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Monday, 10 December, 2018

Thomas could be set for memorable Memorial

Stanley is also looking sharp

Justin Thomas in action at the Genesis Open
1 of 1

Live on Sky Sports from 7.30pm Thursday
Event starts at 1pm

Palmer's top tip
Justin Thomas 40-1
The US Open is on the horizon and most of the big guns are using the Memorial Tournament to check their weaponry is in order. A crocked Rory McIlroy is still sidelined, but Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama and Jordan Spieth are at Muirfield Village.

Johnson was flat over the weekend of the AT&T Byron Nelson last time out, finishing in a never-threatening share of 13th place, and the world number one may not be fully focused again until his US Open title defence.

Johnson has had nine previous spins at Muirfield, twice finishing in the places without winning. The course suits him and the favourite obviously has every chance, but 6-1 is nothing more than a fair price given the standard of opposition.

Day lives in Ohio and will command plenty of support, but his Muirfield record is poor, with a best finish of 27th from eight starts.

The Australian has missed the cut there three times and he pulled a short putt to surrender in his Byron Nelson playoff against Billy Horschel the week before last. Day has gone a year without winning.

Matsuyama, the 2014 Memorial champion, is arguably the best value of the market leaders at 20-1, but preference is for four excellent iron-players who are on offer at much juicier prices.

Muirfield Village is a course where approach shots to tiny targets provide the main challenge, and punters should be studying the US Tour strokes-gained-on-approach statistics.

Justin Thomas, who fires towering, laserlike irons at the flags, lies 11th on the SGOA stat and can go close to his fourth victory of the season on Sunday. There is room off the tee at Muirfield Village, which Thomas appreciates, and he can vastly improve on three disappointing previous Memorial starts by winning this one.

Thomas tweeted during a Q&A earlier in the year that two tournaments he expects to win multiple times in his career are the Players Championship and the Memorial.

He was third in the Players last year, but is yet to make an impact at Muirfield Village. Confidence levels have risen ten-fold since his last visit to the Jack Nicklaus hosted event and fireworks can be expected.

Thomas has been close to finding top gear lately. He was 22nd at Augusta, finished fifth alongside Bud Cauley in the Zurich Classic pairs event, then made 13 birdies and an eagle over three days at Sawgrass, where he went from the sublime to the ridiculous for 54 holes.

His Tour victory (2014 Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship) came in Ohio and bookmakers are underrating his hopes of a more prestigious triumph in the same state this week.

Next best
Kyle Stanley 100-1
Married life appears to have worked wonders for Kyle Stanley, who won his US Tour card in the month of his wedding at the end of 2015 and has not looked back since. A solid 2016 season has been followed by an excellent 2017, and an overdue second US Tour title looms large.

Stanley famously blew a three-shot lead on the final hole of the 2012 Farmers Insurance Open before winning the Phoenix Open the following week. That heroic effort had him marked down as a potential superstar, but no further glory has arrived.

Recent evidence suggests Stanley is a serious threat again at the age of 29. He was eighth in the Houston Open in April, impressed alongside teenager Ryan Ruffels in the Zurich Classic, then finished fourth in the Players Championship due to some magnificent tee-to-green work.

Stanley is fourth on the US Tour for SGOA and was third in the 2013 Memorial. Coral go seven places.

Other selections
Kevin Chappell 66-1
Bud Cauley 70-1
Kevin Chappell is full of swagger having finally shed his US Tour maiden tag with a brave final-hole birdie in the Texas Open last month, and a quick follow-up could be in store.

Chappell carded a hugely impressive pair of weekend 68s to finish runner-up in the 2013 Memorial and his game is suited to the venue.

Prior to his Texas breakthrough, he was seventh in the Masters, where he spent the week staying at the house of his friend Kevin Kisner. The Sunday heroics of Kisner at Colonial may act as an extra spur for Chappell.

Maidens have won the last three Memorials – Matsuyama, David Lingmerth and William McGirt – and Bud Cauley is a strong candidate to continue the trend.

Around that bold Zurich performance alongside Thomas, Cauley has finished ninth in the Heritage, tenth in the Texas Open and fifth in the Byron Nelson.

A bit more joy on the greens is all the 27-year-old needs to get over the line in front. His swing is in terrific shape and he is tenth for SGOA.

Three solid previous Memorials (52-34-38) may be followed by something more spectacular. Cauley's Tour victory (2014 Hotel Fitness Championship) came in Indiana, and his US Tour breakthrough could arrive across the border in Ohio.

Others to note
Marc Leishman
The Arnold Palmer Invitational champion has finished fifth and 11th at Muirfield Village the last two years, and beat Matt Kuchar in the 2013 Presidents Cup singles there.

Adam Scott
Another Australian who could join Leishman on the leaderboard. Scott finished sixth at Sawgrass last time out and has placed three times in the Memorial.

Jon Rahm
The Spaniard continues to greatly impress in his rookie campaign, finishing in a share of second at Colonial on Sunday. Another course debut awaits.

Danny Lee
The New Zealander followed fifth place in the Byron Nelson with sixth at Colonial on Sunday. Accurate enough on approach to contend at Muirfield Village.

Patrick Cantlay
The 25-year-old is one of the most promising youngsters in golf. Injury issues appear behind him and he has played some wonderful golf in five starts this term.

Kevin Tway
The formhorse for May is Tway, who has finished third, third, fifth, 20th and 18th in his last five tournaments.

Staking plan
J Thomas
2pts each-way 40-1 general
K Stanley
1pt each-way 100-1 Coral
K Chappell
1pt each-way 66-1 Coral
B Cauley
1pt each-way 70-1 Betfred

The Memorial
Course Muirfield Village, Dublin, Ohio
Prize money $8.7m ($1.53m to the winner)
Length 7,392 yards Par 72 Field 120

Course records – 72 holes 268 Tom Lehman (1994) 18 holes 61 John Huston (1996)

Course winners taking part Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk, Carl Pettersson, KJ Choi, Steve Stricker, Matt Kuchar, Hideki Matsuyama, David Lingmerth, William McGirt

When to bet By 1pm Thursday

Where to watch Live on Sky Sports from 7.30pm Thursday

Time difference Ohio is five hours behind the UK and Ireland

Last week – Dean & Deluca Invitational: 1 K Kisner (33-1), T2 J Spieth (12-1), S O'Hair (100-1), J Rahm (12-1), 5 W Simpson (55-1), 6 D Lee (80-1)

Course overview This Jack Nicklaus design, which has hosted the Memorial since 1976, has always proved a challenge for the US Tour’s finest. The 2013 Presidents Cup was staged there too.

Nicklaus likes to create generous fairways but the bunkers at Muirfield Village punish the seriously errant. The greens are usually in majestic condition.

It is more of a ‘second-shot course’ with hardly any margin for error on approach shots. The four par-fives (the fifth, seventh, 11th and 15th) are great chances for birdies, as are the short par-fours of three and 14.

The 16th, 17th and 18th are seriously tough, usually averaging well over par, so the possibility of a late crumble is huge.

Story of last year William McGirt claimed his maiden US Tour title in impressive fashion, going bogey-free for his final 22 holes, eventually beating Jon Curran in a playoff.

Weather forecast A mixture of sunshine and clouds, with light to moderate breezes throughout.

Type of player suited to challenge Accurate iron-play is the key to slaying Muirfield Village. Recent victories have gone to those carrying laserlike irons on a track where the second shot is usually considerably more difficult than the first.

Key attribute Accuracy

Confidence levels have risen ten-fold since his last visit to the Jack Nicklaus hosted event
E.W. Terms
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