FedEx St. Jude Classic – Memphis, TN
TPC Southwind (7,244 yards, par 70)
$1,188,000 and 500 FedEx Cup points to the winner
This year’s St. Jude Classic represents the final time the event will be played in its traditional pre-U.S. Open slot. Though it has held this slot on the calendar for many years, the event will shift its timing in 2019 to later in the summer and become a World Golf Championship host, replacing Firestone Country Club. For the 13 players in next week’s U.S. Open, TPC Southwind is a tune-up for next week’s major; most of the field approach it as an opportunity at an event that many top players skip, giving them a better chance to flourish. A small but distinguished group of Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Henrik Stenson, Phil Mickelson, and Daniel Berger headline the diluted field who will take on the tough TPC Southwind. As back-to-back defending champion, Berger will seek to become the TOUR’s first three-peat champion since 2011, when Steve Stricker pulled off the feat at the John Deere Classic. The property of TPC Southwind originated as a dairy farm before transforming to a championship golf course, amicably hosting the St. Jude Classic since 1989. A major renovation in 2004 saw many trees removed and the greens swapped for Bermuda grass to better endure the humid Memphis summers. The par-70 track boasts its signature hole as the par-3 11th, an island hole like TPC Sawgrass’ par-3 17th. Expect a grind this week, as no winner has eclipsed 13-under par since 2009.
Recent Past Champions
2017 – Daniel Berger
2016 – Daniel Berger
2015 – Fabian Gomez
2014 – Ben Crane
2013 – Harris English
2012 – Dustin Johnson
2011 – Harrison Frazar
2010 – Lee Westwood
2009 – Brian Gay
2008 – Justin Leonard
Key Stats to Winning this Week
• Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green
• GIR percentage
• Scrambling percentage
TPC Southwind is notoriously difficult when it comes to hitting fairways and greens, leading the Tour in water balls since 2003 by a wide margin. As such, the key metric to focus on is Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, which amounts to a melting pot of all full swing shots and is quite useful at the treacherous TPC Southwind. In fact, the last two winners, Daniel Berger and Fabian Gomez, led the field in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. To avoid the looming water hazards, many players miss fairways on the “safe” side, leading to many approach shots from non-fairway lies. As a result, greens in regulation percentage is also a telling stat because it means a player has kept it in play off the tee and hit a solid approach shot, whether you were hitting from the fairway or not. Lastly, scrambling is always important when sticky Bermuda grass is in play, especially when players are missing greens at a higher-than-normal rate.
FanDuel Value Picks
Dustin Johnson, $12900 – A champion at TPC Southwind back in 2012, Johnson represents the field’s best player; and he also notched two other top-10s at this venue. With DJ’s form on point entering the week, it almost feels like a foregone conclusion he will be inside the top 25, but he comes with a high salary. Nothing to fear, but he will affect the depth of the rest of your lineup if you go in this direction.
Brooks Koepka, $12400 – Koepka has collected a pair of top-3 finishes and never missed a cut in four career starts at TPC Southwind. His length off the tee and superb overall ball striking make him a good value despite having the second-highest salary this week on FanDuel.
Henrik Stenson, $12200 – Stenson hasn’t appeared in Memphis since 2012, when he notched a T13, but this week he enters with good form at a venue that fits his game like a glove. Stenson leads the PGA Tour in GIR percentage, is ranked 12th in SG: Tee-to-Green and ranks sixth in scrambling. About as good a fit as you can get for TPC Southwind, Stenson is my personal favorite this week.
Phil Mickelson, $12100 – No one can argue with Mickelson’s five-straight top-11 finishes at TPC Southwind, which means he should probably make it in your lineup if you’re a fan of great course history. Already with a victory this season at age 47, Mickelson will look to tune up for next week’s U.S. Open and contend for victory in the process.
Longer Shots Worth a Risk
Peter Uihlein, $9900 – Uihlein has notched three top-5s this season already, including two in his last three events. The 28-year-old’s reason for recent success is his driving accuracy and GIR percentage in the past couple weeks, when he hit 67 percent of his fairways and over 75 percent of his greens. His form and recent improvement are timely considering the ball striking necessary to conquer TPC Southwind.
Charl Schwartzel, $9500 – Schwartzel tied for runner-up honors at TPC Southwind last season, signaling he clearly has a knack for the place. The solid ball striker has three top-10s in the past five weeks, making him a solid value this week.
Chez Reavie, $9200 – Reavie goes unnoticed often, but this week he is an asset to fantasy teams with him rock-solid but overlooked ball-striking ability. The 36-year-old is ranked inside the top 40 on Tour in GIR percentage, SG: Tee-to-Green and scrambling, making him a great bet to make the cut with upside for much more.
Danny Lee, $8400 – Lee doesn’t necessarily fit the profile this week, but he’s made all three career cuts at TPC Southwind and enters on the heels of a couple top-15s. His best asset is his putter, so if he can hit enough greens in regulation he could find himself inside the top 15 again.
Strategy Tips for this week (based on 60k standard salary cap)
There’s a clear drop off after the five highest salaries on FanDuel this week, so make sure to secure one or two of them given their elite talent levels relative to the field. Recognizing that it’s not uncommon to see a first-time winner at TPC Southwind, there is ample opportunity to take players who strike it well tee-to-green but haven’t quite broken through for victory yet.