Metronomic Collin Morikawa made for memorable Memorial at Muirfield Village

Collin Morikawa chips to the 16th green during the second round of the US PGA Championship at Valhalla (Matt York/AP)
Collin Morikawa has enjoyed a recent resurgence in form which could well lead to him winning The Memorial Tournament in Ohio (Matt York/AP)

With next week’s US Open at Pinehurst in North Carolina sandwiched between the last two Signature Events of the year, there is no getting away from the fact we are right in the meat of the PGA Tour season.

It is also only a matter of weeks before the focus turns to this side of the Atlantic for the Open Championship at Royal Troon, so there is no better time to be hitting top form, and thankfully for us observers, most of the game’s big-name performers have been turning it on of late.

The very best the PGA Tour has to offer will be in Ohio this week for The Memorial Tournament, hosted by the great Jack Nicklaus at Muirfield Village, and in terms of pre-Major tests they don’t come much better than this.

The course that Jack built opened in the mid-1970s and he has been tweaking things ever since, calling Muirfield his “total vision as it relates to the golf course”.

A field of 78 go to post, with only Sunday’s Canadian Open champion Robert MacIntyre giving it a miss to go on ‘a proper sesh’.

And they will find a long test at over 7,500 yards that plays as a par 72, but distance isn’t everything. The fairways are wide but penal rough will punish very errant drives, while the greens are small and quick, meaning, as always with a Nicklaus design, second shots are the main ingredient for success.

Victory here has thus far proved just beyond Scottie Scheffler, who has been third in each of his last two visits, missing a play-off by a shot 12 months ago as Viktor Hovland got the better of Denny McCarthy to maintain a recent run of truly elite winners at Muirfield.

Scheffler naturally goes to post as favourite at no bigger than 7/2, and will surely give a fine account of himself with all legal issues from the US PGA Championship now behind him.

The course should be perfect for him as a tee-to-green monster, but the price is not something that appeals to me and I’ll try and get him beat.

Rory McIlroy and US PGA champion Xander Schauffele are next best, with both available at 9/1, and they both have very consistent Muirfield records without ever really giving the title a huge run.

Therefore, my eye is drawn to the fourth name on the betting lists, that of Collin Morikawa (14/1, William Hill), who has found his form in a big way since a fine third at The Masters in April, an event he went into almost as a forgotten man.

The two-time Major champion built his early career success on being the best iron player around, and while Scheffler can lay claim to that crown now, Morikawa is getting close to those levels again, which can only serve him well this week.

That third at Augusta was built on with a ninth at the Heritage, and he was then fourth at the PGA on a Nicklaus design at Valhalla, when a quiet final round meant he couldn’t ever really land a blow on Schauffele.

Another fourth followed at the Charles Schwab Challenge last time, and after a week off Morikawa should be fresh for a return to a venue where he won the hastily-arranged Workday Charity Open in 2020 during Covid times, and then lost a play-off to Patrick Cantlay in this event the following year.

That latter effort was aided by the withdrawal of runaway leader Jon Rahm after 54 holes due to a positive Covid test, thus denying The Memorial a first back-to-back champion since Tiger Woods completed three on the bounce in 2001.

Defending champion Viktor Hovland could be returning to form at just the right time

Rahm may well be looking on enviously from LIV’s Houston event this week, knowing how good he was around Muirfield Village, and in his absence another European Ryder Cup hero in Hovland could easily go close to defending his crown.

A nightmare 2024 for the Norwegian turned around very quickly at Valhalla on the back of a return to former coach Joe Mayo, the man who masterminded his surge to FedEx Cup success last season.

Hovland played superbly from tee-to-green in the PGA, going on to finish third, and his tail will surely be up coming back to Muirfield, where he was third in the Workday Charity Open as well as that win 12 months ago.

With his irons firing again and confidence quickly restored, Hovland could easily prove a big danger to Morikawa and is also worth backing at 16/1 with Paddy Power, particularly when you consider he has successfully defended titles twice before, at Mayakoba and the Hero World Challenge.

Viktor Hovland watches his putt on the eighth (Matt Slocum/AP)
Viktor Hovland will attempt to be the first man to successfully defend the Memorial title since Tiger Wood in 2001 (Matt Slocum/AP)

Aside from Tiger, nobody has won more money at this event than Patrick Cantlay, and while 2024 has hardly been a vintage year by his high standards, he has saved his best for venues where he excelled in the past, leading by five at halfway at Riviera in February before illness knocked him off-course, and finishing third in the Heritage in April.

Cantlay would need to bounce back from a lacklustre PGA effort, but seeing his best friend in Schauffele break his Major duck there may just give him a kick up the backside, and given his course pedigree the 25/1 generally on offer is well worth considering.

Finally, another course specialist in Si-Woo Kim is one to keep an eye on at 50/1 with Sky Bet.

The Korean has been no worse than 18th in his last four outings here, with a ninth in 2021 and a fourth last term the highlights.

Kim held a share of the 54-hole lead last year and could go close again as a brilliant iron player who is very accurate from tee-to-green and is also in the top 30 for scrambling on tour.

His last couple of results have been poor enough, but prior to that Kim was very consistent, with a sixth at The Players a stand-out performance.

A four-time PGA Tour winner and former Players champion, he won’t back down if he has a sniff of glory and there are certainly worse 50/1 shots to be had as the golfing season really hits top gear.


Collin Morikawa, e/w, 14/1 (William Hill);

Viktor Hovland, e/w, 16/1 (Paddy Power);

Patrick Cantlay, e/w, 25/1 (General);

Si-Woo Kim, e/w, 50/1 (Sky Bet); top Asian, 18/5 (Bet Victor)