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Memorial round 2 preview: Expect Muirfield Village to keep getting tougher

2020-07-19

Prior to the opening round of the Memorial Tournament, I wrote about how this week’s event could look like a U.S. Open Lite, with not only a terrific field at Muirfield Village, but a course that was destined to become faster and firmer than usual.

Through 18 holes, that certainly seems like the case, with just two dozen players under par and a bunch of big names posting scores close to Columbus-area temperature.

I’ve already been asked whether Friday’s second round, with negligible breezes forecasted, will produce something better than the 72.923 scoring average we witnessed in the opener.

Don’t bank on it.

Not only are PGA TOUR and tournament officials intent on making this tourney look as different as possible from last week’s Workday Charity Open on the same site, there’s one important factor we shouldn’t overlook.

Jack Nicklaus’ course will receive a major renovation beginning on Monday, overhauling all 18 greens and adding more length to what is already a big ballpark.

What that means is that there’s no worry about potentially losing the course to baked-out conditions that would force a closure for members following the event. That’s already going to happen, so officials can let the setup get as far on the edge as they’d like.

All of which means that while the weather might be cooperating for Friday and beyond, that might be the only thing cooperating – and really, even without any major wind, the sun and heat should help the rough to continue growing and the greens to continue picking up speed.

Expect the winning score to be much less than last year’s 19-under and the cut line to be much less than last year’s 1-over – perhaps 3- or even 4-over by the end of the second round.

It also means that players who are way back can still shoot a few decent rounds and get themselves into contention, while those up near the top should hardly be guaranteed of a leaderboard spot come Sunday afternoon.

Round 2 Matchups

Webb Simpson (-120) over Gary Woodland

The opening 4-over 76 posted by Simpson was two strokes higher than his previous high score in 36 rounds this season. I didn’t love Webb here entering the week, but still, it’s hard to imagine him posting two back-to-back stinkers like this.

He’s a guy who will continue to grind, even if he’s outside the cut line. After a strong opener for Woodland, expect some regression in opposite directions for these two.

Pick: Webb Simpson (-120)

Sergio Garcia (+150) over Jon Rahm

In the first round, Rahm did everything well, posting positive strokes-gained numbers in every major category on his way to a 3-under 69. Garcia did the exact same thing, though, coming up three strokes higher.

After not having played this event for a dozen years, there might have been a learning curve for him the opener, but I think Sergio could have a low one in him for the second round – and at this lofty price, I’m willing to find out.

Pick: Sergio Garcia (+150)

Branden Grace (+108) over Ryan Moore

Look, I’m the guy who recommended Moore before the opening round, considering Muirfield Village is one of his favorite tracks.

What hasn’t been his favorite thing, though, is Friday rounds, as he’s failed to break 70 in five of his last six second rounds, posting an average score of 71.67. Grace, meanwhile, shot a 2-over 74, but ranked 11th in the field in iron play, which should bode well for him as a matchup underdog if he can start making a few putts.

Pick: Branden Grace (+108)

Xander Schauffele (-114) over Dustin Johnson

Yup, I’ll own it: My favorite outright pick this week was Schauffele, who actually had to battle back with a few late birdies to “only” shoot 78 on Thursday. Well, the least I can do is help you reclaim some of those lost funds on Friday by recommending him again in this matchup.

Johnson posted an even-worse total of 80 in the opener and let’s just say I trust one of these guys more than the other to grind through Friday’s round and try to stick around for the weekend.

Pick: Xander Schauffele (-114)

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