The Tour has one more stop before the year’s second major championship, and it’s in Memphis for the FedEx St. Jude Classic. This is an event with a pretty lengthy history behind it so there will be a lot of people showing up with some good course history stats. The course this week is TPC Southwind and it generally plays as one of the harder tracks on tour, and last year was no different as it was the tenth most difficult of the season. As a longer par 70, par 4 scoring will come into play and the smaller greens will really put pressure on approaches. As always, in the week before a major don’t be shocked if we see some early exits/withdraws and keep an eye on the withdraw list as the week wears on.
Approach Stats: This is definitely a week where you can emphasize approach stats. TPC Southwind has some of the smallest greens on tour and players with great iron games generally come to the forefront here. Each of the past two winners ranked first in SG: Approach for the week of their win and so players trending in this area should definitely be emphasized this week. A good short game can overcome less than stellar iron play here but a good short game week is also sometimes harder to predict from week to week. Definitely emphasize players with solid or improving approach stats.
A Perfect Forecast: One other factor which may really emphasize the need for good iron play this year is the fact the weather is set to have low winds and sunshine all week. The course may also get softened up by some rain early on Monday-Tuesday making it more attackable than usual. Either way the lack of wind or rain during play should help players find more fairways this week and again make it more of second-shot contest.
Francesco Molinari ($10,500): Second on tour in SG: Approach and seventh overall in Tee to Green. Molinari has been excellent over his last two starts although he still finds issues sinking critical putts on Sunday. Still, his profile sets up perfectly for TPC Southwind and the fact he was also second in SG: Approach in his last US start at the PLAYERS means he’s my top dog for the week at a price $1,500 cheaper than Rickie Fowler on DraftKings.
Kevin Chappell ($8,800): Chappell hasn’t done much since his big win but he should stick out to us in this weak field at just $8,800. He hasn’t been as sharp as Molinari recently but his approach game is one of the best when he’s on and should be eager for a good tune up before the US Open. A T22 on his first visit here confirms this is likely a course Chappell should get along with and at under 9k he’s firmly in the category of my favorite targets this week.
Kyle Stanley ($8,400): Stanley’s tee to green numbers are almost too good to be true as he comes into this week ranked second in Greens in
Regulation and seventh in SG: Approach for the season. He’s actually relied more on what looks to be an improving short game of late so if the ball-striking returns here he could be in line for another top finish and perhaps even his first win of the year.
Others: Phil Mickelson
Stewart Cink ($8,000): If we are targeting strong approach games this week than Stewart Cink needs to be mentioned. The 44-year old is fresh off qualifying for the US Open and also had his best finish of the year a couple of weeks ago with a T10 at Colonial. There is a chance of burnout here I suppose but with 12th place rankings in SG: Approach and Greens in Reg on the year that’s a chance I’m willing to take. He’s not missed the cut here in his last three tries and comes in this season in his best form in a while.
Charl Schwartzel ($7,900): A simple pricing play. Schwartzel should be priced above 9k in this field based on the rest of the salaries and at $7,900 he’s simply too cheap too pass up. Schwartzel has only played TPC Southwind once back in 2010 (MC) but he did tweet out that he was happy with his play on the weekend at the Memorial and wanted a final tune-up before the US Open. At this price, in a weak field, Schwartzel doesn’t need to be in top form to pay off for us on DraftKings so make sure he’s on your list.
Harold Varner III ($7,400): Varner is yet another player who rates out great in SG: Approach and should fit this course well over the long term. HVIII has his struggles on the greens but he was second in SG: approach in his last start at the Memorial and has a T16 at TPC Southwind from last season to fall back on. He’s also played well at some corollary courses at the OHL Classic and Sony Open, making him a great upside play this week.
Peter Uihlein ($7,200): Uihlein is playing in the US yet again here and will also be next week as he qualified for the US open on Tuesday. The American, who usually calls the Euro Tour his home, hasn’t missed a cut on any tour since before February and also now has three top 25 finishes on the PGA Tour this season in just three starts. He’s playing here for the first time but was great earlier in the year at another weak field event in Puerto Rico.
Chez Reavie ($6,400): Chez has picked things up a bit with three made cuts in his last four starts and has the kind of solid approach game we generally want to target this week. Reavie has a T12 and T27 finish at this venue over his past two visits and also recorded a top five finish earlier this season at the OHL Classic, on a course that generally correlates well to this week. He finished strong at the Dean and Deluca and looks like great value in this watered down field.
Others: Danny Lee
High-upside GPP Picks
Russell Henley ($9,800): Henley definitely didn’t perform well his last time out at the Byron Nelson, burning a lot of people in DFS with a horrible collapse on the back nine on Friday to miss the cut. Still, he’s been great all season and ranks 22nd on the year in Greens in Regulation. Henley was 7th at this event last year and was actually first for the week in greens hit, so the venue definitely suits his eye. He should be available at 10% or lower ownership levels in big gpps and with his ability to sink a ton of putts on Bermuda greens he’s setting up as a great upside play in gpps.
Ricky Barnes ($7,300): Barnes isn’t one I typically trust in fantasy but he’s been hot with the right clubs of late and in a weaker field, looks like a great gpp play here. Barnes has ranked 8th and 15th in SG: Approach stats in his last two starts and has also made six cuts in a row now, with his last two finishes being T22 and a T18. If his approach game stats hold here Barnes is a good enough putter to make a run, so don’t be shocked if you see him near the lead at some point.
Sam Saunders ($6,600): Saunders has played well at times in 2017. His putter has helped him out a lot but his approach stats over his last two starts have been fairly good too. Last week he gained strokes on the field in approaches over three rounds, but had a terrible back nine on Sunday. He should be able to bounce back here and is capable of taking advantage of a weaker field to post a top ten finish.
Other: Smylie Kaufman, Russell Knox
Players to Consider (in no order)
– Francesco Molinari, Phil Mickelson, Kyle Stanley, Kevin Chappell, Russell Henley, Russell Knox, Stewart Cink, Ricky Barnes
– Charl Schwartzel, Harold Varner III, Peter Uihlein, Sam Saunders, Chez Reavie, Danny Lee, Smylie Kaufman
Kyle Stanley 40-1
Peter Uihlein 60-1 ew
Stewart Cink 70-1 ew
Harold Varner III 80-1 ew
Ricky Barnes 200-1 ew
Chez Reavie 160-1 ew
San Saunders 200-1 ew