Golf Expert Picks: Our Staff’s Favorite Bets for the 2019 Memorial Tournament
Michael Madrid, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Justin Thomas
- The 2019 Memorial Tournament takes place this weekend at Muirfield Golf Course in Dublin, Ohio.
- The field for the Memorial is loaded with big names, with 33 of the top 50 players in the world participating.
- Our experts share their favorite bets for this weekend's tournament:
The PGA Tour heads to Muirfield Village Golf Club this weekend for the 2019 Memorial Tournament.
Even though this is a star-studded field playing on a familiar course, favorites haven’t fared well in this event over the past few years. In fact, the last five winners of this tournament have all gone off at 60-1 or higher.
With so many big names playing, this tournament should be wide open so let us help you try and find some value with our favorite bets for this weekend’s Memorial Tournament.
The bet: Peter Uihlein (+115) over Sung Kang
I was tempted to take Luke List, whom I like a lot this week, in this spot, but a matchup over a similarly capable Matt Fitzpatrick felt like too close a call. Instead, I’m fading one of the game’s hottest players in Kang, who chased his first career PGA Tour win at the AT&T Byron Nelson with a solo seventh at the PGA. Really, though, this is less of a Kang fade than a Uihlein value bet.
I’ve been waiting about three years for the Massachusetts native to step into the next echelon, but it just hasn’t quite happened yet. There are signs it’s coming, though. He was T-5 at the Nelson and T-13 at Colonial, on both occasions going low on the weekend, playing those four rounds in a combined 19-under-par.
Dr. Lou Riccio*
The bet: Tony Finau Top-10 Finish (+245)
Finau’s coming off the T-2 at the Charles Schwab Challenge last week, and that was without his A-game. The biggest bugaboo for Finau has been his putting, and he gained almost five strokes on the field last week on the greens. If he figured out the putter, look out: Big things could be in store for the big-hitting Utah native.
*Dr. Lou Riccio, a PhD senior lecturer, teaches rational decision making at Columbia’s Graduate School of Business and has served on the USGA’s handicap research team for three decades. More of his predictive analysis can be found over at Golf Digest.
The bet: Marc Leishman (-115) over Kevin Kisner
Looking at the FantasyLabs Player Models, Leishman has the edge over Kisner in most metrics I am looking at (Leishman listed first):
- Long-Term Adjusted Round Score: 68.8 vs. 68.9
- Birdies per tournament: 14.9 vs. 12.0
- Adjusted Strokes on par 4s: 0.1 vs. 1.2
- Adjusted Strokes on par 5s: -4.4 vs. -4.0
For starters, Long-Term Adjusted Round Score is my favorite measure of a golfer, and Leishman’s is 1.1 strokes better than Kisner over the past 75 weeks.
While Leishman’s recent back issue could be a concern, he was able to suit up for the PGA Championship, though missed the cut, he lost most of his strokes putting and still gained strokes on approach.
However, Kisner’s form has fallen off of late, losing -2.8 and -5.5 strokes on approach at the Charles Schwab Challenge and the PGA Championship. Additionally, approach games will be crucial this week, and Leishman ranks 13th in Strokes Gained: Approach in 2019, compared to 48th for Kisner, respectively.
Additionally, per Fantasy National, around 40% of approach shots will come from 175-200 and 200-plus yards, and Leishman has the edge there, ranking first and 20th from such yardages — Kisner ranks 110th and 40th.
The bet: Matt Kuchar (-120) over Justin Thomas/Patrick Cantlay (-120) over Justin Thomas
I’m double-dipping here because matchups vary by the Sportsbook, so chances are you have access to at least one of these.
It’s pretty obvious where I am going with this as Justin Thomas has been sidelined with a wrist injury and just tweeted a week ago that he played his first round of golf since Sunday at The Masters.
Meanwhile, Kuchar and Cantlay are coming in hot and both have top-10 finishes since Augusta.
Course history is pretty even among all three players as each have had great success at Jack’s Place, but I’m banking on some rust for JT and that should be the deciding factor in these matchups.
The bet: Kyle Stanley (-105) over Jason Kokrak
Kokrak has been one of the hottest golfers on tour this year, making each of his 12 cuts and finishing in the top 10 in four of those. But historical data from FantasyLabs suggests that course history at Muirfield is quite predictive of future success, and Kokrak history is troubling:
- 2018: Missed cut
- 2017: 35th
- 2016: Missed cut
- 2015: Missed cut
- 2013: Missed cut
Meanwhile, Stanley finished second last year at this track, sixth the year before and third in 2013. People may look at his recent form as much worse than Kokrak’s given his missed cut at the PGA, but that was entirely due to the short stick, which hadn’t been a problem this year.
The iron play and accuracy were still awesome, and that will serve him well at Muirfield.
Given the course history disparity, I think there’s value on Stanley as an underdog.
The bet: Adam Scott To Finish 24th or Better (-105)
Adam Scott has finished in the top 20 in seven of the 10 individual tournaments he’s played this year. We all know that from tee-to-green he is one of the best in the game, and Muirfield is a golf course that rewards long driving and great mid iron play.
Scott ranks in the top 30 on tour in total driving, and his iron game is still world class. Not to jinx anything, but his putting has seen a noticeable uptick of late too. The greens at Muirfield are so fast and undulating, that even great putters have a tough time holing putts here.
This puts the majority of the emphasis on total ball-striking, and I’m very comfortable betting on Adam Scott in that department, especially to only finish in the top 25.