been known as one of the best iron-players in the game and while as of late his approach numbers appear to be leveling off, the secret sauce is still there. He’s just been a bit more volatile with those clubs, but I expect them to steady at Muirfield Village.

He was this close to winning here last year at the Workday Charity Open and I like him to have similar success this year. With generous fairways, finding the short grass off the tee won’t be as difficult as some weeks. Thomas didn’t look fantastic last week at Colonial CC, but most of that can be attributed to a poor opening round as he battled back over the last few days.

Outside of last year when Muirfield Village played about as firm and fast as it possibly could, Rahm hasn’t had tremendous success here. His strength with his driver isn’t a prerequisite to play well here, which has me questioning his chances this week. His irons have been up-and-down as well which doesn’t mix with his short-game which has been unreliable at times.

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