This week sees the debut of the PGA Tour’s Workday Charity Open, where half of the world’s top-20 will be teeing it up at Muirfield Village in Ohio, otherwise known as Jack’s Place.
No, the Memorial Tournament hasn’t changed and remains on the calendar for next week in fact; the PGA Tour have, for their re-vitalised calendar, decided to stage two events at Muirfield Village for the 2020 season.
Rory Mcilroy, Dustin Johnson, last week’s winner Bryson Dechambeau, and Tiger Woods will sit on the sidelines for this one, deciding to wait for the Memorial Tournament instead before they step onto the luscious grounds at Muirfield Village.
Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm and Patrick Cantlay will all be in attendance, with this event still managing to put together a world-class field at Jack’s Place.
Last week was once again a disappointing one, probably the worst one since I’ve started writing these articles, but it was pleasing for one to see the overwhelming favourite Dechambeau win, and secondly to see him rewarded for the tremendous golf he has played since the return of the PGA Tour.
This week intends to be more promising, with plenty of course form in Ohio, in combination with lots of knowledge about the golf course based on previous years.
Although there is only so much a golf course can be altered, the setup between this week and the next is expected to be different, with shorter rough, slightly slower greens and some different tee box locations expected.
Had Koepka (14/1) played well and not had to withdraw from the Travelers Championship due to Covid-19 fears, he could well have led my staking plan again this week. But after an extra two-week break, to go with a 31st and a 52nd in his two visits to the Memorial, I just can’t bring myself to believe he will sit atop the leaderboard come Sunday.
There are few reasons to write-off Thomas (11/1) and defending Memorial champion Cantlay (14/1).
Thomas clearly has a knack for winning, I would just prefer to put him up next week when his price has more appeal and we have more of a notion of where his game is at in Ohio, especially after he unexpectedly missed the cut at the Travelers.
As for Cantlay, with only one week’s golf to go on, although it was an 11th at the Travelers, I just believe it is best to leave him out this week, with more of an eye on him for next week in a similar case to Thomas.
That leaves me with plenty of other value to choose from, but the one who stands out from the rest for me has to be Justin Rose (22/1).
With driving distance becoming less advantageous over the years at Muirfield Village and the emphasis moving more towards precision with irons and wedges, there have been few better than Rose in that department over the years.
The Englishman’s record dating back to 2010 at Jack’s Place reads 1-MC-8-8-MC-2-6-13, which is phenomenal even with two missed cuts.
And fortunately, in recent weeks Rose has shown some encouraging signs that his game may be returning to near its best after a dreadful start to the 2020 season.
He may have missed the cut at the Travelers, but with him not having visited TPC River Highlands since 2013, that seemed fairly acceptable. Outside of that he finished third at Colonial and then 14th at the Heritage, with Rose himself stating how happy he was that his game had turned a corner and that he was feeling much more comfortable than he was before the break.
Therefore, coming into an event at Muirfield Village with any sort of form is a bonus for Rose, who has shown his love for this course in the past with some fantastic performances.
Muirfield Village is an obvious match for Rose’s game, who is a US Open winner, top-level iron player and routinely accurate with the driver.
His putting has been questionable over the years, but after some vast improvements over the past year with the short stick, it is likely to improve his chances at a course he has had such success at over the years.
All in all, Rose has more than his fair share of great memories at Jack’s Place, and with his game seemingly beginning to click in all areas, there is nowhere better for him to compete than in Ohio.
For my next choice, the best option for me had to be Matt Kuchar (40/1) who may not have played well or very much since the PGA Tour returned, but just loves playing at Jack’s Place.
8-2-1-15-26-4-4-13-MC since 2010, Kuchar’s record at the Memorial would be faultless if it wasn’t for the missed cut last year.
Unlike many others, former Memorial champion Kuchar is somebody who hasn’t continued where he left off before the break, where he was playing some splendid golf in the build-up to the Players.
16-38-2-22 going into Sawgrass, Kuchar looked to be a standout candidate at his odds for the Players, but after it was cancelled and the tour took a three-month hiatus, he has seemingly been unable to find that groove since the comeback.
But, with Kuchar being known as “Mr Consistent” over the years, it would hardly be surprising if he were to play well again this week, especially with his track record here.
And although he finished in 41st, tying Rory Mcilroy on -11 at the RBC Heritage was hardly the end of the world, where he also ranked 30th in putting.
His long game wasn’t completely up to scratch, but coming in here with two weeks off and some added practice to prepare himself, I’d imagine Kuchar is ready and raring to go for another year at Muirfield Village where he essentially has two bites at the cherry to win here again.
Ryan Armour (100/1) was a possible candidate with him playing and putting excellently the past two weeks, but I’ve chosen to go with someone who didn’t perform as well as Armour on the weekend, but matched him stride for stride before that last week in Chris Kirk (110/1).
Three events played, no missed cuts and even a win on the Korn Ferry Tour, it has been a much more successful re-start for Kirk than the 2020 season was going for him before March. Eight missed cuts in nine events between the Valspar and the Honda, the American was having a very difficult time on tour.
Now his game is in tip-top condition compared to how it was in four months ago, and he has reason to believe he could compete at the Workday Charity Open, especially in more favourable conditions than the Memorial where he has a somewhat solid track record.
His approach play and putting need improvement, being 170th and 186th in SG for both those categories, but last week where he ranked 32nd in SG: Tee-to-Green and 21st in putting, illustrate that those season stats are more representative of his form before the break.
Furthermore, regardless of statistics, nothing makes a player perform better than confidence. With him showing he is comfortable playing at Muirfield Village previously to go with his current good form, Kirk should be a strong contender at Jack’s Place this week.
Being hopeful that his short game takes a huge turn for the better this week, Emiliano Grillo (125/1) is my final pick for the Workday Charity Open.
He posted a 66 on day one last week, along with a 67, 66 start at the Travelers, and has shown signs that his game is in pretty good shape since the third week back. He performed rather poorly on the weekend in both events, but a slight upturn in his weekend play this week could see him competing with those at the top.
He ranks 13th in SG: Approach and third in greens in regulation for the season, which are two important factors here this week at Muirfield Village. Similarly, he ranked ninth in approach at the Travelers, suggesting his iron play hasn’t deserted him since the PGA Tour returned.
However, the aforementioned issue with his game is his putting, which lets him down massively in comparison to the rest of his game.
217th in SG: Putting is a sight for sore eyes. Unfortunately, his game around the green doesn’t seem much better, ranking 155th in that category too.
I worry not so much about his putting, but potentially more about how he copes around the green on these tricky surfaces with particularly thick rough around them. With the green speed being toned down along with the rough though, that should help give him a slight advantage in those categories compared to how his short game has been for the rest of the season.
Additionally, his record at Jack’s Place is fairly impressive too. 9-23-40-11 represent his four visits to Ohio for the Memorial, which prove just how important approach play is here, and should hopefully be this week too.
Either way, last week I suggested good putters and they all performed badly on the greens, suggesting what is more important is to give yourself opportunities, as putting for PGA Tour players can most certainly come and go.
Justin Rose (22/1) – 2.5 pts e.w.
Matt Kuchar (40/1) – 2 pts e.w.
Chris Kirk (110/1) – 1 pt e.w.
Emiliano Grillo (125/1) – 0.5 pts e.w.