2009 St. Jude Classic Preview and Pick

2009 St. Jude Classic
Thur. June 11 – Sun. June 14, 2009
TPC Southwind – Memphis, TN
The Golf Channel/CBS

by Matt of Predictem.com

While the final qualifiers are busyearning slotsfor next week’s U.S. Open, the PGA Tour moves to Memphis for the St. Jude Classic. The St. Jude serves as a good tune up for the Open as the host TPC Southwind is among the hardest courses in the Tour’s regular rotation. Tiger Woods will be home this week, but Phil Mickelson makes his return from personal leave. Justin Leonard will defend his 2008 title against a solid field that includes most of the top players from both the PGA and Euro Tours. The Golf Channel will air the first two days with CBS picking up the weekend rounds.

TPC Southwind will do it’s best to prepare the players for next week with a Major-like layout that ranked fourth in terms of difficulty in 2008 play. Leonard survived a playoff last year against Robert Allenby and Trevor Immelman with all players at 4-under after regulation. Southwind will play at par-70 and measure7,244 for the championship and should test every aspect of the eventual winner’s game. The TPC boasts 94 bunkers as the it’s main hazard, but water comes into play ten separate timesand thegreens will be around 12 on the Stimpmeter, pretty typical for Tour play.

Each week, we take a look at the golf sportsbooks and highlight some of the players expected to contend. We pick a short, middle and long odds player to win and breakdown a few head to head matches as well. Here are some golfers to watch at the St. Jude Classic with line info and odds courtesy of the board at Superbook, a site that accepts credit cards for deposits, even from Americans!

Phil Mickelson (10 to 1 for the win)
Phil is teeing it up for the first time since May 10th after taking time to be with his wife during her early cancer treatment. It is very good to see Lefty back, the Tour is certainly better with him in there. Mickelson has two wins on the year (N. Trust, WGC-CA) and five top-10’s in ten made cuts. The driver has been plenty long, ranking 22nd in distance, but very crooked, ranking 174th in fairways hit, so how Phil gets off the tee will be a huge key this week. Mickelson makes a lot of birdies (4.1 per 18) with a 23rd ranked putter and saves pars with one of the best overall short games on Tour. Rust, emotion and the year’s second Major looming are enough to keep us from picking Phil in our short slot, but he should be a factor if he can get through the first two days in good order.

David Toms (10 to 1)
Toms has one of the best recent track records at Southwind, winning the event in 2003 and 2004 with a runner-up in 2005. David had a few leaner years since, but is back strong in 2009 with five top-10’s in ten made cuts, including a 2nd at the Sony Open. Toms is leading the Tour in fairways hit and ranks 10th in total driving. A 30th best GIR% and an 18th best putting average produces the 4th best scoring average (69.68).

Tim Clark (10 to 1)
Clark is one of the most consistent players on Tour, making the cut in 11 of 12 starts and finishing in the top-25 in eight. Tim also has four top-10’s witha very balanced game that includes the 21st best GIR% and 4th best fairways hit percentage. Clark ranks 6th in putting average and is inside the top-20 in par 3, par 4, and par 5 performance.

Justin Leonard (15 to 1)
Leonard has two St. Jude’s wins (’05,’08) and has been performing well in the last three weeks with finishes of 16th, 13th and 5th. Justin finds fairways often, ranking 17th and comes in at 31st in overall driving. A solid approach game and the 8th best putting average has Leonard 14th in birdies per round. Leonard is also good at limiting damage, ranking inside the top-20 in both scrambling and bounce back.

Camilo Villegas (20 to 1)
Camilo may not have reached his end of the year form yet, but has a consistent seven top-25’s in ten starts. Villegas is strong of the tee, ranking 35th in distance and 21st in overall driving. Greens hit is also a strong suit with Camilo at 5th in GIR% to help him come in at 6th in ballstriking. Villegas still averages over four birdies per round despite ranking 140th in putts per round.

Robert Allenby (30 to 1)
Allenby was a playoff runner up in 2008 and has cashed checks in nine of ten starts this year. Robert is 5th in total driving and 28th in greens hit to sneak inside the top-10 in overall ballstriking. Allenby does need to sink more putts to break through, he ranks 173rd in putting average. He seems to be always lurking around the front page when the courses get tough.

Our Picks:

Short: Tim Clark (10 to 1)
Clark always seems to be right there, but has failed to cash in a win. He ranks 2nd in the all around and won’t get caught up looking ahead to next week.

Middle: Camilo Villegas (20 to 1)
It will be all about the putter for Camilo. The tee to green game is among the best on Tour and a good week with the putter is all he needs to break through.

Longshot: Robert Allenby (30 to 1)
Allenby also needs a good week with the putter to get back in the winner’s circle but should be there on Sunday even with a bunch of pars through the early going.

Head to Head Matches (our pick)
*all matches are for entire event…check with your favorite sportsbook for single round matches, updated daily.

Stephen Ames (-125) v. Brian Gay (-105) (Gay)
You have to like accuracy on tough courses and Gay comes in at 3rd in fairways hit. Ames is slightly ahead in birdie average and ballstriking, but Gay ranks 10th in scoring average with Ames back at 50th.

Justin Leonard (+105) v. Phil Mickelson (-135) (Leonard)
If you follow our picks, you know we like the value on big underdogs. Leonard is plenty capable to take down an erratic Mickelson on a shotmaker’s course simply by limiting the big numbers. Mickelson might put some magic together in his comeback, but he might be eyeing the U.S. Open a little to much as well.

Good Luck!