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Fantasy Cheat Sheet: FedEx St. Jude Classic

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Watching Game of Thrones on Sunday night, I notice how there’s always a power struggle taking place.

Sometimes it’s cunning, sometimes it’s from brute force and sometimes it’s just through attrition.

The PGA Tour feels a lot like that in many ways, where week in and week out there’s a new young threat on the scene, trying to grab a crown he feels is rightfully his, usually at the behest of someone also out to prove his own mettle on the world’s biggest stage.

I guess Hideki Matsuyama is the latest crowned prince, and while he obviously played strong enough to break through for his first Tour victory at the Memorial Tournament, it seemed more like he was just the survivor of a battle where everyone else kept jumping in front of deadly arrows.

One by one, Paul Casey, Bubba Watson and Kevin Na fell, not at the sword (or broken driver) of Matsuyama, but by their own costly mistakes.

The next battleground is this week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic, which acts as more of an appetizer preceding the U.S. Open the following week. But perhaps the site of Harris English’s first Tour win last year turns out to be the penultimate episode preceding the season finale, so to speak.

It’s easy to overlook the Memphis tournament in excitement for Pinehurst, but wars are often won in smaller, covert actions, not when the full armor is put on display for pomp and grandeur.

So settle in, because the FedEx Cup playoff race is just heating up, and TPC Southwind is fertile ground for yet another to lay siege and plunder on the road to becoming king.

Stay tuned, because this is the tale of one brave lad writing a fantasy (golf) column that would put George R.R. Martin to shame. Or not, since I can’t kill anyone off. It’s an allegorical Risk, Reward, Ruin.

RISK

horschel

I’m no warg, but with a major tournament waiting, it’s not a surprise that the field is a little light on players wanting to get beat up by the tough course tee-to-green that TPC Southwind is. If you’re in a Yahoo league, it’s rather easy to single out the big names. Last week, I left several on the bench in favor of guys with lots of starts available. This week, I may put a few on the roster but not play them until the weekend if they’re in contention.

The last three weeks, I’ve seen my closest segment competitor win convincingly and gain 120 points to take a narrow lead. With three weeks left, I can’t let him get too far ahead, but I can’t also dig myself a deeper hole by playing no-names this week. This is a very important week for me and it likely is for you too. As such, here’s a few to watch with a careful three-eyed raven.

Billy Horschel

What we can ascertain about Horschel thus far into his young career is he is a streaky golfer. When he’s on, he’s on, as evidenced by a stretch last year where he picked up steam and got his first win at the Zurich Classic. In that stretch, he finished T10 in Memphis. The other years where he wasn’t playing well entering, he predictably didn’t played well. So really all you need to know about Horschel is his last two starts have been a T26 at The Players and a T15 at the Memorial. He ranks 10th in driving accuracy and 6th in GIR, which suggests his streakiness is related to his putter (105th in Strokes Gained-Putting). This would be the perfect time to jump on his bandwagon.

Harris English 

Harris English FedEx St. Jude Fantasy

English has been quiet since over his last five starts, missing three cuts. But that should mean little since he entered last year off a missed cut and shot 66-64-69-69 to grab his first Tour victory. If he can find the fairway this week, he should be right in the mix, ranking 3rd on Tour in GIR. That’s actually a stark improvement since last year, which should remove any lingering doubt you may have over using him.

Paul Casey

In some ways, I’m glad Casey faded last week after two rounds since I didn’t have him on my roster after using him the previous two weeks. Strike while the iron is hot, which means Casey is back in my lineup this week. His run of success has been a T18 (RBC Heritage), T11 (Zurich), T16 (Byron Nelson), MC (CPI) and T13 (Memorial). This is his first look at TPC Southwind, but there’s nothing like a confident golfer.

Charles Howell III

Charles Howell III opened the Memorial with a round of 69, giving him five rounds in a row of that variety following a T3 at the Byron Nelson. Howell III is another that needs to pick his spots for accuracy off the tee, rather than pulling driver and whacking it down a ways. Ranking 18th in GIR, if he hits the fairway, you’re looking at a good run of success. Tied for third in 2011 with rounds of 72-67-67-66, while other years have been so-so results and a couple missed cuts.

Robert Garrigus

Garrigus always has the capability to shoot a very low round. He had a 64 to close in his T5 at the Zurch and a 64 in a T29 at the Byron Nelson. Last week, he came in at 4-under par, good for T28. Shot a round of 65 at TPC Southwind in 2012, which led to a T42. Of course, 2010 showed what happens when he strings good rounds together, finishing second in a playoff (67-66-66-71). He could be worth the gamble in Yahoo B where you’re able to pair him with several sturdy choices.

REWARD

David Toms FedEx St. Jude Ftnasy

A Lannister always pays his debts. But what if there is no more money coming in? What holds true on GOT, is also true on the PGA Tour. Reward is a fickle term because it implies a payoff. But who knew Justin Rose would have missed the cut last week? Who knows exactly what will happen with Phil Mickelson this week? What if yet another young buck wants to hold an overly large $1 million check? Sometimes you just have to hedge your bets.

Pick the side you think has the best chance of winning and hold onto that formula. But don’t be afraid to jump ship and find a different army to back if the winds of change begin to appear. Here are those most likely to net you some gold and silver.

David Toms

I know Toms’ age (47) and I don’t care. He’s a two-time champion and a two-time runner-up. Toms has even played well recently, securing the second of his top-five finishes this year with a T5 at Colonial. He was T15 at the Zurich Classic, and on courses where you need to be accurate off the tee and hit greens in regulation, he sits at second and 29th on Tour, respectively. While the FedEx St. Jude’s all-time earnings leader has missed the cut in two of the last three years, he’s also capable of shooting several low rounds and I love that potential meshed with his expertise.

Ryan Palmer

Ryan Palmer FedEx St. Jude Classic Fantasy

With five top-10s this season, including a pair of seconds and a T5 at his last event (Crowne Plaza Invitational), Palmer enters TPC Southwind with top-5s on his resume the last two years. He’s probably a Day 1 sitter and a play the final three days. Palmer will put it on the putting surface (21st, GIR), he’ll just need to figure out his shots off the tee, hence the initial hesitancy to start him.

Dustin Johnson

Johnson is my pick to win and with four starts left, he’s on my roster, but I’m holding back until the weekend just to be safe. Not only is he a former champion (2012), but he earned a T10 last season. The fact that he’s been a consistent top-of-the-leaderboard guy all year (nine top-20s) and sits eighth in GIR is alluring. He won’t need to hit driver off every tee and his length will compensate for when he does try to hit irons to keep it in the fairway.

Lee Westwood

Lee Westwood FedEx St. Jude Classic Fantasy

Westwood either comes in under the radar or as a clearcut overrated player. Rarely is he the chalk, but in this case I will ascribe such chalkiness to him. Anytime you win in your debut on a course is a strong endorsement, as he did in 2010. He then followed that up with a T11. His measurables still need some work, and that’s definitely cause for worry, but on courses that set-up tough, he seems to be at his best.

RUIN

Winter is coming. For a fantasy owner, that’s a scary proposition. We all get frostbitten now and again. The key is to keep enough appendages to let everyone know at the end who is No. 1. A cold, deathly grip surrounds several in the field. No amount of sorcery could set them on their feet again, back to the land of the living. And then there are those that look all but dead, yet refuse through some miracle of the (golf) gods to claim a well-earned spot in the ether. Cue the Rains of Castamere because several below are headed for an unfortunate ending.

Steven Bowditch

Steven Bowditch FedEx St. jude Classic Fantasy 2014

A first-time winner at the end of March at the Valero Texas Open, Bowditch hasn’t found success since or at TPC Southwind. He’s missed his last three cuts and five of seven since his victory. His statistics also don’t line up for a successful tournament, nor does his course history. With a missed cut last year, T68 in 2012, MC in ’11, and a W/D and DQ on his resume from the years preceding a three-year stint on the Web.com Tour, he should be far away from your thought process.

Dicky Pride

In some ways, it feels like Pride (44) is older than Toms, but he’s nowhere close to making the weekend. He’s missed 6 of 7 cuts this year and has missed his last two cuts at TPC Southwind. In those years fairly recently where he did make the cut, he was at the bottom of the leaderboard. Pride is a far cry from the golfer who won his first Tour event in Memphis back in 1994, which is likely the only reason he’s in the field.

Brian Harman

Brian Harmon FedEx St. Jude Classic Fantasy 2014

If you’re looking for the next University of Georgia golfer to get a first Tour victory, look no further than English’s former teammate, Brian Harman. Also, don’t expect that win this week. He has two top-10s this year at tough courses, but mostly his results hint at finishing back of the pack. Coming off a cut at the Memorial, Harman will face a TPC Southwind course that has caused him to miss the cut in the only two years he’s played it. Right now, every bit of scoring he does comes from his putter, but with 13 other clubs in the bag, that leaves something to be desired this week.

Retief Goosen

People got excited when Goosen put up a T7 at the Shell Houston Open, but in the 13 tournaments since his T8 season debut in the Sony Open, the former major champion four missed cuts and most all his finishes place him outside the top 40. He last played the FedEx St. Jude Classic in 2011, finishing T3, which will probably also excite people, but he’s not the same golfer. He’s only hitting 55 percent off his fairways (159th) and can’t find the greens after as a result. That won’t be a successful combo this week.

Tim Clark

Tim Clark FedEx St. Jude Classic 2014 Fantasy

Did you know Clark is No. 1 on Tour in driving accuracy? But he’s also 190th in driving distance. You try to hit greens from 215 yards on approach consistently. Clark can’t either, ranking 140th in GIR, and his putter helps him out equally. That basically amounts to a made cut and nothing more, and even then he’s missed 5 of his last 7 cuts, including last week. Overall, his track record here is decent, but decent doesn’t get it done. And Clarks’ 69-79 MC last year highlights the danger of picking a golfer who is struggling.

Thanks for reading and tune in next week as Rory and Caroline’s dramatic break-up takes center stage in a parallel to The Notebook. I’m kidding. Let the kid play golf. Enjoy the FedEx St. Jude Classic and find me on Twitter @bricmiller if you’d like to talk fantasy selections or Game of Thrones. For comment below, pick a golfer and compare them to a GOT character. Love to hear your ideas. Good luck!

This week’s picks

Yahoo!

Group A: L. Westwood (S), C. Howell III

Group B: B. Horschel (S), R. Garrigus (S), W. Simpson, D. Johnson

Group C: P. Casey (S), R. Palmer

(Last week: 127 points; Spring segment: 1,368; Spring rank: 3,709; Season points: 3,361; Full Season rank: 951 – 98th percentile)

PGATour.com

D. Johnson, C. Howell III, R. Palmer, B. Horschel

(Last week: 257 points; Season: 5,424; Rank: 4,420)

Golf Channel

Group 1: D. Johnson

Group 2: R. Palmer

Group 3: D. Toms

Group 4: R. Allenby

(Last week: $129,167; Season: $10,333,097; Mulligan: $86,710; Rank: 9,741 of 39,371)

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Brian Miller is a sports writer of over eight years and his work has appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, Miami Herald and Tallahassee Democrat. He's a fantasy golf nut and his golf novel will be published in spring 2014. You may find him on Twitter @bricmiller.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. DB

    Jun 5, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    I do not play fantasy golf, nor do I have any desire to. That being said referencing the GOT was the only reason I read this all the way to the end. Great write up!

    • Brian Miller

      Jun 7, 2014 at 11:15 am

      Ha thanks. Maybe give it a try sometime? It’s a fun way to learn everyone on Tour and care about each Tour stop.

  2. Kevin

    Jun 4, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    OK — I’ll bite on GOT comps; Tim Clark as Tyrion; yes, he’s short, but Clark also has never been the same since he switched shoe endorsements and promptly got sidelined with terrible blisters (meanwhile, Tyrion was sidelined by his own sister); how bout Westwood as John Snow (the former King of the North) — John looked poised to conquer all the kingdoms, then got ambushed and never fulfilled his promise — kinda like Lee never winning a major; as for the fantasy stuff, last week I got lucky and had Matsuyama, this week I’m thinking Garrigus as a sleeper, so I’m glad to see you like him as well (my other sleeper is Hearn); why are you putting Webb on your squad, I was thinking he is off form, but if you see him coming around, I’d like to know why

    • Brian Miller

      Jun 7, 2014 at 11:18 am

      I’m sure Tim Clark enjoys being the imp on Tour. But I think John Daly would easily be Tyrion: for his drunken shenanigans and ability to somehow convince sponsors to keep giving him exemptions. I like Westwood as Rob Stark, dethroned King of the North. As for Garrigus, looks like our sleeper didn’t pan out. Simpson seems to be playing well so far. He just plays well this time of year and I didn’t think anyone would have him, which makes for tasty bonus points if he shoots what he’s capable of.

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