FedEx St. Jude Classic Predictions
When: June 07 – 10, 2018
Where: TPC Southwind – Memphis, TN
TV: The Golf Channel/CBS
By Evergreen, Golf Betting Handicapper, Predictem.com
The PGA Tour is in Memphis this week and while many might want to skip ahead to the U.S. Open, the FedEx St. Jude Classic is not an event that should be overlooked. Players that tee it up at TPC Southwind this week will be well versed in tough playing conditions by the time they hit Shinnecock and anyone not focused on the challenges here will likely be missing the weekend. Daniel Berger is looking to make it three St. Jude wins in a row after victories in 2016 and 2017 but he will face a strong field. Dustin Johnson leads the betting favorites with Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson also expected to contend. A win here is certainly the goal for all but gaining momentum as we head into the second Major of the year is also high on the list.
TPC Southwind is routinely among the top-10 courses on Tour in terms of difficulty. Winning scores at the 7,244 yard, par-70 course have been in the modest 10-to-13 under par range and the main challenge for players will be hitting precise approaches into small greens. Justin Leonard has won twice at this event, suggesting that accuracy is more important than power but Dustin Johnson has also won at Southwind so no one particular style is favored. The bermuda roughs will be grown out to nearly three inches and that turf is thick after plenty of rain and sun. The greens here are also kept fast to help players approximate what they will see at the U.S. Open but the diminutive size of the greens means that any GIR putt is likely one that can be made. The course has been lengthened by about 200 yards over the years but still remains rather short by modern standards. The 239 yard, 14th hole is a monster par-3 and that hole often ranks as one of the toughest par-3’s on Tour.
Each week, we take a look at the online betting sites and highlight the best values on the board. We make some picks to win and breakdown a couple of head-to-head matches that can be found at just about any golf betting outlet. Here are our picks to win the 2018 FedEx St. Jude Classic.
Tony Finau (25 to 1 odds to win)
Finau has been a warrior on Tour with 17 starts under his belt and has made good on most weeks with just two missed cuts. He has two runner-up finishes, including at the Genesis which stands as a good ball striking analog to Southwind. Finau is 2nd on Tour in driving distance and he uses that length to set up very short approaches. That power should allow Tony to hit greens from the roughs as he does most everywhere to great success. He enters the week 35th in birdie average and 15th in scoring. His putter is rather pedestrian so any uptick in performance on the greens will have him chasing down the leaders. He is a decent scrambler and rounds out his stat sheet as the 20th ranked player in terms of total strokes gained on the field. His T10 at the Masters suggests he is ready to take on a tough field and still win. This field is a bit weaker than a Major so this could be a time to shine.
Luke List (33 to 1)
List is an underrated bomber that comes in 3rd in overall driving distance. He uses that prodigious distance to set up easy approaches and makes enough birdies to be in the top-25 in scoring average. He has five top-10s on the season, including a runner-up and third place finish and those numbers would be even higher if he could get his putter to Tour standards. He is not a bad putter but he two-putts a little more often than you’d like and can get on prolonged runs of pars even when he is setting up good birdie looks. Southwind won’t punish pars and a small improvement on these greens should have him netting a better birdie rate than average. He did tie for 18th here last season so there is some modest success to build on. Entering the week, he ranks in the top-5 in both off-the-tee and tee-to-green metrics so he certainly checks the ball striking squares that are predictors at this event.
Steve Stricker (40 to 1)
There are probably only a handful of courses where a Champions Tour player would be a factor and Southwind is one of them. Stricker is one of the most accurate on the Senior Tour and even his regular Tour numbers would be top-20 in both fairways and greens. His putter has been a little off his career average in seven Tour starts but he still manages a top-25 scoring average and maintains a solid scrambling game. He was T2 here in 2016 and hasn’t finished above par in any Tour event this season. Stricker is in the U.S. Open field so he is looking to peak heading into next week so the old guy will be a factor if he can put it all together.
Picks to win based on predicted score for all four rounds. Check with Bovada Sportsbook for single round matches and a variety of prop bets.
Dustin Johnson v. Brooks Koepka (pick to win: Koepka)
Picking against Johnson seems foolish as he has not finished outside the top-17 in any stroke play event this year and is a champion of this event. I’m taking a chance on Koepka as he seems to be making up for that time lost to injury and he won this head-to-head in each of the last two occasions where these two shared the field, including last week when Brooks was the runner up at Jack’s place. Koepka has an impressive record at Southwind with 2nd and 3rd place finishes in 2015-16 and his numbers compare favorably with Johnson’s. Both are attacking players and even though DJ currently leads the Tour in tee-to-green metrics, Koepka only trails Johnson’s birdie rate by less than half a stroke per round. Given that Brooks played his early schedule injured, you’d expect a larger gap in some stats which indicates both have been essentially neck and neck over the last month or so. Both should do well this week but it seems like this is one of the few times where you can advocate putting your money on a Johnson opponent.
Phil Mickelson v. Henrik Stenson (pick to win: Stenson)
Mickelson had everyone believing again after his win in Mexico but he hasn’t been able to parlay that win into further success. Lefty lost this head to head at the Masters and the Players and only managed to push Stenson at the Memorial with a final round 64. Stenson leads the Tour in fairways and greens and accuracy is not Mickelson’s strong suit at the moment with ranks well outside the top-100 in fairways and greens hit. Phil is still a magician with the putter and the recovery shots but he is a missed cut waiting to happen if those tricks fail. Stenson is significantly steadier and scores in the top-5 without all the drama. Henrik’s experience level and demeanor makes him a tough out for anyone, especially someone as mercurial as Phil. I can see Mickelson’s motivation to peak allowing him a couple good rounds but Southwind is going to demand a better brand of golf than what he has been playing overall. This is a course that Stenson can still play well at with his average game while Mickelson needs to be special.
Good luck and good golf!