After the chalk dust settles from DJ and Rahm missing the cut last week, I’m ready to rebound in Memphis.
Last week there was a lot of talk about DraftKings soft pricing allowing you to fit DJ and/or Rahm easily into lineups. Many of us got burned with that idea but you can’t let one bad week of Floppin’ Studs get you down.
This week’s course is TPC Southwind, a par 70 of medium length (7,244 yards) with tough-to-hit fairways and greens. As you might expect with a par 70 with tough-to-hit fairways and greens, DraftKings scoring will be much lower than last week, putting an emphasis on finishing bonus. Last week we saw par 5s in close proximity, leading to a plethora of birdie-streak bonuses. This week there will be Holes No. 1 thru 3 that yielded the 5th, 2nd, and 3rd most birdies here last year, but if you don’t connect those dots, you won’t find another easy birdie streak.
The greens were converted to bermudagrass in 2004 and have played that way ever since. The fairways are tough to hit like I already mentioned but they don’t force you to club down often. Only two of the 14 driving holes have averaged a field-average driving distance under 275 yards. Compare that to a course like Colonial CC where there are six such holes, and it’s easy to see why the longer hitters regain some of their edge here in Memphis.
Another reason the big hitters often rise to the top here is the course setup. There are seven par 4s that play over 450 yards (long) which is very similar to last week’s Muirfield Village (6) which explains why it shows up on the correlated course list below. Of course winners like Ben Crane and Fabian Gomez proved that distance isn’t the end-all, be-all.
From a stats-perspective, I’m generally a big fan of strokes gained off-the-tee but looking at the top finishers over the last five years here, it doesn’t prove to be critical. Instead I want stellar iron play (SG Approach or GIR percentage or Proximity) and a hot short game. Looking at the 28 golfers that have finished inside the top 5 here since 2012, they’ve averaged 0.3 SG OFF THE TEE in their 5 lead-up events, 1.03 SG APPROACH, 0.4 SG AROUND THE GREEN, and 1.22 SG PUTTING.
Waiting for an atrocious putter to magically flip the switch here? All 28 golfers that finished inside the top 5 here since 2012 have gained strokes putting in at least one of their 5 tune-up starts ahead of the St. Jude Classic. While I don’t see a huge correlation with great putters to success here, I do want at least a flash of putting form recently.
Speaking of correlations, the five correlated events this week are the Memorial, Wyndham Championship, WM Phoenix Open, THE PLAYERS, and The RSM Classic.
Players to Watch
Phil Mickelson… Made headlines last week with his decision to *likey* skip the U.S. Open. With no Erin Hills prep to worry about, Lefty can focus on the task at hand this week, finally getting back into the winner’s circle. Phil’s last four trips to Memphis have yielded three podiums in addition to a T11. To seal the deal, Lefty has been quite good at “beating up on the little guy” in these weaker field events. Fowler arrives in stellar form but Mickelson is my man to beat, as of Monday night.
Rickie Fowler… Just mentioned his form, Fowler has gained 6 or more strokes over the field in seven of his last eight starts, beginning with the WM Phoenix Open. Posted a T13 in his only appearance here (2014). Went to go check out Erin Hills today but he is already on his way to Memphis so he’ll be ready for normal prep starting on Tuesday.
Adam Scott… Messing around with some new stats over the weekend and came up with a Top-20 probability stat. This week Phil, Rickie, and Scott stand out above the crowd based on this week’s setup. Loves to peak just in time for majors so a top 10 sounds likely.
Brooks Koepka… Graded out a little lower than I would have expected in the top-20 stat (8th) but I love his track record here (T19-T3-T2). As usual, his problem is avoiding the big numbers but the upside is still through the roof.
Ryan Palmer … Had this to say about TPC Southwind back in 2015, “When I’ve struggled putting coming into this week, I seem to find it. It’s strange, so that’s a good time to also come to Memphis.” The numbers back that up as he’s gained 2+ strokes putting in three of his last five visits here. That has been his big downfall this season but if he rights that putting ship then a top 25 is very likely.
Peter Uihlein… He’s officially stated he’s aiming for his TOUR card. This would be a great week to pick up a big chunk of non-member FEC points since the field is rather weak. I think a top 30 is very likely and a podium finish is not out of the question.
Steve Stricker… Has qualified for the U.S. Open so it remains to be seen if he’ll stay in the St. Jude field. If he does, he should have plenty of momentum to pick up a good finish before riding back into Wisconsin as the big man on campus.
J.T. Poston… Has 12 doubles or worse over his last 18 rounds but he’s still missed just one cut along that stretch. Should be very easy to improve upon those Bogey-or-Better numbers which means another cut made should be in the cards. We should stick him with the cut-maker label still, and not get our hopes up for any big finishes. Still useful in DFS if the price is right.
Camilo Villegas… Looking at course history, I can’t ignore Cami. He is 10-for-11 here with six top 20s. Spider-Man also crushes at the Wyndham and finished runner-up at the RSM Classic last fall, both correlated events on my list. Let’s not mistake him for a safe play, but I like his upside as a low-owned GPP flyer on DraftKings.
My Top 25 for the 2017 St. Jude Classic
1. Phil Mickelson
2. Rickie Fowler
3. Adam Scott
4. Brooks Koepka
5. Daniel Berger
6. Peter Uihlein
7. Francesco Molinari
8. Ryan Palmer
9. Russell Henley
10. Kevin Chappell
Steve Stricker Stricker WD, Add Ian Poulter to end of ranks.
12. Charl Schwartzel
13. Billy Horschel
14. Kyle Stanley
15. Stewart Cink
16. William McGirt
17. Graeme Mcdowell
18. Daniel Summerhays
19. Camilo Villegas
20. Sung Kang
21. Smylie Kaufman
22. Ben Martin
Jamie Lovemark Lovemark WD, add Rafa Cabrera Bello to end of ranks.
24. J.T. Poston
25. Hudson Swafford