Off to the FedEx St. Jude Classic, where players take on the TPC Southwind and start their final preparations for the U.S. Open at Oakmont.
Hosting an event prior to a major championship works in two ways. One, it gets a lot of players looking to peak their games, using the event as a “tune-up” for the big week. Some of the big names like playing the week before and it will help bolster your field and add advertisement money to your event.
On the other side, many players want to rest and prepare for major championships. No matter the event hosted before the major, they won’t be playing. If your the host venue, you’re never going to pull these guys from their routines.
All in all, this is an event which typically yields unpredictable results, with random champions over the years. But as we’ve learned this year, sometimes crowning a new, seemingly random winner, can be fun.
Let’s dive in.
2015 Top-10 Finishers
Click here for a link to the entire 2016 FedEx St. Jude field via PGATour.com.
Last 5 Champs
- 2015: Fabian Gomez (Recap)
- 2014: Ben Crane (Recap)
- 2013: Harris English (Recap)
- 2012: Dustin Johnson (Recap)
- 2011: Harrison Frazar
Does anyone remember this Harrison Frazar win? This is titled, “Like it never even happened.”
Course Overview: TPC Southwind
Armed with small greens (under 5,500 square feet) and narrow fairways, the TPC Southwind provides a nice preparation for players playing in the national open. Relative to par, the course will play close to a stroke over par for the field. It’s one of the Tour’s definitions of “target golf course.” Hit your spots to make birdies, that’s the name of the game.
With both fairway percentages and greens-in-regulation percentages both below 60%, this is a course which will see a lot of shots from the rough and players working to save par from around the greens. Players have been quoted for saying “you can’t hold these greens when hitting approach shots from the rough.”
Year-in, year-out, this course plays as one of the toughest par-70s on the PGA Tour.
This Week’s Picks
Three From the Fairway
He always finds a way to play well out here. With top-15s in each of his past three starts here, Mickelson is a guy to consider for “horse for the course,” even though we all know he’s really just prepping every year for the U.S. Open.
Mickelson’s hot start to the season has been slowed lately, missing a fair share of cuts with some mixed in top-20s. He’s been a hard player to peg, but I’m going to peg him for success this week.
He’s 12th in the Tee-to-Green strokes gained for 2016 and ranks 7th in the birdie or better percentage. He’s talked before about being precise on this golf course, something he finds when he tees it up in Memphis. Phil also is historically good on bermudagrass greens, which these are.
Mickelson for four straight, I’ve got him in the top-15 again this week. The gambling drama will push him to some great play.
Palmer’s worst finish over the past 4 seasons here as been a tie for 32nd. In that time, he has finished inside the top-5 twice. Coming into the week he’s been a top-25 finisher in three of his past four weeks.
He’s making a lot of birdies, averaging exactly 4 per round. If he limits his mistakes this week, he’ll be toward the top of the leaderboard again this week, rest assured.
Those quote has me encouraged:
“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.” — RP
Palmer, I’m taking him this week.
He’s almost impossible to leave off radars this week.
For the season, he’s posted incredible strokes gained statistics and has played very well at TPC Southwind in the past. He played great last week at the Memorial and comes in playing some of the best golf on the PGA Tour.
I could sit here and go on-and-on about his par-4 scoring and birdie average, but instead, I’ll just slide him into my third slot this week.
Bonus players to Watch:
- Colt Knost: Played a fantastic stretch of golf for two weeks and played nicely here last year. His game fits this style of play.
- Kyle Reifers: This is a pick based on current form. Last three starts, 20th, 5th, and 10th.
- Chad Campbell: Back-to-back top-15s in two starts and finished 8th here last year. Fired 63 Sunday at Colonial.
Draft Kings Value Bombs
In a lot of ways, the St. Jude Classic is similar to the Memorial Tournament in that it doesn’t take a ton of birdies to win, rather a level game that likely comes with a lot of par saves from less than ten feet.
This is one of the thinnest fields this season in terms of top-tier talent. What this means for DFS players is that lineups will be very diverse, but usually feature one of the top names. As always, your top goal should be to roster players that will make the cut, so you take a risk if you pick one of those top three guys and have to reach for some long shots.
This week, we’re targeting mostly sub-$7,000 players that might not have upside enough to win the tournament, but should be strongly considered due in large part to their likelihood to play on the weekend. Pair these players with some top names this week to maximize your chances of cashing big in GPP and cash games.
5. Alex Cejka ($6,700) – Cejka is a stronger player on shorter courses, and he’s also had some success at this course (albeit a fourth place finish in 2008). He took some time off from this event, but came back last year and had a strong T22 showing. He’s played well recently, making three of his last four cuts, and Cejka is a strong par 4 player, ranking 32nd on tour. As I mentioned, he probably doesn’t have the upside to win the tournament, but he can grind his way to a top 20 showing and leave you enough room to roster DJ on the high end if you want.
4. Padraig Harrington ($6,900) – Harrington has two top ten finishes at this event and is a solid all-around player that fits the bill for TPC Southwinds. He’s got one of the best short games on tour (second in SG: around the green) which will help the fact that he doesn’t hit a lot of greens, and ranks 63rd in P4 scoring. Harrington plays his best golf on courses where par is a good score, which will be the case this week.
3. John Merrick ($6,200) – Merrick has made seven straight cuts at the St. Jude in each of the past seven seasons (including a 2nd place finish in 2012). He hasn’t played much since he WD’d with a hand injury from the Puerto Rico open, but in the two events he has played since then, he made the cut (and played really well at the Byron Nelson, but faded over the weekend). He’s accurate from the tee and hits a lot of greens, so you have to like his chances to hang around par this week, and if he can throw a few birdies in there, he’d make a great GPP sleeper.
2. Camilo Villegas ($6,900) – While Villegas hasn’t finished better than 28th in the past 12 weeks, he has only finished worse than 18th once in his past six trips to Memphis. His mediocre play this season might scare off some DFS players, but TPC Southwinds is a course that fits his eye. He gains just over 2 strokes per round on the field on this course over the course of his career, and has finished inside the top 15 four times since 2010.
1. Ben Crane ($7,000) – Crane calls Nashville home and has won here in the past. Crane plays well on par 70 courses that don’t require a lot of drivers from the tee and have a lot of doglegs, and TPC Southwinds fits the bill for both of those characteristics. He’s made all seven cuts here, and is playing relatively well coming into this week, having contended at the Byron Nelson (another par 70 requiring less than driver for most of the field) through the first two rounds, before going +3 on the weekend.
Ryan Rauch is the owner and lead writer for Sports Monte, a fantasy sports website that provides proven research for season-long and DFS games. He has played golf his whole life and lives and works out of Columbus, Ohio. For more information, follow @SportsMonte on Twitter.
One From the Rough
He’s a player that disappears, then plays great. Then goes on a hiatus, then wins. This year, his play has been very underwhelming, but he’s heading into an event with some extreme familiarities.
In 10 starts here since 2006, he’s missed the cut only once and has top-20s in 5 of his past 6 showings. He’s proven he can go low here in the past, twice going lower than 66 in the past two seasons.
This is the definition of sleeper. A player who no one is looking at going in to a venue that he has the good feels for. I’ll go Camilo in an under the radar role.
The Man with the Trophy
He comes in playing really well, after a great finish and a robbery at the hands of Jordan Spieth at the Colonial.
It’s been an odd season for English, having withdrawn at the Heritage a few months ago and sprinkling in missed cuts with nice starts. In his past 8 rounds, he’s been over 70 only once. He’s obviously a winner here in the past, winning here in 2013.
This is a pick made based on current play and past success on the venue. I like Harris English this week, and I’ve got him in my lineups. How about you?