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FedEx St. Jude Classic Preview

Monday, June 4, 2018


The Monday of the St. Jude Classic is always the "Longest Day in Golf" as hundreds of golfers are teeing it up in U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying, in hopes of earning a birth into the season's second major. That will change next year when TPC Southwind takes over the duties of hosting a WGC event but for now it's still true. 

To qualify through sectionals, golfers have to play 36 holes on Monday which is a big workload for pre-tournament prep. With that being said, many golfers who end up qualifying will swiftly withdraw from the St. Jude Classic to rest up for the U.S. Open. That means we need to keep our eye on the field changes this week. I will do my best to return and update any players to watch and/or rankings of anyone that withdraws. 

With a thin field to begin with and a chance for more field changes, this 156-man field can go pretty deep down the priority rankings. 

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The Course


TPC Southwind has hosted this event since 1989. Originally a par 71 that played right around 7,000 yards, it is now a par-70 layout that stretches out to 7,244 yards. 

The zoysia fairways provide the optimal routing to the hole but there is bermudagrass rough that is waiting to gobble up all errant tee shots. As we often see with bermuda rough, it's tough to gauge distance and spin out of the rough, and you never know if you're going to get a flyer or not. Once golfers reach the greens, they will see putting surfaces that are bermudagrass, as well. 

For club selection, there are at least five holes that play as "less-than-driver" off the tee with a few others that are dependant on setup and weather. A big part of that decision to club down is WATER. There is water in play on 11 holes here at TPC Southwind. It's heavily in play, too, as this course has gobbled up the most water balls on TOUR since 2003

Despite many holes setting up for irons and 3-woods, there is a big advantage to playing aggressively here. Nearly all of the holes yield a nice improvement in performance if you compare aggressive versus conservative tee shots. Looking at driving distance specifically, it's been a telling stat in 4 of the last 5 editions. The one exception came in 2014 when preferred lies were used all week. If we have a soggy course than the bermudarough here becomes nasty and straight knockers get a big edge. That doesn't look to be the case, though, with sunshine mostly in the forecast all week. 

From a scoring point-of-view, this course is annually in the bottom 10 on TOUR in terms of birdies and eagles recorded per round. It's also usually inside the top 10 for courses that yield the most doubles or worse per round. This course is no cakewalk. A nice warmup for golfers that are trying to train their brain that pars are their friend before taking on a USGA setup next week at Shinnecock Hills. 



Course Quotes

Sifting through some past quotes over at the Fantasy Golfanac, let's try to break down the courses to see how they will play...
 
Phil Mickelson: "So the heat here can be an issue as far as stamina and maintaining focus throughout the round, but the heat also has the ball go farther, loosens up your muscles, you swing a little bit more fluid, a little bit more speed, you compress the ball easier, it goes longer and the wind doesn’t affect it as much. You have a much higher density altitude. So you end up playing much easier, I think, when you have this type of heat and so I think most golfers prefer it."
 
Brooks Koepka: "You can’t make a double bogey out here. You’ve got wedges in your hand just about every hole, especially for how long I hit it. You’ve really got to take advantage of it, put it in the fairway. And we looked at some stats over the last two years and you’ve got to hit the greens out here, that’s the big thing. You don’t necessarily need to putt that great, but if you get in the bermuda rough and you’re chipping, that ball can come out any way. It could spin, it could come out jumpy, you don’t know what it’s going to do."
 
Ben Crane: "I love the fact that you really can’t play from the rough on this golf course, you’ve got to play from the fairway. But I try to played aggressively, get as far up in the fairway as you can. The Zoysia fairways just fit my eye. You get such great lies off the Zoysia, but the greens are just perfect. I love grain, I love these bermuda greens."

Retief Goosen: "I like this golf course. It’s a golf course you need to hit a lot of different kind of shots off the tee. It’s not a golf course that you can just blast away at it, not that I can anymore anyway. So actually a lot of holes now doglegs I don’t have to worry about running out so that’s good."

Davis Love III: "I enjoy this golf course. I’ve always enjoyed it. With the bermuda greens, Dustin and I were talking, it’s like we putt at home. We’re used to fast, firm, bermuda greens. Some guys don’t like putting on them. Again, this is a lot like Hilton Head or some of the courses we play that you have to think your way around the golf course and it’s a challenge."
 
Overview: Every week golfers like to say, "keep your ball in the fairway" but this is a course where it's the overwhelming quote that golfers lead with. That doesn't mean we should avoid bombers since they can club down and find the fairways just as well. It probably worth looking at scrambling and/or around-the-green play on course with bermuda rough. Based on the quotes, comfort on bermuda and in the heat is a big plus. 


Correlated Courses


Looking at overperformers and underperformers at TPC Southwind as well as other venues, here are some courses/events that might be strong pointers: 

Pebble Beach Pro-Am
Sea Island Resort
Golf Club of Houston
Harbour Town Golf Links
Waialae CC
TPC Summerlin


A common theme for these courses/events is that you can't just grip it and rip it. You need to think your way around these tracks. The exception to that might be the Golf Club of Houston but that course has gobbled up the third-most water balls since 2003 (TPC Southwind #1) so comfort on water-heavy courses is a big plus. 


The Weather


Thursday: Sunny with a high of 92 degrees. Calm winds. 

Friday: Mostly sunny with a high of 92 degrees. Calm winds. 

Weekend: Temperatures remain in the upper 80s and low 90s. A chance that the wind picks up into double-digit MPH. Also a small chance of storms but that sits at just 25% for both days currently. 

We dodged a weather bullet last week by only having one weather delay. This week looks much safer in terms of overall conditions. Golfers will have to deal with heat all week. Combine 36-hole sectionals with Memphis heat and some golfers may pack it in early if they struggle out of the gate. 


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Josh Culp joined Rotoworld in 2014. The DFS enthusiast from Iowa State can be found on Twitter @futureoffantasy.
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