Fed Ex St. Jude Classic at TPC Southwind (Top 15)
By James Dalthorp III
BEAST DOME NATION.
We’re back in action! Congrats to Michael Thompson last week on the win – and make sure to get a solid recap of the 3M Championship if you missed it with the BEAST call by Muntradamus. There was a lot of solid action last week and over the 2 straight weeks at Memorial that leads us into the final stretch of July on Tour – and it’s just cool that we’ve had this much golf to date this year. Like most sports, the drama has risen to a bit of a climax now.
The headline in my opinion is Jon Rahm coming to this event after his win at Jack’s event in dominant fashion despite a late, camera induced penalty when his ball moved. We see a lot of things happen as fans on TV that sometimes may not get seen. It really makes you wonder what little things are taken for granted or players get away with. I know for one, because I’ve been on both ends of the suspicion and taken penalties and probably deserved one. With no fans and the only cameras on the winners, there’s a lot to like as fans that we can enjoy watching golf in a form of solitude as we have. I really don’t think it’s impacted the reaction we have – and Rahm’s win has set the bar. The memorial and the 3M last week were solid Segways into this week.
TPC Southwind is one of the most infamous, respected, and traditional yet cool modern courses in the schedule. Cut in muggy Memphis, there’s a bit of a calming effect that this music-oriented city brings to this event – and the course itself is a real treat. It’s not a menace of a track – but there’s plenty of water and the greens are a bit smaller than your average. With that in mind, I love courses like this because iron play and ball striking are super important. A player like Jordan Spieth will really have to be on top of his game to compete when the premium is on ball striking. Since Harbour Town was oversewed and played a bit easier a few weeks back, a comparison could be made. The difference is that there are not as many trees here – which makes depth perception a little tricky but makes driving the ball a little less important.
Another feature of this course to consider is that the ball tends to sit up very high in the grass – even in the fairway because of the type of zoisa grass. That makes it easier to put a lot of spin on the ball. Players who hit fairways will have even more of an advantage but they also will need to take advantage of their driving ten fold.
#1 Jon Rahm –
It hasn’t been a real smooth transition for Rahm over the past 2 years. He won last year in Europe in a big way by capturing a title that earned him the top spot in their order of merit. After his win at the Memorial 2 weeks ago, I think all the struggles of his past few years have truly come to pass. This is a guy capable of a serious run of golf including majors and he really has not tapped into that yet. I may be partial as a ASU alum, but Rahm’s offensive – no defense approach to the game pays off on challenging courses when he’s in form. He is clearly in great form.
#2 Nick Taylor –
A winner earlier this year at Pebble Beach, we tend to forgot how solid this Canadian is. He’s coming off a missed cut – but also made the cut and played decent the week before at the Workday. I really like the fact that he took a very long layoff even after the layoff. He’s extremely fresh – and if you consider how many birdies he has made this year on great, second shot courses that I have respect for, you’ve got a recipe for a good week.
#3 Scottie Scheffler –
We started to forgot about Scottie. Other young guns have really outshined him this year. He got off to a somewhat rocky start post-Corona. The guy was a surfire shot at rookie of the year at the later end of ’19. He contended and played in a couple final groups. Coming off a T22 in his last finish at the Memorial, I think his confidence will be much higher than it’s been on a course that will give him a lot to like. With this course sometimes getting wild wind gusts, I like a Texan in the top five.
#4 Henrik Stenson –
Playing into my theory this week that the guys who haven’t been playing a lot lately are still in decent game shape, this is a Henrik Stenson golf course and I’m going to be shocked if he doesn’t have a good week. I think this golf course is a really strong fit. He finished T26 here in 2018 and skipped last year. The man plays a beefy, top player in the world type of schedule. He won in one of his last 5 starts at the Hero in Florida late last year – and I would argue these are the last of his prime years at age 44.
#5 Christiaan Bezuidenhout –
Solid player here that’s been consistently hovering around the podium without a breakthrough week. Judging by his stats, he’s going to have a good time at a course like this. He hasn’t had much TV time so we haven’t seen his game too much, but it’s obvious that he’s taking his game from the international tours to the PGA tour like a champ. He has been a machine in terms of consistency which tells me he’ll be a safe pick.
#6. Brendon Todd –
Somehow the man had to try and Monday qualify for the 2019 3M. What a difference a year makes. The dude is just on fire in terms of his tee to green play – and what really impresses me the most is he seems to have the same length putts for birdie every time he hits a green. He leaves himself great looks all day long. That tells me he’s in great control of his ball flight and trajectory and lines. Its a good look on this track.
#7 Corey Conners –
Young up and comer due for a big finish. The Canadian has been very consistent and this is a good tee to green course for him on its face. He can get streaky here.
#8 Webb Simpson –
My biggest issue with Webb here is that he like to fade the driver and draw the irons. I think this course suits up better for drawing the driver and fading the irons. However, Webb’s game is pretty incredible this year. I think he’s a 50/50 bet this week. I think if he gets his lines off the tee okay, he can still be a winner on Sunday. I just have to imagine he’ll be working hard tee to green. I think this course will be a good one for him on the greens, so it’s hard to count him out of the top 10.
#9 Viktor Hovland –
Hasn’t been too solid the last couple starts but we won’t hold that against him. If he is having problems, it’s easy to know why. He’s either a ball striking machine or he’s not. And when he’s not, he’s admitted that his chipping isn’t exactly magic. So we’re going to bet he plays great after dealing with the absolute bear of a test at Jack’s place.
#10 Kevin Streelman –
Been a steady player and a solid contender on the weekend lately. Good course for his style of play. Type of player that gets real streaky and only seems to capitalize on courses that allow him to dial in the iron play. At the end of the day, he’ll need to putt a little better than he has. But since he’s been chipping and pitching really well, I think he’s a lock for a steady start. Tends to be a sneaky closer. Good to have in your back pocket Sunday.
#11 Collin Morikawa –
Great iron player on a course where his strategy will be rewarded. He tends to miss right – which is the safe miss out here off the tee. Been one of the most solid players on Tour this year and with 2 early wins in his career, he’s probably going to be a favorite very often in smaller events like this until a year or so from now.
#12 Andrew Landry –
Landry missed 5 cuts in a row before his win in Palm Springs earlier this year – and it was a hell of a victory. I know this guys game and he’s an incredible wedge player with a great mentality. I think this course really suits the same types of courses he’s had success on – the TPC San Antonio and the Dye/Nicklaus courses at PGA West. He’s also a Southern guy. Grass will be familiar.
#13 Michael Thompson –
Coming off a win, confidence is high. This is the type of course I like his chances on. Game suits a course that has more teeth and this should be a place that eliminates the players who aren’t sharp with the long game. Thompson should be steady here through the week and he’s been great in recent play.
#14 Abraham Ancer –
Due for a win and this could be the one. This type of grass and this type of event is a perfect venue for a break through. He might not even need his A game to win. He just needs to make some putts.
#15 Rickie Fowler –
I dont want to count Rickie out here. This course reminds me of the Zurich course in Louisiana – and Rickie is dynamite tee to green out there. I think this is a great course for him if he’s on – he’s just been hit or miss.
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