The Memorial Predictions: Conservative/Aggressive Plays for Every Type of Bettor

min read
Collin Morikawa tees off the sixth hole during the first round of the Charles Schwab Challenge golf tournament at Colonial Country Club, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Fort Worth, Texas.
(AP Photo/LM Otero)
Jason Sobel @JasonSobelGolf Jun 04, 2024, 8:04 AM

Just in case Robert MacIntyre winning the RBC Canadian Open with his father on the bag and Yuka Saso strutting her way to the U.S. Women’s Open title didn’t get you excited enough, the next three weeks should represent the heart of the professional golf calendar.

With the U.S. Open sandwiched by a pair of PGA Tour signature events in this week’s Memorial Tournament and the following Travelers Championship, we’re about to witness the PGA Tour’s elite square off against each other for three in a row.

I’ll be writing on this dynamic later in the week for BetMGM, but for now, let’s focus on the first of these tournaments, with Jack Nicklaus once again playing host at the always-brilliant Muirfield Village.

If I’ve gotta tell you what this one’s all about, well, where ya been?

The 7,533-yard course just northwest of Columbus, Ohio, can be a brute, with winning scores of everything from 7-under to 19-under during the past half-decade. If anything, it tends to reward ball-striking while also leveling the playing field, as six of the last 10 editions of this event have gone into a playoff.

Just about every big-time PGA Tour player will be in attendance at this one, which means Scottie Scheffler (+350) and Rory McIlroy (+900) are the headliners, with Xander Schauffele (+900) right behind in his first start as a major champion. 

We’ll start with a player just behind them on the board – a player who lost one of those playoffs but should be primed for another title run this time around.

The Memorial Outright Bets

Conservative: Collin Morikawa (+1200)

Let’s kick things off with a selection that’s both a form play and a karma play. First, the form: Morikawa was in contention at the recent PGA Championship until a final round when he couldn’t make anything on the greens and finished in a share of fourth place, then bounced back one week later at Colonial to claim another fourth-place result. 

In each of those instances, his tee-to-green ball-striking has been tremendous – and while you might simply believe “tremendous” is the baseline for Morikawa, he spent much of the early part of this year struggling with his swing before finding it again. Now, the karma: Three years ago, he trailed by six strokes entering the final round, only to watch leader Jon Rahm forced into a WD due to COVID, then lost in a playoff to Patrick Cantlay. Last year, the tables were (sort of) turned, as Morikawa trailed by two entering Sunday’s play but had to WD with pre-round back spasms. 

The golf gods aren’t always benevolent deities, but they know a good storyline when they see one, and it’s hard to believe they won’t help a few bounces go Morikawa’s way as he pursues just his second official win in the past three years. 

Oh, and if the form and karma aren’t enough for you to back him, check out his course history. While tourney results won’t show it, he won the Workday Charity Open at Muirfield Village back in 2020.

Aggressive: Sahith Theegala (+4000)

After finishing T-5 at the Memorial two years ago, I had Theegala targeted for big things at this tourney last year, only to watch him post three rounds of 75 or worse, finishing in a lowly share of 58th place. 

This is a different player now, though, as he’s starting to look the part of the superstar that many of us believed he’d become. While wayward drives have been his lone weakness in the past, Theegala has now gained strokes off the tee in 10 straight starts and on approach shots in six of his last eight. 

Some might point to his poor finish at the PGA Championship, when he shot a final-round 73 to drop into a share of 12th place, as a sign that he’s not ready to close against elite fields, but I spoke with him throughout that week, and a lingering illness suggests he was lucky to keep it all together for three days before running out of gas on Sunday. 

We’re getting a better outright number on him here at BetMGM than in some other books, so he remains a buy for me until he wins again, which shouldn’t be too far away. 

The Memorial Top-Five Bets

Conservative: Tony Finau (+600)

It’s understandable why there are bigger prices on Finau these days, but he’s sure to capitalize at some point. Or, to see it from a more positive side, bettors are getting a nice bargain on a volatile player with tons of upside. 

It’s been more than a year since the sixth and most recent of Finau’s half-dozen victories, but the game is starting to come around, as he’s finished 18th or better in three of his last four starts, each time posting putting numbers to right around the field average.

Throw in the fact that he’s owned moderate success at Muirfield Village – 13th or better in four of seven career starts – and I’ll absolutely have a nibble at 50/1 outright, but the play here is for a top-five, just in case that flat stick doesn’t warm up as much as we’d like.

Aggressive: Keegan Bradley (+700)

The only thing holding me back from placing Bradley in the spot above where I listed Theegala is a curiously mediocre record at the Memorial, which shows a pair of T-8 finishes in 2015 and ’16 as his only career top-20s. 

I call it curious because Muirfield Village should be a sweet setup for a player with the length/accuracy combo off the tee as Keegan, while the grass type should remind him of back home in New England. That said, he’s trending in the right direction, with results of 21st-18th-2nd in his last three starts, and he’s gained at least 1.37 strokes per round either off the tee or with his irons in his last five. 

If he can put ‘em both together this week, he can win here – and even if he comes close, he can cash those top-five tickets. 

The Memorial Top-10 Bets

Conservative: Byeong Hun An (+300)

There’s so much to like about An this week. 

Form? His ball-striking has been through the roof lately, gaining strokes with both driver and irons in each of his last half-dozen starts. Results? He already owns two separate streaks of a pair of top-five finishes, the latter of which has occurred over his last three appearances. History? He might not be the proverbial course horse for Muirfield Village, but a playoff loss in 2018 – when he wasn’t playing nearly as well as he is now – at least shows that he can contend here.

Aggressive: Sepp Straka (+350)

We’ll have to plug in some different numbers, but it’s essentially the same story for Straka as it is for An. 

He’s gained more than a stroke per round with his irons over each of his last five starts and, during that span, has four finishes of 16th or better, including a pair of top-fives. His overall record at this course isn’t overly spectacular, but a T-16 last year shows it’s hardly outside his wheelhouse.

The Memorial Top-20 Bets

Conservative: Corey Conners (+125)

Ah, finally. For someone who’s been recommending Conners top-10 plays throughout the year, only to see him miss by a stroke on three separate occasions, it was a relief to see him finish in solo sixth place at the RBC Canadian Open this past weekend. 

His record at the Memorial isn’t anything too special, so I’ll back off that previous top-10 assertion for top-20 instead, and a T-13 here two years ago has me confident he will pull it off, which makes for a cautious-yet-smart selection at plus-money in a limited field.

Aggressive: Rickie Fowler (+300)

If the Conners play was too conservative for you, then I’ll let you get overly aggressive with a Fowler top-20, as well. That might not seem like such a crazy selection, but in 14 starts so far this year, he’s cashed just a lone top-20 ticket. 

Here’s hoping the familiar sight of Muirfield Village can help turn things around, as he owns a pair of runner-up results among his seven top-20s in 14 career starts at this tournament. I’ll also give a little nod here to Davis Thompson, who in the time since I started writing this preview has gotten into the Memorial after Robert MacIntyre withdrew and posted an opening 63 in the first 18 holes of U.S. Open final qualifying.

The Memorial First-Round Leader Bets

Conservative: Justin Thomas (+2500)

If Thomas is among your favorite plays for outrights and finishing position bets, I certainly won’t try to talk you out of it. His last three results of 5th-21st-8th show he’s moving in the right direction and it would hardly be a surprise if that trend continues here. 

I’m going to take him here for a single-round investment only, though, as JT has broken 70 in eight of his 11 opening rounds this year, including those last three. None of those have been better than 68 since his season opener at The AmEx, but he’s showing signs of sprinting out of the gate, and it usually doesn’t take an ultra-low one to cash these tickets at this event.

Aggressive: Cam Davis (+10000)

I’ll be the first to admit that all FRL wagers are essentially volatility plays, though I might believe that a bit more than I did at this time a week ago before I had a piece of Sam Burns in this market at the RBC Canadian Open and watched him hold a share of the lead for most of the day – until getting passed by David Skinns just before sundown. 

Well, just as two wrongs sometimes make a right, it can make some twisted sense that a play on a volatile player in this volatile market can sometimes be the correct one. Davis is among the most volatile guys around, among the most life-is-like-a-box-of-chocolates players there is. However, opening scores of 62 at Waialae and 65 at Riviera this year have me cautiously optimistic that he can go low on another Thursday when we might least expect it.

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About the Author

Jason Sobel

Read More @JasonSobelGolf

Jason Sobel is a Brand Ambassador for BetMGM. He joins after six years with Action Network. Prior to Action, Jason spent a total of 17 years in two stints at ESPN (1997-2011; 2015-18) and four years at Golf Channel (2011-15). He also currently works as a host for "Hitting the Green" on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio and contributes to the channel's on-site coverage during major championships. He's won four Sports Emmy awards, more than a dozen Golf Writers Association of America accolades and has earned an honorable mention in the Best of American Sportswriting series.

Jason Sobel is a Brand Ambassador for BetMGM. He joins after six years with Action Network. Prior to Action, Jason spent a total of 17 years in two stints at ESPN (1997-2011; 2015-18) and four years at Golf Channel (2011-15). He also currently works as a host for "Hitting the Green" on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio and contributes to the channel's on-site coverage during major championships. He's won four Sports Emmy awards, more than a dozen Golf Writers Association of America accolades and has earned an honorable mention in the Best of American Sportswriting series.