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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 FedEx St. Jude Classic

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Measuring just over 7,200 yards, TPC Southwind is a course that doesn’t favor just one type of player. Length as always is an advantage at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, however, narrow fairways alleviate that advantage somewhat. More important than length off the tee, approach play is the main key to success in Memphis, as small greens make approach shots very tricky. There are also 94 bunkers and 10 water hazards in play that players will need to avoid.

As well as approach play, ball striking has always been a key statistic to focus on when it comes to TPC Southwind, and par-4 scoring is another area that I believe will be significant this week. Last year, Daniel Berger made it back-to-back victories at the St. Jude, firing two rounds of 66 over the weekend to post 10-under par and take the title by one stroke.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Dustin Johnson 13/2
  • Brooks Koepka 9/1
  • Henrik Stenson 14/1
  • Phil Mickelson 14/1
  • Tony Finau 20/1
  • Charl Schwartzel 25/1
  • Daniel Berger 25/1

Going quietly about his business, Henrik Stenson (16/1, DK Price $10,400) has now recorded five-consecutive top-25 finishes on the PGA Tour. The Swede’s iron play has been particularly impressive in this period and that should bode very well for him this week. Over his previous 12 rounds, Stenson ranks first in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, second in Ball Striking, and third in Strokes-Gained Total.

Stenson hasn’t played the course since 2012 when he finished T-13, but it should fit his game perfectly. Stenson’s par-4 scoring is an area where he has seen a lot of success this season. He ranks first for Scoring Average on Par 4’s with an average of 3.9 strokes, and with par-4 scoring likely to be crucial this week, the signs are good for the Swede. At a best price 16/1 and a lower DraftKings salary than the likes of Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, and Phil Mickelson, Stenson looks to offer the best value from the top of the board this week.

Another man who the market seems out of favor with lately is Luke List (40/1, DK Price $8,300). Since the Farmers Insurance Open in late January, List has recorded six top-20 finishes and missed just two cuts. Steve Stricker, Russell Knox, and Peter Uihlein can’t boast statistics as impressive as these, yet this week List is the cheapest option in the group. Of List’s six top-20 finishes, four of them have been top-10s. Knox, Uilhein, and Stricker have three top-10 finishes between them in 2018.

Over his last 24 rounds, List ranks first in Ball Striking, first in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green and fourth in Strokes Gained-Total. List also ranks eighth for Par-4 Performance over the same period. In what is a very weak field, List deserves more respect in the market, and he’s a better alternative for DraftKings lineups than others in his same price range.

With a weak field, value down the board can be greater than most weeks, and searching for players with trending form can often pay off.  Ben Crane (80/1, DK Price $7,400) is one of those players trending in the right direction. Crane has now made six consecutive cuts, and in his last outing, he recorded a top-10 finish at the Fort Worth Invitational. Over his previous 12 rounds, Crane ranks 23rd in this field for Strokes Gained-Total and should be buoyed by his excellent course form at this event. Crane has made his last five cuts at the St. Jude and has recorded three top-20 finishes in that period, one of which was a victory back in 2014. At $7,400 on DraftKings, he looks to offer nice value this week.

Going even lower in the market, Joel Dahmen (100/1, DK Price $7,100) is a very interesting prospect at $7,100. Dahmen has now made seven-consecutive cuts on Tour, and he has finished in the top-20 in his last three outings. Over his previous 12 rounds, Dahmen ranks 10th in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, 10th in Ball Striking and seventh in Strokes Gained-Total. His approach play is trending in the right direction each week, and he looks to be a little undervalued.

Recommended Plays

  • Henrik Stenson 16/1, DK Price $10,400
  • Luke List 40/1, DK Price $8,300
  • Ben Crane 80/1, DK Price $7,400
  • Joel Dahmen 100/1, DK Price $7,100
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Gianni is a freelance writer. He holds a Bachelor of Arts as well as a Diploma in Sports Journalism. He can be contacted at gmagliocco@outlook.com. Follow him on Twitter @giannimosquito

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Opinion & Analysis

Chat with a Champion: Keegan Bradley

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Since bursting on the scene in 2011 as Rookie of the Year and joining a very short list of first-time winners in their major championship debut, Keegan Bradley has been part of the PGA Tour landscape for almost a decade now. It hasn’t always been an easy road for the New Englander, with some down years in 2016 and 2017. He jumped back into the winners circle in 2018 with his victory at the BMW Championship, which also propelled him to an 8th place finish in the 2018 FedEx Cup standings.

I had a chance to catch up with Keegan recently. From his early days to his love of the Ryder an Presidents Cups, we covered a bunch of topics related to his golf journey to this point.

What was your earliest memory of the game? Being your dad is a PGA Professional, I’m sure that he was an early influencer…

KB: I’ve been holding a golf club as long as I can remember. I am guessing I started swinging it around 2 years of age… I used to love going to the golf course with my dad.

When did you realize that golf was “Your Sport” over skiing? As you think back, was there something that sticks out as the biggest influence on your decision?

KB: I was probably a better skier than golfer, growing up in the Northeast. I remember one day, challenging for a title while I was in high school, standing on the top of the mountain, in the freezing cold thinking, ya, I am probably done now, golf it is. I was 16 at the time.

How much did your Aunt (Pat Bradley) play a role in your development as a player?

KB: Aunt Pat has been an unbelievable mentor for me over the years. She has had such a great influence on me and I like to think that we are both very similar. She has taught me the importance of focus and intensity. Not only in competition, but in practice.

Growing up in the Northeast (as I did) golf is very seasonal. What did you do to practice in the winter? Or did you just kind of shut it down for a few months?

KB: I didn’t play and I rarely even practiced in the winter months in the Northeast. I think it prevented me from burning out as a kid. People tell me that it was a disadvantage, I thought it was a huge help! I was on skis all winter and then couldn’t wait to get my clubs out in the spring!

What lead to your decision to attend St. Johns? How important was your College experience in your development?

KB: Honestly, at the time, I just had to go somewhere that offered me a full scholarship. Coach Darby showed belief in me and that meant a lot. Once I started having success, I got offers from bigger golf schools to transfer, but I stayed loyal to Coach, as he did to me. To this day, my best friends are the guys I played golf with during my college career. We all still hang out together today.

Obviously, a rookie year like yours must have been a dream. How did it feel to not only be Rookie of the Year in 2011 but to also join the likes of Willie Park, Sr. and Francis Ouimet as one of only 4 players in the history of the game to win in their debut in a Major?

KB: It was a complete whirlwind, I started out trying to figure out how to keep my PGA Tour card and trying to plan a schedule, to all of a sudden, becoming a PGA Tour winner and a Major Champion. Winning the PGA was beyond a dream, and to be one of only four players to win a Major at their first attempt is something I am very proud of.

I was in attendance for your win at the PGA, I’m curious what you felt was your biggest takeaway from that experience?

KB: It validated that I could play under the most intense pressure and gave me the launchpad for my career.

I was also in attendance at the Ryder Cup in Chicago. Considering the much different outcome of that experience over the win at the Atlanta Athletic Club, what were your take away from that Ryder Cup?

KB: I love team golf and it kills me when I am not on a team now, representing the USA and I can’t wait to get back there. I played some of the best golf of my life, at Medinah and the memories will last a lifetime. Playing alongside Phil, who has become a friend, as well as a mentor was inspirational.

How much do you love the team events?

KB: I love team events. The fact that we play an individual sport, but we can come together and be such a tightknit group, under a crazy amount of pressure is awesome and it is so much fun. I am going to be working very hard to play on the next USA Team!

You have become close with Michael Jordan over the years. What influence has he had on your career?

KB: MJ may be the greatest athlete of all time. I feel very privileged to call him a friend. He has been around during both the peaks and the valleys of my career and he always knows the right thing to say. He is a very inspirational and motivational person and just great to be around.

How big was your win last year for your confidence going into this season?

KB: My win last year was huge for me. It was a validation of all the work I had been doing with my instructor Darren May. It is no secret that I had struggled for a couple of seasons, even though technically, but I was improving and felt good. The way I won and the field I beat to win, gave me an incredible amount of satisfaction and has set me up to keep moving forward.

I asked Jack Nicklaus in his interview (which will post in a few weeks) about the work-life balance for a world ranked PGA Tour Professional. Obviously, it was a different time in his era but how do you manage this as a husband and fairly new father?

KB: I am always learning, and I try to keep as balanced as possible. I love spending time with my wife, Jillian, and my son, Logan, but like any husband/father there is a need to work in order to provide. I think I have just got better at structuring my practice, so that I am more efficient with my time.

What are your feelings on the overall health of the game? From both a professional and recreational standpoint?

KB: I think the game is in a GREAT place right now. Tiger is back and that is huge for our sport, add to that the great young players contending each week and the personalities we have on the PGA Tour and internationally, I think we are in a great position to grow the game.

What is your advice for a young golfer looking to pursue a career in golf? Either as a player or club Professional?

KB: I will always advise all children to play as many sports as possible, have fun, don’t take it too seriously too early or you will burn out. You have to make the game fun. Once you have made the decision to pursue golf, work hard. You need to make sure that when you are done for the day, that no one else you are competing with, could have out worked you. It is a mindset more than anything. Golf is a very competitive industry, but there are many ways to get into it. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again!

Lastly, what in your opinion is one way we as an industry can bring more people to our game?

KB: Make it fun and make it more affordable for the masses. Encourage 9-hole competitions; time is one of the biggest barriers to entry for golf, as a sport.

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive: Sacks Parente Golf

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In this episode of The Gear Dive brought to you by Titleist Golf, Johnny chats with longtime club designers Steve Sacks and Rich Parente on the old days with Callaway, Goldwin Golf, Carbite and the new endeavor Sacks Parente.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

There’s a major omission in Brandel Chamblee’s list of the 10 best seasons in men’s golf

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Brandel’s list is great, but he’s missing a BIG one…maybe the BEST one. Earlier this week Brandel Chamblee, whom I respect and enjoy, tweeted a list of the top 10 years in men’s golf.

It’s a great list and one that was very well thought out. However, there is one season that is missing, and in my opinion, it could go down as one of the top 5 of all time, if not the best: Tiger Woods’ 2008 season.

Yes, the year he played only the first half of the season

Before the trolls start to engage, let’s look at all the facts…

Tournaments worldwide: 7
Wins: 5 (Dubai, Torrey, Bay Hill, Match Play, U.S. Open)
Top 5s: 7
Majors: 1
Scoring average: 67.65
*also won the Tavistock Cup

So, let’s put this in perspective, the guy teed it up eight times total (including the Tavistock). He won six times. His worst finish was fifth. He came from behind to win in Dubai, Bay Hill, and the U.S. Open. The only tournament that he didn’t really have a chance to win was the Masters, and frankly, if he makes any putts at all he wins that too.

He dealt with serious left leg and knee injuries all season; having arthroscopic knee surgery two days after the Masters, hurrying his comeback, and suffering stress fractures in his tibia and continued ACL issues. AND TW also revealed in 2010 that he injured and re-injured his right Achilles tendon multiple times throughout 2008.

In regards to the competition: Phil, Ernie, Padraig, Sergio, Westwood, Adam Scott, and many others were in their primes and gunning for him harder than ever before. Keep in mind that from 2005-2007, Tiger won 21 times in 52 starts on the PGA Tour. What would he have done if he was healthy?

Let’s also discuss the moments in this season. The nuclear putt on the 18th at Dubai, the utter dominance at Torrey, the hat throw on 18 at Bay Hill, The absolute smackdown of Stewart Cink in the Match Play final, Tiger’s back 9 on Friday at U.S. Open, Tiger’s back 9 on Saturday at U.S. Open, Tiger’s final round at U.S. Open, Tiger’s playoff vs. Rocco. So, in perspective, he had maybe 20 moments that year that probably land in his top 100 highlight reel.

While you are all taking this in, go to YouTube and watch videos from that year, and I guarantee you will get lost in the countless moments of absolute greatness. What he did in 2000, 2006, 2007, etc was unbelievable BUT what he did in ’08 is truly unworldly.

And, oh yeah, one other thing: Tiger played six times on the PGA Tour, finished second on the money list just $1 million behind Vijay who played 23 times. He was No. 1 in Fed Ex Cup points going into the playoffs….in 6 events.

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