This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
FEDEX ST. JUDE CLASSIC
Winner's Share: $1.188M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: Memphis, Tenn.
Course: TPC Southwind
2017 champion: Daniel Berger
As we say every year for this tournament, there have been numerous changes since the field was first announced on Friday, following U.S. Open qualifying on Monday. Check and recheck your lineups several times before Thursday.
This is the final tune-up for the U.S. Open next week at Shinnecock Hills on Long Island, and the vast majority of the top golfers are taking the week off. Right now, a meager seven of the top 50 in the OWGR are on hand. We're bound to see heavy backing of Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson, with Tony Finau and two-time defending champion Daniel Berger not far behind. So the key to success may be finding the hidden gems way down in this max field of 156.
TPC Southwind is a long course for a par-70 track. There are only two par-5s. It features eight par-4s of more than 450 yards and the greens average a smallish 5,400 square feet. That makes finding the putting surface a real challenge, something we'll be focusing on in the Champion's Profile below. The most noteworthy characteristic of Southwind, though, is water. It's on more than half the holes and there have been far more water balls at this track over the past 15 years than at any other on the PGA Tour, including TPC Sawgrass. Nowhere is there more danger than No. 18, a 453-yard dog leg with water almost the entire way.
This course was the 15th hardest track on the PGA Tour last year, and historically falls between 10th and 15th. With such a weak field – maybe 40 or 50 guys wouldn't be in a top-flight event – it's reasonable to wonder whether the course is that hard, or the golfers collectively just aren't all that good. We should get an answer next year, because this tournament is about to undergo a big-time upgrade. Beginning next year, the city of Memphis, which has played host to this golf tournament for more than 60 years, gets an incredible gift from the PGA Tour, as the tourney will become a World Golf Championship event, one of the jewels on the calendar. It will replace Firestone (WGC-Bridgestone) as the final WGC of the season, and if you thought Memphis was hot in early June, wait until you see Memphis in August.
Weather-wise for this week, temperatures will be in the 90s all four days. The forecast shows little chance of rain and minimal wind.
Key Stats to Winning at TPC Southwind (in order of importance)
Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Greens in regulation/proximity to the hole/strokes gained: approach
• Scrambling/strokes gained: around the green
• Putting average/strokes gained: putting
• Par 4 efficiency 450-500 yards
2017 - Daniel Berger
2016 - Daniel Berger
2015 - Fabian Gomez
2014 - Ben Crane
2013 - Harris English
2012 - Dustin Johnson
2011 - Harrison Frazar
2010 - Lee Westwood
2009 - Brian Gay
2008 - Justin Leonard
The winning score every year since 2010 has fallen between 9-under- and 13-under-par. That's pretty consistent. There aren't that many birdies, and the course plays hard. It's really tough to get on the green, which heightens scrambling and putting when determining lineup construction. We're looking at guys who are accurate with their irons and deft around the greens. We don't need any big-time risk-takers this week, what with all the water around. Driving accuracy has long proven to be unimportant, as no winner this decade has finished top-10 in the field in fairways hit, and most haven't even been in the top-30. All but one – Crane – has been top-10 in greens in regulation. Five of those winners have been top-8 in proximity to the hole, All but Berger have been top-20 in scrambling. And all but Johnson have been among the top-25 in putting average for the week.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
Tier 1 Values
Dustin Johnson - $11,700 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 6-1)
Johnson actually seems like a bargain at this price. We occasionally see the top guy on the DraftKings board exceed $12,000, and this is a week we'd expect it with such a weak field. Johnson won here in 2012 and has finished top-10 three of the four years he's played four rounds (he WD in 2015). If you need a stat, Johnson is ranked first on Tour in par-4 450-500.
Brooks Koepka - $11,100 (10-1)
Koepka was runner-up here two years ago, third the year before. He's coming off a runner-up at Fort Worth, the latest indicator that his months-long wrist injury is fully healed. Koepka hasn't played enough rounds to qualify for the stats leaders, but he's hitting 70 percent of greens in regulation.
Phil Mickelson - $10,600 (12-1)
We have no idea why Mickelson does well here year after year after year. He's so prone to wayward drives that we instinctively duck while typing this. But he's finished 9-2-3-11-2 the past five years at Southwind. Last year, he played the tournament even though he was skipping the U.S. Open for his daughter's graduation. It wasn't a tune-up. He just really likes the course.
Henrik Stenson - $10,400 (12-1)
It was between Stenson and Daniel Berger for this fourth spot in Tier 1. It's hard to bypass a two-time defending champion, but Berger is really having an off season. He has six top-25s in 14 starts but zero top-10s, and that won't cut it for a $10,000 price tag. Instead, we turn to Stenson, who hasn't played here since 2012, when he finished T13. His laser-like tee-to-green game is perfect for TPC Southwind. Stenson is first on Tour in greens in regulation, second behind Johnson in par-4: 450-500 scoring and sixth in scrambling. Even his putting his quite good this season, as he checks in 33rd.
Tier 2 Values
Billy Horschel - $9,700 (25-1)
There's something about Horschel that rubs us the wrong way. We all have guys like that. But it's hard to look way from four consecutive top-10s in this event, including the best one of all, a tie for fourth, last year. Further, Horschel's game had been sharp before a trunk-slam last week at the Memorial, even if you want to exclude his win at the two-man Zurich Classic. Horschel's accuracy isn't quite as sharp as in years past – he's 54th in greens in regulation – but he remains strong on the greens, ranked 27th in strokes gained: putting.
Joaquin Niemann - $8,900 (30-1)
This a whopper of a price for someone who has played all of five tournaments as a professional. On the other hand, it could be about right for someone who finished top-10 in three of those five events. The 19-year-old former No. 1 amateur continues to soar, and he was on the first page of the leaderboard all weekend at the Memorial. That was a loaded field, and this week's is not.
Charles Howell III - $8,600 (40-1)
Howell has made the cut in 13 of his 14 starts in 2018 and has eight top-25s. We know he won't win – he never does – but he's very reliable. Howell came close to winning here in 2013, when he tied for third. Since then, he has had three more top-30s. Howell is ranked 18th in both scrambling and par-4 450-500, 22nd in greens in regulation and 32nd in strokes gained: total.
Peter Uihlein - $8,500 (30-1)
Uihlein cost $1,300 less here last year. That's how much his game has grown, and he's really taken off the past three tournaments after a very slow start to the season. Uihlein was fifth last week at the Memorial, following a T21 at the Byron Nelson and a T5 at the Wells Fargo. He's up to a career-best 48th in the OWGR, and this price seems quite the bargain. Uihlein is ranked 41st in par-4: 450-500.
Tier 3 Values
Kevin Chappell - $7,800 (50-1)
A golfer ranked near the top 50 in the world who tied for fourth here last year is under $8,000. That goes to show you the state of Chappell's game right now. He has missed 4-of-5 cuts and hasn't had a top-25 in almost three months. But this price is just so enticing we have to take a bite. Chappell is third behind DJ and Stenson in par-4 450-500, 11th in strokes gained: off the tee and 32nd in SG approach. That sure sounds like someone who should play well at TPC Southwind.
Andrew Putnam - $7,700 (100-1)
A lot of players jumped in price this week, but Putnam didn't move too much and is still a bit of a bargain. He has made the cut in six straight stroke-play events, including a T20 two weeks ago at Colonial. Putnam is ranked 15th on Tour in greens in regulation, all the more remarkable considering he's 151st in strokes gained: off the tee. Putnam missed the cut three years ago in his only prior trip to Southwind.
Ben Crane - $7,400 (80-1)
Crane is now on the wrong side of 40, but he's still playing at a high level. He has made seven straight cuts, including a tie for eighth at Colonial his last time out. Crane was the 2014 champion here, and he was T10 last year. He's ranked 14th in scrambling and 29th in strokes gained: putting. Despite losing a lot of ground off the tee, Crane is 72nd in par-4 450-500, which for this field is among the leaders.
Austin Cook - $7,200 (80-1)
Cook has not enjoyed much success since winning the RSM Classic in November. He had made most of his cuts, but without high finishes. Now he's missed his past two cuts, including at the Memorial. But there's a connection between Cook and Southwind. He was a Monday qualifier back in 2014, just a year out of the University of Arkansas, and he tied for 13th in his PGA Tour debut. Not too shabby. The next year he received a sponsor invite and tied for 22nd. He hasn't been back since, but Cook is in the top 50 on Tour in both scrambling and strokes gained: putting.
Joel Dahmen - $7,100 (125-1)
The 30-year-old from Washington state debuted at Southwind last year with a tie for 18th. He's coming off top-25s in his past four starts, a surge that has moved him inside the top-125 in the point standings, and he hasn't missed a cut since February. Dahmen is ranked 28th in scrambling and 29th in par-4: 450-500.
Abraham Ancer - $6,900 (125-1)
Ancer was atop the leaderboard on Thursday at the Memorial before quickly fading to a tie for 57th. It was his seventh made cut in his past nine stroke-play starts dating back to February. Nothing in his stats really stands out, but Ancer did tie for 18th in his lone visit to Southwind two years ago.
Matt Jones - $6,900 (125-1)
Jones is an Australian who went to college in Arizona, so the searing heat this week should not be an issue. Perhaps that's contributed to Jones finishing T18-T26-T3 the past three years at Southwind. He's among the top-50 in strokes gained: off the tee, greens in regulation and strokes gained: around the green. Jones tied for 13th in his last start at the Byron Nelson.
Brice Garnett - $6,700 (150-1)
Garnett has not come close to a high finish since he won the opposite-field event in the Dominican Republic in March. But if you're looking for someone with a good chance to play the weekend, Garnett may be your man. He has made the cut in 6-of-7 stroke-play events since his win, including at THE PLAYERS and last week at the Memorial. Garnett is a serviceable 61st in strokes gained: off the tee, plus 53rd in proximity.