Fantasy Golf Picks: Fade Favorites for Sleepers at St. Jude Classic
FedEx St. Jude Classic
Defending Champ: Harris English
Welcome to warm up week!
We’re just a mere week away from the US Open, which means a few of the bigger names will be lacing up the spikes, but overall, the St. Jude Classic features one of the weakest fields of the season. Yes, Phil Mickelson, Greame McDowell, Ian Poulter and
Matt Kuchar will all be in attendance, but in a congested field of lesser talent, it’s best to go off the board and try to make up some points on the field. I mean, there’s been a passel of first time champs this season. Not to mention, a lot of the top end golfers will just be using this as a Pinehurst tune up, working on different shots, refining their game, and likely showing less regard for results than normal.
Now, while TPC Southwind doesn’t instantly spring to mind in the “hardest courses” discussion, by the numbers, it’s one of the most difficult layouts every season, residing inside the Top 15 each of the past five years. Its toughness is derived from two sources: Par 3s and the closing 453-yard Par 4 - where you can be sporting a three-stroke lead, then this can happen…
It would be crazy to avoid all the favorites at St. Jude altogether, but a sprinkling of deep distance drivers and steady putters is the best way to run out a balanced team and pile up a bunch of names on the leaderboard come Sunday. There’s a lot of trouble lingering just off the fairways, and long bombers can hit it far enough that they’ll avoid most of the problems, while the top scramblers can avoid disaster with the flat stick.
HIT THE LINKS
News surfaced late last week that Phil Mickelson is being investigated in connection with insider trading. It’s all heresy for the moment, but I’m really holding out hope that it’s completely true. Any case possibly involving wiretapping, illegal gambling and destroying Phil’s “good guy” image is HOT FIYA red on the Pat Mayo spray chart. #TeamTiger. And, if nothing else, it should at the very least get Lester Freeman some work.
Carlos Ortiz made his PGA Tour debut at the Memorial. With the way he’s tearing up the Web.com Tour, could the Mexican be the next giant international star?
Scott Langley waited 25 seconds for his putt to fall. Apparently, birdies are tough to come by if you’re Scott Langley. Maybe try stomping the ground next time to expedite the process a little bit.
Henrik Stenson was inching closer to Adam Scott’s number one world ranking at the Nordea Masters, but he went straight Icarus. However, Thangchai Jaidee made a Sunday surge, outlasting Victor Dubuisson and Stephen Gallacher in a playoff for his sixth Euro Tour win. Still, it’s nice to see Stenson rounding back into form before the US Open. I’m very much considering backing him next week at Pinehurst; Hunter Mahan too. But I’ll leave that for seven days from now.
How did Martin Kaymer get his game back? Rubbing his hands raw. No, not like that. Get your minds outta the gutter.
With his win at Jack’s course, Hideki Matsuyama is now up to No. 13 in the world rankings. Kevin Na breached the ever-important Top 50 too.
Remember that shot Jordan Spieth dug out of the sand leading to his only career win at the John Deere Classic last year? Well, now you don’t have to, because he's recreated the shot for our amusement.
Here’s a video of the Top 10 hottest female golfers. Just cause.
Lee Westwood & Patrick Reed – With Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar popping up on the Yahoo! A-List, and likely to be the most popular selections of the week, I’m going to go a tiny bit contrary to the groupthink and roll out my main man Lee Westwood. The Brit has the experience at the course with a T11 and a win to his credit in his past two starts (2010, 2011), which shouldn’t be surprising considering TPC Southwind rewards the few things Westwood still does well: hitting accurate deep irons, scoring on Par 4s and mid-range putting. So far in 2014, Lee ranks 14th on the Tour from 10’-15’, 22nd from 15’-20’ and 16th from 25’ and beyond. Even though his total skill set has deteriorated and he no longer plays at an elite level, he still doesn’t donate strokes back to the field, exemplified by his 50 straight holes without a 3-Putt. And Reed… well, he’s a bit of a flyer. We know he can run through any field when he’s on, and is one of the Top 5 players in the world (his words), but his play can be capricious. Since winning at Doral in early March, Reed hasn’t posted anything better than a T48 in four starts since, capped off by an embarrassing T150 his last time out in New Orleans. That was over a month ago, though. Reed has withdrawn from the past few events in favor of spending time with his newborn, which, hopefully, cleared his head. Whether it did or not, I can’t say, but I do know he’s off everyone’s radar entering the St. Jude. Don’t forget, only Jimmy Walker has more wins this season (3), and Reed did card the low round on this site last year (R3 64). Mix in his impressive stroke with the flat stick from inside 10-feet (10th on Tour) and the ability to save himself from disasters on the beach (10th in SS percentage) and you have the potential winner just sitting there, passed over by everyone else. Not a mistake I’m going to make. Also, he has an awesome first name, and really, that’s reason enough.
Dustin Johnson & Billy Horschel – DJ is the lay up pick of the week. Get him on your roster, use him, reap the rewards – Bob Fosse it up. He resides inside the Top 10 of driving distance, greens in regulation, scoring average, and stroke differential, but what will really enhance his chances this week will be his approaches. Johnson’s seventh in hole proximity from the fairway, sitting fourth from 150-175 yards and 16th from 175-200 yards out, aka the most common distances he’ll be from the hole at TPC Southwind. Plus, he gets to nail this babe, how couldn’t that help your confidence? I suppose collecting a win and a T10 the last two seasons in Memphis could potentially do more. Probably not, though. It was around this time last year that Horschel’s unbelievable hot streak fizzled out. Since then, calling him ‘average’ may be a tad generous. However, he’s trending upwards coming into the week and possesses a number of skills that are going to translate well to this challenging layout. Horschel doesn’t drive the ball as deep as most, but his accuracy off the tee and from the fairway is elite; his game is eerily similar to two-time St. Jude champ David Toms. This week is all going to come down to his flat stick, which comes and goes quicker than me on a 3 am Tinder rendezvous. Resting 5’-10’ this year, Horschel is 10th best among all players. Putting from 10’-15’ away -178th best, or better put, one of the worst. It lacks sense. But, if he can just be a copacetic putter this week from that problematic distance he’ll outperform his T10 from 2013.
Freddie Jacobson & Robert Garrigus – There’s no template for success at TPC Southwind. We’ve witnessed many different types of players claim victory, but two specific molds have continuously posted quality, if not winning results: Bombers and flat stick dynamos. So why not take one of each, right? Freddy Yaks drives the ball like you or I; it’s not what most would call “a strength”. No, the Swede makes his cash by improving the closer he gets to the hole. He’s deadly on short approaches and even better once he’s on the putting surface. Jacobson sits seventh in Stroke-Gained on the green, first in 3-putt avoidance and 19th in scrambling. With the amount of mid-range issues players can experience landing in the weeds off the tee, Jacobson is blessed with the skills to get out of that trouble. He comes having made eight of nine cuts, picking up six Top 10s in this current stretch. This is the site where I first became aware Robert Garrigus existed. Holding a three-stroke lead on 18 in 2010, Garrigus had a van de Velde-esque meltdown, tripling the closing hole and eventually losing in a playoff to Westwood. He’s inconsistent, yes, but his length with the big stick (!) can propel him into contention rather quickly. Taking advantage of the Par 5s is even more important on Par 70s, and we know Garrigus is going to do that, ranking sixth on the Tour in Par 5 scoring.
Ryan Palmer & Harris English – Palmer seems like a lock, which means he’ll probably come in dead last, but whatever. After a solo fourth and a T3 the last two years, I see no reason to leave him off my roster, especially considering he’s having his best season ever. Like Garrigus and Johnson, he’s going to dominate the Par 5s, but it’s his Par 4 scoring that separates him from the majority of the field. In 2014, Palmer is second in Par 4 performance. English’s distressing recent results (T30, MC, MC, T31, MC) shouldn’t be of concern; it should actually be embraced for Fantasy purposes. Although repeat winners aren’t exactly common in Memphis, this awful stretch may keep English off a lot of squads this week; and, I assure you, he’s someone you’re going to need if you plan on winning. Trust. While not the most accurate driver, English makes up for it with the eighth best GIR percentage from the rough between 150-175 yards, to go along with his third ranked overall GIR percentage. Simply put, he gives himself a lot of birdie opportunities. Sometimes he makes a lot, sometimes he doesn’t; this is the plight of players with sporadic putters. Still, I’ll take the guy with the proven success on the site (and best scoring average on the Tour) over the bevy of bigger name internationals that will be the more popular picks.
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