The First Tee – FedEx St Jude Classic – by Adam Daly

Fantasy Golf Insider Staff
By Fantasy Golf Insider Staff June 6, 2017 01:15

The First Tee – FedEx St Jude Classic – by Adam Daly

The Course

The lead up into the U.S. Open, the FedEx St. Jude’s Classic is mostly known for its multiple field changes and the last gasp to win entry into the second major. With all the field changes and golfers taking the week off to prep for Erin Hills, this event is almost more like a fall swing season event.

It takes place in Memphis, Tennessee at TPC Southwind, which is another fairly typical course from the TPC playbook – a par-70 at 7,244 yards with not much excitement and finishing scores in the low teens to the winner.

The Ron Prichard-designed course shouldn’t be hard to find the fairway on – put the driver away on the front-9 and pull it out on the back – with slightly above average fairway widths, but historically this event has some of the harder to find fairways, around 55%. Surrounding the fairways are scattered trees, fairway bunkers, and lots of water: from 2012-16, 930 tee shots ended up wet. Add those 930 to the 104 approach shots that found water, and it gives a picture of a deadly course.

Although the back 9 has the wider fairways compared to the front, in 2016 the back 9 averaged 0.624 strokes above par – beyond the par-5 16th (at only 530 yards), there wasn’t a single hole that averaged below par. Four of the six par-4s on the back 9 play above 450 yards (seven of twelve par-4s are above 450 overall), so although distance isn’t a deciding factor, longer approach shots (above 150 yards) will be important.

Golfers who hit the rough off the tee shouldn’t struggle with their second shots, as the rough is relatively tame. The struggle on approach is rather the small size of the greens, and that they’re generally firm and fast which makes picking a spot tougher – in the same vein as last week at Memorial. Once on the greens, golfers will have to deal with Bermuda grass that’s of regular speed (around 12 on the stimp) for Tour players, but with lots of undulation. Putting has been incredibly important here in the past when compared to some of the other stops on Tour, so it’ll be important to weight that properly this week. Golfers that 3-putt with any regularity must be avoided this week, because of how hard it will be to bounce back on a low-scoring course.

Like most courses on Tour, Bogey Avoidance is favoured slightly above Birdie or Better, as the amount of hazards is daunting. With the course playing as a par-70, that’s also two scoring holes removed from the equation. The chart below shows some of the things golfers will need to do to either score (BoB%) or avoid bogeys (BoW%) – the Variance column highlights some of the differences between the two.

Stats

The Strokes Gained stats to focus on in order (not including Tee to Green):

  • Approach
  • Putting
  • Off-The-Tee
  • Around the Green

Counting stats to focus on in order:

  • Bogey Avoidance
  • Birdie or Better %
  • Greens in Regulation %
  • Scrambling %
  • Par-4 Scoring

The Golfers

The Core

Ian Poulter ($7600): He’s an easy golfer to hate, but Poulter since getting his Tour card sorted after missing at Valero has finished T32, T2 (at the PLAYERS!), and T35 and has been tremendous for a large part of this season. He was only owned at 12% in low-dollar contests at the BMW PGA Championship in Europe, and could slip under the radar this week even though he has stellar statistics for this course.

Poults is currently sitting 8th in SG: Approach, although he struggles a bit over 175 yards. He’s 23rd in the key 150-175 yard range though which will be a key range this week, and it makes it easy to ignore his overall Greens in Regulation number of 65.28% (109th). With a severe lack of distance off the tee, Poulter’s overall OTT numbers don’t seem appealing (142nd in SG: OTT, 168th in Distance), but Poulter is very accurate (64.03% of fairways hit).

If Poulter struggles on approach, he’s currently 11th in Scrambling and 3rd in SG: Around the Green overall – with a cut line below E, Bogey Avoidance will be more important than normal, and Scrambling (as shown above) plays a huge part in avoiding squares. In that same vein, he’s also 2nd in 3-Putt Avoidance although his overall putting numbers aren’t anything to write home about.

Phil Mickelson ($10200): Historically one of the best golfers on this course in terms of Strokes Gained, Phil sees a big price increase from last week’s $7700, so eating his salary will be a tough ask but that history is too enticing to pass up – his worst finish here in the last five years was a T11, and he had three top-five finishes.

The same aspects that made Lefty a good play last week when he was written up (T22 finish) are in play here:

  • 14th in SG: Approach
  • 8th in Approach 50-125, 49th in 150-175
  • 23rd in SG: Around the Green
  • 10th in Putting Average
  • 9th in Birdie or Better %

Look for him to try to take the W before skipping the U.S. Open for his daughter’s graduation, and he’ll almost need it to pay off that salary hit.

Chez Reavie ($6400): Reavie is another golfer with stellar historical Strokes Gained data, although in a smaller sampler than Phil – he’s only played the course twice since 2012, finished T11 and T27, but en route to those finishes he averaged 2.5 SG:P and 1.17 SG:Tee to Green. He’s a riskier play as he enters the week in terrible form, but as Si Woo Kim and Billy Horschel have shown recently, form is not the be all and end all. On the year, Reavie’s had some fantastic finishes including a T8 in the strong Sony Open field, but no Top-25s since January will help keep him slide under the radar.

Reavie is another shorter hitter that’s deadly accurate (11th in Accuracy %) which has led him to a great Par-4 Scoring rank of 32nd (4.01) – he’s also great on Par-3s at 18th (3.00) but will struggle on the par-5s because of that lack of distance. With it being a par-70, the par-5 scoring won’t be an impactful loss.

Because of the accuracy and steadiness, Reavie is 27th in Bogey Avoidance, but he’s also been steady on the greens at 16th in 3-Putt Avoidance. He doesn’t score enough to make him an elite DraftKings play, but he can finish high enough here to pay off his cheap salary.

 

You can follow me on Twitter @adalyfrey, and if there’s something you’d like to see change in this column my DMs are open! Good luck this week

Fantasy Golf Insider Staff
By Fantasy Golf Insider Staff June 6, 2017 01:15

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