The PGA Tour is in Memphis this week for the FedEx St. Jude Classic, the final tune-up before the U.S. Open. Daniel Berger looks to defend his title as he joins headliners Rickie Fowler, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson at TPC Southwind. The stars are looking to prep for next week, but the real storylines revolve around the players hoping to capture the last spot in the second major of the year.
Anyone who moves into the top-60 in the Official World Golf Rankings qualifies for the U.S. Open; there are several players who could do it, but the most likely are Tony Finau and James Hahn, ranked Nos. 69 and 64, respectively. Finau didn’t have a great showing last week, but has been playing good golf this year with four top-10 finishes and seven top-25s. Hahn, on the other hand, has been up and down all year. In his last four starts he’s missed two cuts, but he’s also had two top-6 finishes.
- Tournament Record: 258 by John Cook in 1996
- 18-Hole Record at TPC Southwind: 61 shared by Jay Delsing (1993) and Bob Estes (2001).
The FedEx St. Jude Classic returns to TPC Southwind this week for the 29th time. The par-70 course will play at 7,244 yards. Accuracy off the tee and from the fairway will be placed at a premium as players look to navigate around the ponds and streams that weave through the course. No. 11, a par-3, is the hole to watch this week. It garners comparisons to No. 17 at TPC Sawgrass; it requires a short iron to an island green with bunkers protecting the front and back. The wind should be calm for all four rounds, but I still expect to see a few balls find the water.
Past Champs in the field:
- Brian Gay +7500
- Harris English +7500
- Fabian Gomez +30000
- Daniel Berger +2500
- Rickie Fowler +750
- Adam Scott +1200
- Brooks Koepka +1200
- Phil Mickelson +1600
- Francesco Molinari +1800
- Daniel Berger +2500
- Kyle Stanley +2500
- Billy Horschel +2800
- Charl Schwartzel +2800
- Russell Henley +2800
My Pick: I’m going with Brooks Koepka this week at +1200. He’s definitely a horse for the course with a 68.17 scoring average, and he has a T2 and T3 in his last two starts here. His accuracy off the tee gives me a little pause, but it hasn’t been an issue for him in the past. He ranks 9th in Birdie Average and 2nd in Bounce-Back Percentage. I’m confident he can make up for a couple stray tee shots to the water this week.
Value Pick: My value pick is Rafa Cabrera Bello at +5000. This will be his first start at TPC Southwind, so he won’t be as familiar with the course as I’d like, but he’s too good of a putter to pass on. He’s ranked 7th in Strokes Gained: Putting and his performance at The Players was shockingly impressive.
Long Shot: I’m going with Stewart Cink (+6600) as my dark horse this week. He’s made the cut in 7 of his 8 attempts at TPC Southwind, and he has been playing great golf lately with nine top-30 finishes in his last 12 starts. He ranks 12th in Shots Gained: Approach-the-Green, 35th in Strokes Gained: Putting and 18th in Shots Gained: Total. It’s only a matter of time before he gets back to the winner’s circle.
Hole in One (Yes -125, No -105): Without question, there will be an ace this week. The 8th and the 11th play well under 200 yards. Both will only require a short iron off the tee and the calm weather should allow players to take dead aim at the pin.
Will there be a playoff? (Yes, +300, No -400): I’m going with “yes” this week. There hasn’t been a playoff here in the last five years, but this course usually lends itself to drama down the stretch. From 2008-2011 there were three playoffs, so it’s not out of the ordinary. We’re due for a close one at TPC Southwind.