The final tournament before the season’s second major takes place this week at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. Daniel Berger returns to TPC Southwind in Memphis, TN to defend his title.
There are several converging factors that are in play when trying to peg a successful lineup for this week’s tournament. The spot on the schedule is the main culprit. Many of the top players in the world are skipping this week as the tune up for the U.S. Open at Erin Hills next week, but a few remain in the field. Also, the 36-hole U.S. Open qualifiers took place on Monday, meaning several of those lucky enough to earn a spot in next week’s major have withdrawn to rest and prepare. For those that played the Memorial and Colonial, this week’s tournament is a logical skip in the schedule.
TPC Southwind is a par-70 layout of 7,244 yards. It features a pair of rather short par 5s, a quartet of par 3s and a dozen par 4s. Over the long run, this course has produced winners of all shapes and sizes. We have bombers and plodders. Ball-strikers and putters. Youngsters and veterans. Lately, it’s been the bombers that have risen to the top. Daniel Berger is a perfect example of that, as was Dustin Johnson when he won and Brooks Koepka as he’s contended.
In a field absent many top players, one solid strategy is to back the class of the field. There will be several examples of that in the below power ranking. Also mixed in are several course horses and a few trendy players.
Here we go!
1. Brooks Koepka – The trend in this event is absolutely undeniable. He’s gone T19-T3-T2. All he’s lacking is the win. It goes without saying that’s the only reason he’s here this week. With his length and class matching up with his course history, he’s a green-light special.
2. Rickie Fowler – Played great last week at Jack’s place and is in excellent form. It’s a bit curious that he’s playing this week, with the U.S. Open looming. He’s only played here once (2014), and tied for 13th in that venture.
3. Phil Mickelson – Lefty is solid at TPC Southwind, going T2-T11-T3-T2 in his last four visits. His intent to skip the U.S. Open is well documented, as is his history of peaking the week before majors. Putting him in the lineup is a good call in virtually any fantasy format. It’s also as good of a spot as any to get back in the winner’s circle.
4. Billy Horschel – Recent win to go with solid course history are a potent combination. Horschel has top 10s in his last three visits to Memphis and qualifies as being the conversation for the class of the field.
5. Adam Scott – Seven is his lucky number in this event, as his only visit came in 2007 and he tied for seventh. Last time I checked this is 2017, so yet another seven. Superstitions aside, he fits the mold of a long player who has never struggled with ball-striking and offers elite pedigree. Perhaps the only real question is why he’s added this back to his schedule. Perhaps he feels playing the week before a major is a good plan.
6. Daniel Berger – Defending champ won in his first visit, so there is no other course history to consider. It’s probably fair to say he’s underperformed a bit this season, so gamers will want to know if this sparks a bit of a bounce back or if the pressure of defending will hamper him.
7. Kyle Stanley – Taking a reverse pivot, we must ignore course history in lieu of some great current form. He’s made two of four cuts here, with a T49 back in 2012 the best. Gamers must recognize that this is the Kyle Stanley that went P2-Win at the Farmers and Waste Management Phoenix Open several years ago, and not the one that wandered through the abyss the last few years.
8. Charl Schwartzel – Commented following the Memorial that he felt like his game was beginning to come around and he wanted this event to serve as additional prep work for the U.S. Open. A missed cut in 2010 is his only taste of TPC Southwind. While not a safe pick, he is one with some upside.
9. Russell Henley – Made two of three cuts here, with a T7 last year serving as the best. Those that follow my analysis of tournaments and Henley frequently will recall that I often endorse the UGA grad on par-70 layouts due to his overwhelming success on courses with that par value.
10. Ryan Palmer – First alternate coming out of the U.S. Open qualifier in Dallas, Palmer has two top-four finishes and a third top 10 in nine visits to TPC Southwind. He’s hoping this is the appetizer for the U.S. Open and not the main course.
11. Fabian Gomez – A bit of a course horse, with a win and a top 15 to go with a pair of missed cuts. Most tournaments, a guy with this overall blend would be more of a flier. The lack of field depth qualifies him as a legit option.
12. Stewart Cink – Has made a bunch of cuts here (seven of eight) including one top 10 and a pair of top 20s. His recent form is impressive, rendering him a great candidate for at least a top 25.
13. Seung-Yul Noh – Hasn’t been long since his most recent top 10 in the Wells Fargo Championship, even though he’s lacked consistency. Noh has made the cut here three out of four tries, with each going for a top 10 including a T3.
14. Ben Crane – Past champion and frequent contender in this event has struggled in 2017. Made 10/11 cuts with two top 10s and five top 25s. Perhaps the friendly confines of TPC Southwind will be the necessary medicine that the doctor ordered.
15. Harris English – Winner in 2013 has made three of four cuts, but has no additional top 25s. Played well in his U.S. Open qualifier on Monday, so there is a bit of hope that this week will at least be his second-best appearance in Memphis.
Check out all of the Rotoworld staff picks in Playing the Tips. Best of luck to all!