Course Spotlight: Why TPC Scottsdale serves as a great comparison course for Muirfield Village
4 Min Read
Written by Keith Stewart @KJStewartpga
DUBLIN, Ohio – Selecting a great comp course can be a tricky conundrum to decipher. Most of us fall for the trap of picking golf courses that look like one we are handicapping. In some cases, this strategy will help you find a good match. The best matches, though, are the ones which require the same skill set to contend – rather than mutual aesthetics.
I can quickly come up with a list of player priorities after walking Muirfield Village Golf Club during the practice rounds. As a PGA Coach, I look for opportunities on how to prepare. Muirfield Village is a complete test, much like a major championship. Watching the world’s best figure out the puzzle in person is impactful. My experience over the past 36 hours helped me to determine the following contender characteristics.
Par 5 scoring encapsulates the best scoring advantage you can gain on the field. It requires great play off the tee, long iron acumen, and short game scoring. The average winning score over the last 10 Memorial Tournaments is 14 under par. I expect that score to be lower this year due to the firm conditions. Even if the winner sits between 10-12 under, a majority of their score will come through the par 5s.
TPC Scottsdale has a collection of par 5s that are very similar to MVGC. They all fall within the same range of 550-600 yards. Each offers risk-reward elements, much like Nicklaus challenges you with at Muirfield Village. The average winning score of the last 10 WM Phoenix Opens is 17 under. Just like Jack’s tournament, if you don’t score on the 5s you won’t be in contention come Sunday.
Jack Nicklaus wants the players to exhibit some patience. At MVGC, there are 10 holes with a birdie rate over 15% and 14 holes with a bogey rate over that same measure. This 72-hole roller coaster will take a solid game plan. The field of 120 will get congested near the top. This is one of those events where there could be 20+ players within three shots of the lead on Sunday afternoon. Need proof? In the last 10 editions, there have been five playoffs to decide the Memorial.
Thirteen holes at TPC Scottsdale have a birdie rate over 15%. Much like Muirfield Village there are 10 holes with a bogey rate over 15%. The same roller coaster of up and down scoring exists in the desert. Over the last decade, winners at the WM Phoenix Open have averaged 10.6 strokes gained T2G and 3.8 strokes putting against the field. Eerily similar at MVGC, the last 10 winners averaged 11.9 strokes gained T2G and 3.8 with the putter as well. Did I mention there have been five playoffs in the last 10 WM Phoenix Opens? Well, there have.
The driver can give you an edge this week. Muirfield Village offers a little extra room off the tee. As a result, little misses with the driver won’t stall your round. Big misses however, they will be penalized severely. Unlike two weeks ago at Oak Hill, where if you missed the fairway by 20 feet or 20 yards the consequence was the same.
Get lost off the tee at TPC Scottsdale and you will find yourself in the desert with little chance for recovery. Miss your window by a small margin, and you can still score in Scottsdale.
Bettors believe in real-life examples. The comparison of skill sets required to contend on both courses are interesting. The proof comes when you inspect the recent scoring average leaders at each venue. Six players find themselves in the top 10 at both places. Although Scottie Scheffler (+600 at BetMGM Sportsbook) and Jon Rahm (+750) will have corresponding success in multiple places, validation never hurts. There’s value in the career corresponding list when you see a names like Patrick Cantlay (+1000), Xander Schauffele (+1400), and Hideki Matsuyama (+4000).
The top 10 at the 2023 WM Phoenix Open also included: Justin Thomas, Jason Day, Sam Burns, Sungjae Im, Jordan Spieth, Fowler, and Tyrell Hatton. All are in the field this week in Ohio.
Don’t get thrown off by the desert. Comparison courses are meant to match the skill set and not just the view. The more unique connections we can make on TOUR, the better chance of winning we have. Start using this strategy and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how well your weekend wagers start performing.
The PGA TOUR is committed to protecting our fans. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, the National Council on Problem Gambling operates a confidential toll-free hotline that you can reach by phone or text at 1-800-522-4700
Keith Stewart is a five-time award winning PGA Professional who covers the PGA TOUR and LPGA from a betting perspective. Founder of Read The Line, he is also published by Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News. Follow Keith Stewart on Twitter.