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Handicapping

FedEx St. Jude Classic Predictions

Event: FedEx St. Jude Classic
When: June 8-11, 2017
Where: TPC Southwind Ė Memphis, TN
TV: The Golf Channel/CBS
by: Evergreen of Predictem.com

If you are watching the Golf Channel through this week, you will already see plenty of coverage from Erin Hills as the U.S. Open is just a week away. Qualifiers have been taking place and players are prepping for the second Major of the year but letís not overlook what is happening in Memphis this week at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. The lead-in to a Major is not the best place on the PGA Tour schedule but the St. Jude has carved out a nice following by players and many make the trip to TPC Southwind even with the Open looming. Daniel Berger outlasted big names like Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson to win the Classic last season and will try his hand at defending this week. The online betting sites have him as a 25 to 1 shot to go back-to-back but he will have to take on the likes of Rickie Fowler (8 to 1) and Adam Scott (12 to 1) in his bid to repeat. Brooks Koepka was a runner-up here last season and looks to be a good bet to contend again. The books have him alongside Scott at 12 to 1 odds to win. Lefty is at 16 to 1 and could be a sneaky bet after a T2 last season. There have been only four international champs in the history of this event but a very strong Euro contingent is in Memphis this week so that total may increase come Sunday afternoon.

TPC Southwind has hosted the St. Jude Classic since 1989 and has gained the reputation of being a tough but fair course. The 7,240 yard, par-70 layout routinely ranks just outside the top-10 in difficulty each season, making it one of the more difficult non-Major layouts in the rotation. The course was lengthened in 2005 but not much has changed here otherwise, mostly because the layout has managed to consistently challenge players despite the advances in technology. Water is in play on roughly half of the holes and the course features north of 90 bunkers with most placed to gobble up even slightly errant shots. The par-3, 14th stretches to nearly 240 yards from the tips, making it the longest par-3 among the regular rotation courses. The greens are turfed with Bermuda so experience and level of comfort come into play. Either you have it or you donít.

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Francesco Molinari (18 to 1 odds to win)

Molinari has been one of the more consistent players on both Tours this season with just one missed cut in thirteen starts against ten top-25 finishes. That missed cut came all the way back in February and Franky has been doing some of his best work against tough fields with a T2 at the BMW last week and a T6 at the PLAYERS. He is 2nd on Tour in fairways hit and 35th in GIR% so he is getting a lot of good looks at the moment. He is a good enough putter to cash those looks in more often than not and he enters the week 10th in birdie average and 7th in scoring. He is one of the most underrated iron players on either Tour and is just lacking that little edge to put him over the top for a win or two. He has moved to 16th in world rankings so a win this week would not be an upset.

Graeme McDowell (55 to 1)

McDowell has been quiet when it comes to contending this season but he has been playing well with just two missed cuts in twelve starts. He didnít even show poorly in those missed cuts either, carding two-under par totals in both events to miss the weekend. Graeme remains a solid ball striker with the 7th best fairways hit rate and a good iron game as well. He really shines on the greens however, entering the week 5th in overall putting average, 22nd in GIR putting and 2nd in one-putt percentage. He is good around the greens as well and that will play huge this week as no one is going to be successful without those key par saves. I think Graeme needs a good course fit to contend these days but TPC Southwind should play into his strengths and give him a boost.

Stewart Cink (66 to 1)

I pulled Stewís name out of the blast from the past hat because all eight of his top-25 finishes have come in his last ten starts. Others have certainly had better finishes over that time period but Cink has found a consistent foundation and I think he is ready to build on that in an event like this. He has an experience edge over much of this field but can still bang it out there close to 300 yards on average. Cink is 12th in greens hit this season and is good enough overall to net the 14th best scoring average so far. He isnít a top-notch putter but he does have a top-40 approach proximity so his average first putt is a bit closer than most and that helps him to a top-35 birdie average and the 4th most birdies overall. I think he can score with just about anyone still but he will need to keep the mistakes to a minimum on a tough course.

Head-to-Head Matches

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Brooks Koepka v. Rickie Fowler (pick to win: Koepka)

Rickie is the head and shoulders favorite to win this week and because of that, he is listed as a big favorite in any head-to-head. Almost all of the metrics are going to point Fowlerís way but the value is with Koepka here and I will make the case for him to win this based on his runner-up here last season and his two runner-up finishes in 2017. Brooks has been a bit hit or miss for sure but there are few that are better when he is on. He hasnít missed a cut since March so he is adding consistency to his season profile as of late and that helps. Koepka is a bookend player with massive drives and a great putting touch. He is average at best in most of the other stats but he is tough to beat when he is driving and putting at his best. I think he will build off his overall recent momentum and what appears to be a solid level of comfort at Southwind and really push Rickie here. If Brooks can pull the upset, it will mean a really nice +125 kind of payday.

Billy Horschel v. Kyle Stanley (pick to win: Stanley)

I was on the fence about picking Stanley to win the event outright so he is going to be a heavy bet for me in the head-to-heads. He has two top-10ís in his last three starts and is a top-5 tee-to-green player overall. Horschel is a tough guy to beat but he trail Stanley in the tee shot metrics which I think will be a major factor this week. Stanley should have an easier time by putting his very accurate driver to use and while both players hit about the same amount of greens, it is Stanley with the better birdie and scoring marks. Add-in a better scrambling stat and Kyle starts to look like he could lap Horschel on paper. Billy had a nice win at the Nelson a couple weeks back but has a T34 and a missed cut since so I donít think his trend is as good as the win suggests.

Good luck and good golf.

2017 Dean & Deluca Invitational Odds

  • Dustin Johnson +450
  • Jordan Spieth +1200
  • Sergio Garcia +1200
  • Brooks Koepka +1400
  • Jason Day +1600
  • Patrick Reed +2800
  • Louis Oosthuizen +3300
  • Tony Finau +3300
  • Jason Dufner +3500
  • Brandt Snedeker +4000
  • Bud Cauley +4000
  • Charley Hoffman +4000
  • Russell Henley +4000
  • Byeonghun AN +4500
  • Matt Kuchar +4500
  • Charl Schwartzel +5000
  • Ian Poulter +5000
  • J.B. Holmes +5000
  • Kevin Tway +5000
  • Marc Leishman +5000
  • Ollie Schniederjans +5000
  • Ryan Moore +5000
  • Ryan Palmer +5000
  • Smylie Kaufman +5000
  • Sung Kang +5500
  • Gary Woodland +7000
  • Graham Delaet +7000
  • Seung Yul Noh +7500
  • J J Spaun +8000
  • Hudson Swafford +10000
  • Keegan Bradley +10000
  • Nick Taylor +10000
  • Nick Watney +10000

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