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It was great to finally get a win on the board at the Memorial Tournament last week with Bryson DeChambeau claiming the title for us at 50/1. After a couple of consecutive each-way returns with Grace and Rahm, it was a much needed win and if you throw in Paul Williams’ 33/1 scoop on Adrian Otaegui in Belgium, it’s a couple of wins over the past 3 weeks for Golf Betting System.
The week before the U.S. Open is always an interesting scenario on the PGA Tour. The FedEx St Jude Classic is the traditional warm-up for the U.S. Open and tends to be either all or nothing for the few elite players who bother to attend. World top-20 players in the form of Dustin Johnson (20/1) and Lee Westwood (12/1) have won this tournament in recent years, but so have Tour maidens Daniel Berger (33/1), Fabian Gomez (400/1), Harris English (66/1) and Harrison Frazar (275/1). 2017 saw Berger return to defend his title, which he did in style capturing a second consecutive title in Memphis at 28/1. He could make some history this week as he goes for the 3-peat. This week the field includes Dustin Johnson (OWGR No.2), Brooks Koepka (No.9), Henrik Stenson (No.15) and Phil Mickelson (No.20) – all in all though, it’s traditionally one of the weaker tournaments on the PGA Tour schedule, as many players take the opportunity to scout Shinnecock Hills the week before the U.S. Open. Clearly that presents a big opportunity for whose game fits TPC Southwind.
Course Guide: TPC Southwind is a tough, technical track which has been the hardest non-Major par 70 on the PGA Tour in 2 of the past 6 years. But it’s not only the course that’s difficult as sweltering temperatures in Memphis, allied to high humidity, traditionally turns this tournament into a real grind. Bermuda rough at 2.5″ doesn’t help the scoring and Southwind also features 8 par-4s of over 450 yards, plus of course only 2 par-5s to take advantage of. Green complexes aren’t huge and feature grainy Champion Bermudagrass which isn’t to every player’s taste. You can also say the same about the Zoysiagrass fairways which many say promote flyers.
TPC Southwind, Germantown, Memphis, Tennessee: Designer Ron Pritchard 1987 with PGA Tour re-design 2004; Course Type: Technical; Par: 70; Length: 7,244 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 8; Fairways: Zoysiagrass; Rough: Bermudagrass 2.5″; Greens: 5,420 sq.ft average featuring Champion Bermudagrass; Tournament Stimp: 11ft; Course Scoring Average 2012: 71.24 (+1.24), Difficulty Rank 10 of 49 courses. 2013: 70.76 (+0.76), Difficulty Rank 14 of 43 courses. 2014: 70.72 (+0.72), Rank 12 of 48 courses. 2015: 70.93 (+0.93), Difficulty Rank 9 of 52 courses. 2016: 70.93 (+0.93), Rank 10 of 50 courses. 2017: 70.63 (+0.63), Rank 15 of 50 courses.
Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for TPC Southwind and how they compare to recent courses on Tour:
Course Overview: TPC Southwind is a real brute which in the past 5 seasons has ranked as the 10th, 14th, 12th, 9th, 10th and last year the 15th hardest course on the Tour. Hitting the tight, Zoysiagrass (a grass shared traditionally only with East Lake, home of the Tour Championship, but now also new Tour venue Trinity Forest has it) fairways is a huge challenge, but in essence a lack of driving accuracy is not a huge penalty here as the average winner’s rank for accuracy across the past 8 years is 33rd. Instead the key to unlocking Southwind is a mixture of patience, aggression on the right holes and mastering of the Champion Bermudagrass putting surfaces which aren’t for the faint hearted. Birdies come at a real premium; on the flip side both of the par-5s, namely the 3rd and the 16th, are eagle opportunities. It’s all about being aggressive at the right times as purely grinding pars is not enough. The par-3 11th was lengthened by 5 yards for 2016 to 162 yards, taking the overall course length to 7,244 yards. That makes TPC Southwind the longest full-field Par 70 of the regular PGA Tour season.
Inaccuracy off the tee is a problem that virtually all players have at TPC Southwind. The course ranked 11th toughest for fairways hit in 2017, and although that is not necessarily a problem for PGA Tour professionals, the course traditionally ranks in the top 20 toughest (13th last year) for rough proximity. So look for players who are excellent out of the rough and who can still get the ball relatively close when off the short stuff. TPC Southwind is also renowned for a tough set of par-4s – the standard Par 70 set-up includes 12 of them. The course ranked 11th toughest for par-4 Scoring Average in 2016, and 13th toughest in 2017, so again look for those comfortable scoring on par-4s.
Greens feature Champion Bermudagrass. These greens can be found across PGA Tour stop-offs at Quail Hollow (Wells Fargo Championship), Sedgefield Country Club (Wyndham Championship), Trinity Forest (2018 AT&T Byron Nelson), the Country Club of Jackson (Sandersons Farms Championship) and the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail (Barbasol Championship). The 2011 PGA Championship hosted at Atlanta Athletic Cub and won by Keegan Bradley also featured Champion Bermudagrass putting surfaces.
Winners: 2017: Daniel Berger (-10); 2016: Daniel Berger (-13); 2015: Fabian Gomez (-13); 2014: Ben Crane (-10); 2013: Harris English (-12); 2012: Dustin Johnson (-9); 2011: Harrison Frazar (-13); 2010: Lee Westwood (-10).
Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Ben Crane, Harris English, Brian Gay, Brooks Koepka, Henrik Stenson, Charles Howell III, Matt Jones and Chris Kirk.
Recent Player Skill Rankings:
These rankings are based on a 10-tournament window that stretches back to the Houston Open and includes both PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:
Winners & Prices: 2017: Berger 28/1; 2016: Berger 33/1; 2015: Gomez 400/1; 2014: Crane 175/1; 2013: English 66/1; 2012: Johnson 20/1; 2011: Frazar 275/1; 2010: Westwood 12/1. Average: 126/1. Past 4 Renewals Average: 159/1.
Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Germantown, Tennessee, is here. The FedEx St Jude Classic is always one of the hottest tournaments of the year and 2018 will be no exception. The course received 22mm of rain last week and April was particularly wet, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see tough rough, with ever-firming course conditions. With temperatures between 32 and 35 degrees Celsius across the tournament, expect watered greens – but a firm and fast test from tee-to green. Conditions wind-wise will provide little test, with Thursday and Friday ideal for scoring and the weekend seeing a breeze of up to 15 mph maximum. Threat of rain looks extremely limited.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the 8 winners of this event since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
Tournament Skill Averages:
Let’s take a view from players as to how TPC Southwind sets up and what skill sets the course favours:
Daniel Berger (2017): “This golf course is playing tougher than last year. You just have to hit it in the fairway, otherwise it’s difficult to get it close and as the week goes on, its going to get firmer and faster so it will be even tougher. As a group we made some birdies early, but the momentum fizzled out. That was mainly because we didn’t hit enough fairways on the back-9.” Daniel Berger (2016): “My speed control has been great. The greens feel like I’m just at home and, you know, I love the Bermuda and I don’t even read grain here. I just look at it and see it and it’s just from years and years of putting on it. It’s nice to kind of get two grind-out pars on last two holes. It’s the hardest course I’ve ever played in my life. It’s just extremely long and extremely penalizing. The greens are very slopey. You have 10-footers that break four, five feet. Speed control is going to be huge, and fairways.“
Fabian Gomez (2015): “I’m the kind of guy that usually, you know, my driver is straight. And in this course, you know, many, many holes you have to be really, you know, competitive with your driver. And also so many holes you need to play like a fade, you know, and I cannot play that for me, really tough to hit a fade and that’s the situation. Also, it’s a course that usually you have to play with the wind. And I’m the kind of player that I feel comfortable playing with the wind, you know.“
Greg Owen (2015): “Yeah, the fairways aren’t as firm as they normally are. They firmed up since the practice days because of the rain, but they’re not bouncing like they can do in previous years. The greens are perfect. I mean, they really are good. They’re rolling properly. They’re accepting good shots. It’s all about hitting fairways and greens. I hit most of them today, so it’s always well for a good score. It suits my eye pretty good.“
Ben Crane (2015): “I got in the rough a number of times. I’ll tell you what, this is no golf course to play from the rough. It makes it so difficult. You get a lot of fliers, hard to control the ball. Scrambling around these greens is just incredibly difficult with the rough around the greens. Grainy lies. It makes some of the guys look silly. I’m telling you, this is a tough golf course right now. It’s drying out and, you know, I mean, I think single digits might even win this tournament. Kind of depends what a few guys do. It is a very tough test of golf right now.“
Lee Westwood (2014): “It’s quite tight. You need to drive the ball straight although, you know, it does give you opportunities, you know, where it’s not driver on every hole as well. But there is a massive premium on hitting the fairways here. You know, holes like 18, 12, you know, if you’re not in the fairway there and 15, you can make par difficult. So, you know, the fact I think it tests up every aspect of your game. You got to drive the ball well and hit the fairway. Lots of greens sort of run across you so not only got to hit the right distance and the right line and right distance as well. The greens are immaculate, really. There’s no excuses for not making putts.“
Retief Goosen (2014): “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. The course is in really good shape. A little bit more rough throughout than there has been in the past. You pretty much have no chance of stopping it on these greens with the rough. Today, I kept it fairly good on the fairway and the back-9 was a couple of bad drives but depends what happens now, the weather this afternoon. If it rains the greens will get softer and make the course play quite a bit different than it did this morning. This course played tough this morning. The fairways running out pretty good and, like I say, some of the greens are really tough to get close. Yeah, it could rain, could have a delay and come back tomorrow morning, no wind and the guys shoot 7, 8-under. Who knows? As it’s playing now, it’s tough out there. Hopefully we won’t get too much rain. I prefer the course to play hard and fast.“
Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 8 winners:
Incoming form of winners since 2010:
First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score since 2010.
For the record, here’s the breakdown of Bermudagrass PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:
A razor-sharp short game looks to be the prerequisite at TPC Southwind where simply hitting fairways and greens won’t get the job done. Mastering the gnarly putting surfaces really is the key here, as is top-notch scrambling. Only 24 players across 2012-2017 have broken 70% Greens in Regulation at Southwind, so it’s clear that making par from off the green is critical. Top-level Champion Bermudagrass putting is critical for anybody who wants to top what is sure to be an extremely tight leaderboard. It’s worth noting that Sedgefield has featured Champion Bermudagrass greens since 2012 as did Annandale before it disappeared from the Tour schedule in 2013 if you’re looking for course comparisons. Quail Hollow has featured these sort of greens since the PGA Championship last year as did the AT&T Byron Nelson’s new home at Trinity Forest. The alternate Barbasol Championship event, played in Alabama at Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, also features Champion.
The form metrics this week at St Jude are a little confusing. Daniel Berger goes for a 3-peat this week after capturing this St Jude title in both 2016 and 2017. He captured his first PGA Tour title here at a very nice 33/1 and his win last year came at 28/1. Form-in differed though. 2016 had seen him arrive in Tennessee after a 10th at Augusta and 9th at TPC Sawgrass, which marked him out as one to follow. 12 months ago he’d had a period of inactivity after 65th at TPC Sawgrass, 36th at Eagle Point and 27th at Augusta. In general though Berger is the sort who has also shown a liking for Bermudagrass greens across both the PGA and web.com Tours.
This title has been won by 4 maiden PGA Tour victors in the past 8 renewals at Memphis since 2010 – so don’t be scared of non-winners if they fit your criteria this week. Fitting the maiden pattern, Fabian Gomez won at a whopping 400/1 in 2015. With a top 20 at Colonial 2 outings prior to arriving in Tennessee, Gomez captured his first PGA Tour title here whilst the big guns all started slowly or faded away. Gomez has a history of playing well in Puerto Rico and had won a web.com tournament at Le Triomphe Country Club in Louisiana in 2010.
In 2014, Ben Crane had missed out on US Open qualification in Memphis on the Monday prior to the tournament. He then proceeded to shoot blistering opening rounds of 63-65 to take total control of the tournament by Saturday morning (play was delayed by thunderstorms). His win came at a juicy 175/1. Prior to Crane, Harris English again came off the back of missing out on U.S. Open spot at the Monday Qualifier and grabbed his first ever PGA Tour victory at 66/1. Harrison Frazar in 2011 qualified for Congressional on the Monday and then arrived at TPC Southwind with little form and delivered a 275/1 victory for the bookmakers. However those kind of results go alongside 2008, 2010, 2012, 2016 and 2017 where Justin Leonard, Lee Westwood, Dustin Johnson and Daniel Berger (twice) could focus solely on the tournament in Memphis rather than the U.S. Open for which they were already safely qualified.
Daniel Berger has dominated in Memphis over the past 2 renewals and naturally goes for the 3-peat this week, something we shall see again in July with Jhonattan Vegas at the RBC Canadian Open. Daniel will have a chance to become the first player since Steve Stricker in 2009-10-11 to win the same tournament (John Deere Classic) at least three times in a row. Daniel is hitting plenty of greens at the moment and clearly loves the set-up and greens at TPC Southwind. Naturally he has a real chance this week to make some history.
US Open Cut-Off: Here’s a list of players by current OWGR who aren’t yet qualified for the US Open (Top 60). This weekend marks the cut-off for this OWGR qualifying category; current OWGR in brackets: Byeong-Hun An (56th), James Hahn (81st).
My selections are as follows:
Wesley Bryan 1pt EW 200/1 with Coral
As you’d expect with a smattering of elite players at the top of the market, the betting this week at the FedEx St Jude Classic is very stretched. With the past 2 U.S. Open champions in Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka at the head of affairs and perennial St Jude place filler Phil Mickelson also available at very short odds, it’s difficult to spot value at the very top of the list. Instead, at an event where fancy prices win regularly, I’m on the hunt for some value.
Wesley Bryan jumped to front of mind for this at the Memorial Tournament last week. A quick glance at a form guide shows nothing to get really excited about with Wesley in what has been to date a poor second season on the PGA Tour, but 2 straight 68s across Thursday and Friday last week saw him 4th after 36 holes. Now Jack’s Place, which is like a cathedral to high-class ball-striking, isn’t a track you instantly associate with Bryan, so that performance was standout for me and he also shot a 3rd Round 66 at Colonial. So there are signs that the South Carolinian’s game is coming out of the deep freeze. That’s of real interest to me as 2017 saw Bryan finish 4th at Riviera, 4th at PGA National, 7th at Copperhead and he won his maiden PGA Tour title at Harbour Town. Naturally those results in the south-east U.S. all featured Bermudagrass greens and in Riviera we have a course where Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson have won 3 titles between them – their combined record here includes a win, 2nd, 3rd, 3rd and a 5th.
When it comes to correlating course form, a look at the web.com records of the likes of Harris English (St Jude champion 2013), Troy Merritt (2nd 2014), Fabian Gomez (St Jude champion 2015), Daniel Berger (St Jude champion 2016/17) and Whee Kim (2nd 2017) is an obvious exercise and some particular tournaments/venues repeat themselves: El Bosque Golf Club (Mexico Championship), Le Triomphe Country Club (Louisiana Open), TPC Stonebrae (Ellie Mae Classic) and Ohio State Golf Club (Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational). Well Bryan won at both El Bosque and Le Triomphe in 2016 and was also 7th at the Panama Golf Club that season – a course where Daniel Berger finished 3rd in his 2014 web.com season. These course trends converge here at TPC Southwind where again in 2016 Bryan made his PGA Tour debut and was 6th after 36 holes. A short game expert, if he can hit a fair amount of greens he could have a super week.
Luke List 1.5pt EW 50/1 with Coral
As we saw last week, it sometimes pays to look a little further down the betting market in these pre-Major Championship events. This title has been won by 4 maiden PGA Tour victors in the past 8 renewals and if it becomes 5 in 9, for me, Luke List is the one who could well break through this week. His form has been very, very strong this season and the picture his results paint is clear for all to see. 12 months ago ranked at 134th in the OWGR, rounds of 70-66-66 saw List at -8/202 and a single shot off the 54 hole lead held by Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Ben Crane and Stewart Cink. Off the back of 5 missed cuts in his previous 6 tournaments it wasn’t to be for California based Luke, but 12 months on his rise has been exceptional. 13th at TPC Kuala Lumpur, 5th at Nine Bridges, 12th at Torrey Pines, 2nd at PGA National, 7th at Bay Hill, 3rd at Harbour Town and 9th at Quail Hollow have catapulted list onto the fringes of the OWGR top 50 and with it entries to the very biggest tournaments. So List will arrive in Memphis knowing he’s already qualified for the U.S. Open and focussed on delivering another strong result on the Bermudagrass greens he thrives on. 42nd in par-4 Birdie or Better Conversion, 4th for Strokes Gained Off the Tee, 15th for Strokes Gained Around the Greens and 3rd for Strokes Gained Tee to Green are statistics that are too good to ignore, plus List also has correlating form I like.
His 2nd at PGA National this season works well in relation to Daniel Berger, as does 3rd in 2017 at the GC of Houston. 9th at Quail Hollow last month was on Champion Bermudagrass and his 2nd at the Country Club of Jackson is also eye-catching as that again was on Champion. We discussed web.com correlating course form in the Wesley Bryan tip above and List ticks all of the courses I want to see this week. 2nd in Panama (2012), 5th at El Bosque (2015), 2nd at TPC Stonebrae (2011) and 5th at Ohio State Golf Club (2015) works brilliantly with players who win and contend here. Asked at Harbour Town when he thinks the breakthrough win will come “I’m getting better each opportunity. And I feel like my game has risen to the point where I expect to contend every week. So it’s going to happen.“
Kiradech Aphibarnrat 1.5pt EW 50/1 with Paddy Power
If we go off the OWGR this week Kiradech Aphibarnrat ranks the 5th best player in the field this week, yet I find him languishing at 50/1 in the betting. Thanks very much! As we saw last season with Rafa Cabrera-Bello who finished 4th after being the 54 hole leader, top-level European Tour players can be more than competitive here on tournament debut and I love the chances of the 28 year-old Thai who is a 4-time European Tour winner. The heat, humidity and course grasses in Memphis this week will make it feel very much like home for Kiradech who interestingly only added this tournament to his schedule yesterday and he’s undoubtedly playing well. 2018 has seen him win World Super 6 and Brunei Championship titles and at the highest level, 5th at the WGC-Mexico Championship, 44th at The Masters, 30th at The Players, 5th at the BMW PGA Championship and 13th last week at The Memorial hardly suggest that Kiradech will be out of his depth at TPC Southwind. He’s also finished 6th twice (2015 & 2016) at Bay Hill in regular PGA Tour events. The Thai is striking the ball well and was 8th and 26th for Greens in Regulation across Wentworth and Muirfield Village. That makes him a huge danger this week at a course where mid-range putting is so critical. Naturally we are working from limited appearances on the PGA Tour, but Aphibarnrat already ranks 64th for par-4 Birdie or Better Conversion and 8th for par-5 Birdie or Better Conversion (impressive as he’s played only tough courses). Critically for this week he also ranks 9th in Putting from 15-20 feet and 7th in Putting from 20-25 feet. Granted Special Temporary Membership of the Tour, Aphibarnrat knows that he needs to deliver more results to gain his full 2018/19 card and I think he will be fully focussed this week on what is a huge opportunity for him on a course that should suit.
Matt Jones 1pt EW 125/1 with Paddy Power
Matt Jones fits the bill perfectly this week. 28th in par-4 Birdie or Better Conversion, 51st in Putting from 15-20 feet and 33rd in Putting from 20-25 feet are the kind of statistics I like for TPC Southwind where scoring well on the par-4s is essential, usually with confident mid-range putting. To that end Matt’s record here is strong with 3rd in 2015, 26th in 2016 and 18th in 2017, where in fact he was 6th going into Sunday. Jones is playing this season with limited access to starts, but of late results are starting to flow. 28th at the Corales Championship, 19th at the Zurich Classic when partnered with Chad Campbell and 13th last time out on the Champion Bermudagrass greens of Trinity Forest shows progression. Jones went out in the final group at the Byron Nelson and that was a step too far, but he was 8th for Greens in Regulation, 2nd for Strokes Gained Around the Green and 9th in Strokes Gained Tee to Green. He’s clearly playing some nice stuff, but at 162nd in the FedEx Cup he needs to deliver top 10 results and soon to avoid the web.com Playoffs for the second consecutive year. The 2014 Shell Houston Open winner, Jones has form across Coco Beach Resort (5th 2012), TPC Louisiana (6th 2011), Sedgefield (5th 2013), TPC Boston (4th 2015) and Conway Farms (8th 2013) which correlates well with the likes of Fabian Gomez and Daniel Berger.
Ryan Blaum 0.5pt EW 300/1 with Betfred
Ryan Blaum could be a surprise package and at 60/1 for a top 7 finish, I can see stranger things happening at a tournament where Fabian Gomez won 3 years ago at 400/1 and Whee Kim finished runner-up at 12 months ago at 300/1. Blaum is a late developer at 34 years old, but undoubtedly he’s settling in to life as a PGA Tour professional after years on the Latinoamerica and web.com Tours. A winner in the Dominican Republic and Brazil back in 2013, Blaum clearly likes warmer climes and his web.com results includes 4th at Le Triomphe Country Club in 2015, then in 2016 11th at the Panama Championship, 7th again at Le Triomphe, 7th at Sao Paulo and 12th at Fox Den Country Club in Knoxville, Tennessee. His promotion to the PGA Tour for season 2016/17 was a big jump, but continually his best results have been on Bermudagrass. 11th at Country Club of Jackson in the fall of 2016, was followed by 6th at Grand National Lake Trail, which in tandem with a 7th at Old White TPC saw Blaum keep his card for this season, which has started well enough. 20th at TPC Summerlin, 10th at Waialae, 16th at Copperhead and 6th at Trinity Forest see Blaum again in contention for a spot in the FedEx Cup top 125. But it’s the attention to detail which pays with Ryan. Those results at the Sanderson Farms, Barbasol and AT&T Byron Nelson all came on Champion Bermudagrass greens. They also came with Strokes Gained Putting performances of 6th, 2nd and 17th. Ryan’s career best 6th at Trinity Forest was also assured as he went out in the 3rd last group Sunday and shot a -5/66. 33rd for par-4 Birdie or Better Conversion, 42nd in Putting from 15-20 feet and 58th in Putting from 20-25 feet I can see the Floridian going well again this week.
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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 08:25BST 5.6.18 but naturally subject to fluctuation.
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