Gdula's Golf Simulations: The Memorial Tournament
Volatility is the name of the game in golf, and picking winners isn't easy. With fields of 150-plus golfers sometimes being separated by how a putt or two falls each week, predicting golf can be absurdly tough.
We'll never be able to capture everything that goes into a golfer's expectations for a week, but we can try to account for that by simulating out the weekend and seeing what happens.
Over the hiatus, I made some tweaks to my original golf model, which used a combination of the OWGR's field strength numbers and datagolf's field strength numbers to adjust each golfer's score relative to the field (on the PGA Tour, the European Tour, and the Korn Ferry Tour). The ultimate goal was to place a score from the Waste Management Open, the BMW International Open, and the Knoxville Open on level playing fields. This adjusted strokes metric lets me see how golfers are performing across all tours. From there, a golfer's adjusted stroke data is combined with their round-to-round variance to see how the field is likely to perform when playing out the event thousands of times.
I liked it, and it worked, but it didn't isolate out tee-to-green and putting performance enough, so I made some alterations, this time leveraging strokes gained data and adjusting that for field strength.
For now, I'm averaging out both models.
Here are the results for the Memorial Tournament.
This is a super tough field to break down because it's so deep and so good at the top. Win odds are depressed in the simulations, and it's just really not a week where a lot of long shots should be outright contenders come Sunday. The top 12 golfers account for 44.0% of the win equity based on the sims. That's wild.
We're getting Rory McIlroy (+1400 on FanDuel Sportsbook) priced about where he should be. He's been elite in 2020 while being cold in the return to action (32nd, 41st, 11th). The long-term form should win out, and Rory is a possible option to start the card.
Jon Rahm (+2200) is in a similar boat: he was the second-best golfer in the world behind McIlroy but has been just okay since the hiatus ended (33rd, 37th, 27th). The value is about right. We can also kind of say the same about Hideki Matsuyama (+2500), who is an elite tee-to-green performer. Last week at Memorial, Matsuyama finished 22nd with great tee-to-green numbers but poor putting.
Xander Schauffele (+3300) is someone I recommend a lot because he's such a balanced and good player. He can keep himself in contention any week, and he has thrived against tough fields in the past. Now back down to +3300, Schauffele is priced appropriately in this field.
Sungjae Im (+6500) is being forgotten about after a cold opening to the new portion of the season. Im has finished cut, 58th, 53rd, and 63rd while losing strokes via his approach play in all four events. That's very uncharacteristic of Im, so we have some bounceback appeal.
My outrights include on Rahm, Schauffele, Im, and Joaquin Niemann.