The PGA TOUR briefly turns its attention to TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee for the FedEx St. Jude Classic. “Briefly” being the key word, as many players participated in a 36-hole qualifier on Monday for the upcoming U.S.Open. That cut this tournament week short for those, while many who successfully qualified for the U.S. Open at Oakmont have turned their attention to the season’s second major, thus spurning this week’s event.
Either way, Fabian Gomez is back to defend his 2015 title against a rather weak field of contenders. As Gomez can attest, the riches of a win this week include all of the normal perks of any full-field event, including a two-year exemption and a Masters invite. There is still plenty on the line.
TPC Southwind plays to a par of 70, tipping out at a mere 7,244 yards with the longest of two par 5s only amounting to 554 yards. It also offers a quartet of par 3s and 12 par 4s. Given those dimensions, it’s somewhat surprising that many bombers have been rewarded on this layout. Dustin Johnson jumps to mind, but others like Robert Garrigus, Gary Woodland and Brooks Koepka have more than held their own.
The Stats Say
Quite frankly, I found the stats to be rather confusing for this tournament. I decided this was as good of time as any to put one of the new “strokes gained” stats into play, choosing strokes gained: approach-the-green. I did so because there seemed to be a good blend of players who were successful at TPC Southwind based on GIR or Proximity. I tossed in driving distance, par 4 scoring and scrambling, as well.
If I had to rank my conviction with my stats breakdown this week relative to most others, it would be on the lower end of the spectrum. That Dustin Johnson ranked first on that already edited list did make me feel better.
More than most weeks, there is a serious problem with the current form of some of the course horses. That could be because the last few events don’t necessarily mirror the challenges and opportunities of TPC Southwind, but it’s just as likely that it is because we were dealing with lower-tier PGA TOUR pros who battle consistency. That said, our defending champ (Gomez) and Greg Owen were two guys that missed the cut for the power ranking.
With all of those disclaimers laid before us, let’s do this!
1. Dustin Johnson – Absolute no-brainer. Minus a WD at TPC Southwind, he’s 3-for-3 with a win, a T10 and a third top 25. Current form is a green light, with a third-place finish at Memorial last week. The only scary thing about this pick is that it’s almost too obvious. I’ve seen scenarios like this result in missed cuts and I’ve seen them result in wins. DJ’s still got to show up and play like it matters!
2. Brooks Koepka – Perhaps he can be called “DJ Lite” as he’s gone T19-T3 in his two TPC Southwind starts and also lost in a playoff in his last PGA TOUR start. Wasn’t pleasantly surprised to see that he ranked seventh in par 4 scoring.
3. Phil Mickelson – Has gone T2-T11-T3 in his last three St. Jude’s, which is good enough to easily earn him third-place honors on this list. It’s nice to see that he posted a T20 in his last start, but not critical given his pedigree and penchant for having a few less-than-stellar weeks.
4. Gary Woodland – Are we seeing a trend yet? A tasty T28-T12-T4 run entering this week to go with a decent record in his three starts at TPC Southwind. His last start in 2013 was his best, resulting in a T18.
5. Ryan Palmer – Brings a T3 at Colonial with him in terms of confidence. Recent run at TPC Southwind has gone T3-T4-T32-T22, which is more than enough in terms of consistency for a spot in this top five.
6. Charles Howell III – For those of you out there who are risk averse, Chucky Three Sticks may be your guy. He almost never wins, but he’s racking up top 25s on TOUR in 2015-16 like they are going out of style. He’s made six of nine cuts, with two top 10s, including a T3 in 2011 in this event.
7. Harris English – A past champion with an otherwise unimpressive record in the FedEx St. Jude Classic, English returns to the radar after a runner-up finish at Colonial in his last outing.
8. Chad Campbell – Since 2010, he’s made each of his six cuts including a T3 and a T8. His last two PGA TOUR starts? Glad you asked, as they both went for top 12s. Has the reputation for being a pure ball-striker, which is a plus when approach shots matter.
9. Robert Garrigus – Has an erratic history here, but it includes a runner-up that should have been his week, so this could be the perfect storm. Of course, it could be the perfect tease.
10. Will Wilcox – He’s fantasy gold, both on the course and on Twitter. He was already on the radar after posting a pair of top 20s in two trips to TPC Southwind, but his current form presented a problem for gamers. Never fear, as Wilcox alerted his faithful via Twitter that he is “Playin pretty solid, y’all….” You give us love, we give it back to you big fella!
11. Colt Knost – His lack of length is a formula problem, but his two top-15 finishes in four tries trumps that, given his recent form. We know he’ll keep it in the short grass and find some greens, so there are much worse options available in the 11 hole.
12. Ben Crane – He’s an impressive 9-for-10 with a win in 2014 at TPC Southwind and enters on the heels of back-to-back top 30s. Not top-10 worthy, but didn’t miss by much.
13. Freddie Jacobson – This nod is 100% to his course history. He’s made 10 of 12 cuts in this event, with three top 10s and five top 25s.
14. Daniel Berger - While he’s never played here before, the bomber has the game that should translate to TPC Southwind. In some ways, this course isn’t all that different from some of the traits needed to win on the Florida Swing, where Berger has been strong.
15. David Toms – A two-time winner here, Toms has struggled of late at TPC Southwind. His recent form includes a top 25 in his last start. Minus his length, he’s actually still a very good statistical fit. He ranks 26th in strokes gained: approach-the-green, 16th in scrambling and 32nd in par 4 scoring average.
Per usual, the picks of all the Rotoworld staffers can be found in Playing the Tips.
Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. After all, the beast called Oakmont awaits next week!
Best of luck to all!