After a great week for us getting wins on both the PGA and European Tours, it’s time to turn our attention to the annual FedEx St Jude Classic, held in Memphis, Tennessee. The 7,250 yard par 70 TPC Southwind is one of the most highly rated TPC tracks in the USA and one that is a great build up to Merion in 2 weeks time. Last year the course ranked 23rdin the Golf World magazine’s Exclusive PGA Tour Course Rankings list, showing just what a test it is. Similar in many ways to the Muirfield last week, reliance will be heavily on accuracy and keeping the ball in play. Matt Kuchar would certainly be a perfect fit again this week, but the Memorial champ has already made his way to Merion.
Surprisingly Dustin Johnson won this thing last year on a course you may not think would suit him, but he ranked 4th in GIR for the week which ultimately won him the title. Matt Kuchar ranked 1st in GIR last week and Boo Weekley ranked 5th in GIR the week before, safe to say GIR will be vital this week too! But Southwind is also known for its many lakes and ponds with water being in play on a lot of holes this week. So driving accuracy will be very crucial, as well as your usual scrambling and sand saves statistics.
Now of course we all have one eye on Merion and the golfers out there will be no different. The likes of Mickelson, Snedeker, Hanson and Poulter will be fine tuning their games in preparation for a tough 4 days at the US Open. So do not be surprised if someone at high odds wins this thing!
If you can’t wait for Merion here is our US Open Preview 2 for you to have a quick look through.
Ryan Palmer (28/1 Various)
Ryan definitely deserves the tag of being one of the bigger names in the field this week. With perhaps everyone above him in the betting focusing purely on Merion, it could provide the very in-form Palmer with a chance to grab this week’s title with both hands. It has been a nearly-year for Palmer with three top 6’s already to his name, one of which was a very respectable 5th place at the Players 3 weeks ago. The opening round of his last 3 tournaments have read 67, 65 and last week 62. So Ryan is contending right from the off every week and just needs that bit of luck to kick on. Importantly, Palmer finished 3rd here last year and was in a similar vein of form, with May and June being very good months for the American. Palmer only ranked 47th last year in GIR and still managed 3rd so with a better percentage this week, the title could well be his. This year on the tour Ryan ranks 28th in GIR, 45th strokes gained putting, 8th scoring average, 35th total putting and 25th in ball striking. His driving accuracy is not what it should be, but we can’t forget Matt Kuchar was 149th in driving accuracy going into last week! Expect Palmer to once again challenge.
Scott Stallings (40/1 Stan James)
Stallings seems to really love this time of year. His only 2 wins on the PGA Tour have come in July 2011, and July 2012. The tournaments being played a bit closer to his hometown certainly plays a big part. Stallings resides in Knoxville, Tennesse which is about 5/6 hours down the road from TPC Southwind, certainly close enough for Scott to feel right at home. But his last 2 performances have come from nowhere, two consecutive 4th place finishes is some going and we see no reason why it should not continue. Coming onto a track where he recorded a 25th two years ago, the American ranked 29th last week and 7th the week before in GIR. That will do just fine coming into this week. Stallings has also recorded final rounds of 66 and 67 in those finishes, so watch out for him on the last day! And if you are one for superstition, both of Stalling’s victories have been at an event with Classic in the title, the Greenbrier Classic in 2011 and the True South Classic last year. Can he make it a hat-trick at the St Jude Classic?
John Merrick (80/1 Stan James)
John statistically ticks a lot of boxes for us this week. He is 30th in GIR on the PGA Tour, ranked 12th in GIR and 27th in driving accuracy here last year and was nicely 22nd in GIR 2 weeks ago. It does seem like the GIR are all culminating for this week. Another great statistic on John is that he has broken 70 7 out of his last 8 rounds in this course. It seems TPC Southwind brings the best out of the American. He will be wanting to avenge last year after Johnson overhauled him on the final day pushing Merrick down into 2nd place. But after bagging a win already this year at the Northern Trust, nerves will not be a problem and he will want to join the elite of Woods and Kuchar in winning multiple titles on tour this year. And 80/1 for a winner on tour cannot be overlooked, great chance of at least a place this week.
Quick side note, you guys who have watched your documentaries will know all about “The Elephant Man”. Well he often goes by the name of John Merrick as well. Check him out on Google, it has absolutely nothing to do with golf, but it’s a great read! Anyway…
Jeff Maggert (200/1 Various)
If Jeff were 10 years younger he would without doubt be our number 1 pick this week. But when one of your picks is a few months away from being eligible for the senior tour, you do have to question can he actually win this?! But quite honestly, his statistics are just too good to ignore this week. Jeff before we start has already won this in 2006, but it was his last victory on the tour! So he definitely has a soft spot for this course. But if it is accuracy off the tee and GIR you want, Jeff is your man. He ranks 6th in driving accuracy, 18th in GIR, 35th in par 3 performance – perfect for the tough par 3’s out there, 4th in approaches below 200yards, 1st GIR 150-175yards, 8th GIR 50-125 yards, 4th approaches below 275yards. Combine this with 3rd in proximity to hole, 1st in fairway proximity and 40th in ball striking, we have quite a prospect for this week! And he did record a 2nd place 4 weeks ago, so don’t think he can’t still mix it with the best of them. Last year he came a very respectable 25th and importantly ranked 11th in driving accuracy and 26th in GIR. At 200/1 you really will be getting value for money from the veteran 49 year old.
Once again we will just bring your attention someone who has sneaked onto our radar. This week it is in the shape of Columbian talent Camilo Villegas (80/1 Stan James). We feel his up and down form of late means he doesn’t warrant an outright selection, but if he plays how we know he can, he could very well win this. Camilo is regarded as one of the better ball strikers in the game and finishes of 3rd and 8th in 2011 and 2010 respectively around Southwind shows it does take his fancy. He has recorded a 9th a few weeks back and hasn’t missed a cut for over a month. A real possibility.