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Jason Daniels’ Boosted tip:
Patrick Cantlay to win12/1
‘Elevated’, ‘designated’, ‘enhanced’.
After a non-whatever Charles Schwab that saw the elite players beaten by Emiliano Grillo and Adam Schenk, it should be back to business at the top-class Memorial Tournament, where a tough 7500-yard layout asks questions of the best in the world, who very often show their quality.
Despite changes to the course in 2020 and beyond, designer Jack Nicklaus continually expects that, “The game should challenge every facet of every club in the bag,” and recent winners prove it.
Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Cantlay, Jon Rahm, Patrick Cantlay (should have been Rahm) and even Billy Horschel read like a who’s-who of top-class winners, each one firmly inside the top-20 by the end of their winning season, with BDC, Cantlay and Rahm inside the top-10.
The defending champ advised that, “Putting the ball in the fairway is crucial, to start with. But having control of your second shot, it’s a very second-shot golf course in my opinion,” while Rory McIlroy suggested this was more open that most courses – “I feel like a lot of the fairways here pinch in around 310, so it allows the sort of average hitters to hit driver.”
Course specialist Cantlay suggested the advantage of length had been taken away, saying, “So with the new length on all these par-5s, it’s a lot of laying up,” and Rory agreed, commenting on the re-design, “I think what’s happened here is everyone is just now playing from the same spot with their second shot.”
Length helps here, but it is certainly not as important as many other courses. Find the fairway, because missing it means an awkward lie into small greens that won’t hold the ball. Elite they may be but recent specialists hold an unsurprising link to the majors, in particular Augusta, something Rahm showed in excellent fashion when winning this year’s green jacket.
It happens a few times a year. Not many, maybe around three or four, but, for the win, this is a one-and-done deal.
Full respect to favourite Scottie Scheffler, putting up tee-to-green figures not seen for many a year. He doesn’t seem to have a lull in quality, unlike his chief market rival Rahm, but his short game is letting him down. At 6/1 I’m happy to see him go close but not cross the line in front.
Rahm is a course specialist who would have gone back-to-back in 2020 and 2021, but for having to withdraw when clear at the furlong pole. He has lulls in his form though, as when 10th here last year and recently when slowly away at Harbour Town, and down the pack at Oak Hill, when his tetchy again came to the fore. In between, Tony Finau beat the Spaniard, when he attempted to defend his Mexico Open title, and is another that must go close but has his niggling doubts.
McIlroy looked better at Oak Hill last time, raising his game but still finishing outside any challenging position. This seems a theme at the moment, and I’d like to see him in contention for a full weekend before being on, whilst Xander Schauffele continues to knock on doors without being let in.
Given these four are approximately 6/4 combined to get the job done, those niggling doubts lead me to a player for which two events stand out every year.
Patrick Cantlay – stand up, it’s your year! Again.
He may not have won yet this year but the 31-year-old heads into this week having made his last eight cuts in 72-hole events, posting four top-five finishes and a worst finish of 21st at Quail Hollow, a course he has never taken to in any of his three tries.
Third at Riviera, fourth at Bay Hill, third at Harbour Town and top-10 at Oak Hill all highlight a player at the top of his game, particularly as the finishing positions were all higher than at any point during the respective tournaments, something that repeats his effort at Muirfield last year when coming from 48th after round one, to land his fourth top five in seven Memorial starts.
In between, the eight-time PGA Tour winner landed his fourth top-two finish at the Shriners, and was in the final two pairings at Augusta, when the slow-play furore did him no favours on the back-nine on Sunday.
Despite Scottie’s stats, the three-month tracker has Cantlay firmly in front with a ranking of 2nd for total driving, 3rd for ball-striking and an overall 1st for total accuracy.
Look deeper and he is 15th for greens-in-regulation, 2nd for putting average, 14th for par-4s and 3rd for the par-5s, all stats that work amongst the elite.
In six runs at Muirfield – in all its guises, and including the one-off Workday Open – he has an average finish of 12.7, his two wins and three top-seven finishes spoilt by a 35th on debut and 32nd in 2020, averaging just under +3 off-the-tee, over +5 for approaches and +9 shots for tee-to-green. Those numbers mean the selection ranks in the top-15 for all the above, plus 13th for putting if we take the flat-stick numbers over the last four years.
Winning the Zozo at Sherwood from Rahm and Justin Thomas showed he wasn’t just a Muirfield-positive Nicklaus fiend and, although he was the chief beneficiary of Rahm’s withdrawal here in 2021, he still had to hold off Collin Morikawa, a player that had won the Workday Open around here and who went on to be fourth to Rahm at the US Open (Cantlay 15th) and then won The Open Championship on the bridle.
I will look at top-10 bets for the likes of Shane Lowry, impressing with his ball-striking, and Sungjae Im, a player that suits the plodding type of track, but for win purposes only one player suffices.