This article is part of our DraftKings PGA DFS Picks series.
FEDEX ST. JUDE CHAMPIONSHIP
Winner's Share: $3.6M
FedEx Cup Points: 2,000 to the Winner
Location: Memphis, Tenn.
Course: TPC Southwind
2022 champion: Will Zalatoris
We've reached the home stretch of another tumultuous PGA Tour season, one with perhaps even more stunning twists and turns than the seismic developments of last year. The Saudis, its Public Investment Fund and LIV Golf have gone from mortal enemies to, well, perhaps strange bedfellows. There's still a long way to go to get to the end of that story. By then, the 2022-23 PGA Tour season will be long over.
Only three weeks remain, three playoff events, beginning with this week's new-look FedEx St. Jude. There were always two cuts at the first playoff event -- after two rounds and then after four. This year, that first cut is gone -- and so are almost half the golfers. The field has been slashed from the top-125 in the point standings in prior years to the top 70 now. The trade-off is that everyone will play all four rounds.
The first goal for all the golfers is to stay or get inside the top 50 on the points list. With the available points being quadrupled from the regular season -- 2,000 for the winner as opposed to 500 during the season -- all 70 guys have a decent enough shot. Those inside the top-50 at week's end advance to next week's BMW Championship -- with the huge perk being they'll qualify for all eight 2024 designated tournaments. Only next year, they won't be called designated. You'll remember they originally were called elevated events before being reclassified as designated. Next year, say hello to "signature" events.
Okay, now that we've gotten that housekeeping out of the way, let's get on with the business at hand.
The steady stream of elite fields slowed over the past couple of months, but all the top golfers will be in once place again. FedEx Cup regular-season points leader Jon Rahm heads the field, along with No. 2 Scottie Scheffler, No. 3 Rory McIlroy -- yeah, it looks a lot like the world rankings but it's not -- No. 4 Max Homa and No. 5 Wyndham Clark. Rounding out the top-10 are Champion Golfer of the Year Brian, Harman, Viktor Hovland, Keegan Bradley, Rickie Fowler and Tony Finau. Twenty-two of the top-25 in the world rankings are on hand, among them Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Jordan Spieth and Collin Morikawa. Matt Kuchar deserves a shout-out, because he's the last remaining golfer to have qualified for every FedEx Cup playoffs since their inception in 2007. Adam Scott had been the other, but the huge slash to 70 from 125 was too much for him to overcome at last week's Wyndham Championship. The only three missing from the top-25 in the world rankings are Cam Smith and Brooks Koepka of LIV and of course Justin Thomas, who inched up to No 25 in the OWGR this week but couldn't climb inside the top 70.
The PGA Tour has a long history with FedEx, and an even longer one with the city of Memphis.
There is no bigger sponsor of the Tour than FedEx, which has been the title sponsor for the playoffs all 17 years now. It has been the title sponsor of the Memphis tour stop since 1986, first as a regular tournament, then as a WGC and now as the first playoff event.
The Tour has been stopping in Memphis since 1958. The tournament was long associated with the late entertainer Danny Thomas, until 1984. (Thomas founded the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis in 1962 and his family is still closely associated with it.) Two years later, FedEx came on board. TPC Southwind has been the host course since 1989.
Southwind is a long par-70 with narrow Zoysiagrass fairways, though there are 11 doglegs that curb distance and, to a degree, scoring. There are only two par-5s. It features eight par-4s of 450ish-plus yards and the bermudagrass greens average a small 4,300 square feet. Hitting from far back in the fairway into small greens makes getting on the green in regulation a challenge. That doesn't even take into account the 11 water hazards affecting 11 holes. There have been far more water balls at Southwind over the past two decades than at any other course on Tour, even more than at TPC Sawgrass (TPC Twin Cities is now bidding to be No. 1). Nowhere is there more danger than at No. 18, a 453-yard dogleg left with water almost the entire way.
After an easy start to Southwind on Nos. 1 to 3, the course gets harder in a hurry. The two toughest holes were on the front last year -- the 485-yard 5th and the 482-yard 7th -- and then the next five were on the brutal back nine, including 18. They are all either long par-4s or 200-yard-plus par-3s.
For years, Southwind annually fell somewhere between 10th and 15th among the hardest courses on Tour. But the past four years after switching to a WGC it has gotten easier. Or has it? Did the course get easier or did it just play harder when lesser golfers made up the field? Last year, Southwind was only the 30th hardest track among the 50 in play all season. Will Zalatoris and Sepp Straka went to a playoff at 15-under before Zalatoris emerged. He is not able to defend his title after undergoing back surgery earlier this year.
As for the weather, it will be hot and steamy, as usual this time of year in Memphis. Highs will be close to or in the 90s all four days. The forecast said there could be some morning thundershowers on Thursday and Saturday, but not enough to affect lineup construction. Winds will be on the light side, maybe single digits all tournament.
Fun Memphis golf factoids: The first 59 in PGA Tour history was shot in Memphis. Al Geiberger did it at par-72 Cordova Country Club in the second round of the 1977 tournament then known as the Danny Thomas Memphis Classic. Geiberger won the tourney by three strokes ahead of former Memphis winner Gary Player. Also in 1977, get this: Former president Gerald Ford hit an incredible shot during the pro-am ... no, he didn't plunk a spectator in the head as he was wont to do -- he made a hole-in-one!
Key Stats to Winning at TPC Southwind
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.
• Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green/Ball Striking/driving Accuracy
• Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation
• Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green/Scrambling
• Par 4 Efficiency 450-500 yards
FedEx St. Jude Championship
2022 - Will Zalatoris
The course is a long, narrow par-70, but the past three years only seven top-15 finishers (45 total) were inside the top-10 in driving distance for the week. Eleven doglegs do a good job of blunting distance, We're focusing on hitting fairways but more on greens in regulation and scrambling. Zalatoris wasn't especially accurate hitting fairways, but he was No. 1 in SG: Approach and eighth in greens in regulation in getting to 15-under. He ranked 25th in the field in SG: Putting. Playoff loser Straka was 13th in Approach but second in both GIR and Putting. The year before, Ancer won at 16-under after a playoff with Sam Burns and Hideki Matsuyama. All three finished the week in the top-seven in Strokes Gained: Approach, SG: Around-the-Green and SG: Tee-to-Green. Two of the three -- not Matsuyama -- were top-10 in SG: Putting. Putting is hard to quantity at Southwind because we see guys high on the leaderboard who putt well and those who don't. Really, accuracy from tee-to-green is most paramount. The over/under per golfodds.com was set at 264.5 -- 15.5 under par.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Scottie Scheffler - $12,100 (Winning odds at the DraftKings Sportsbook: +650)
Scheffler has never had a top-10 in five starts at TPC Southwind. His best was T14 in 2021. He missed the cut last year. But he's Scheffler, and he has been historically good from tee to green for many months now. Statistically, he's one of the worst putters in the field. But we've seen guys win here with marginal putting -- Zalatoris ranked a so-so 25th last year.
Jon Rahm - $11,100 (+900)
Among the "Big 3" -- with Scheffler and McIlroy -- Rahm easily has the best Southwind resume. He tied for fifth last year and for seventh in 2019. He certainly has been playing the worst of the three over the past few months, but he has started to turn it around. He was 10th at the U.S. Open and shared runner-up at the Open Championship
Tyrrell Hatton - $9,700 (+2200)
Hatton has been the best golfer on Tour without a win this season. That's kind of a left-handed compliment, but it's true. In his past nine starts, he has eight top-20s -- and half of those were top-10s. Hatton ranks sixth in this field in par-4 450-500 efficiency over his past 24 rounds, and he's third in putting.
Tier 2 Values
Tommy Fleetwood - $9,100 (+2500)
Fleetwood has to win some time on the PGA Tour, right? He's has four top-10s in his past five starts, including two majors and that hard-luck playoff loss at the Canadian Open. There's not a weakness in his game these days, not even putting. Fleetwood didn't play the FedEx St. Jude last year, but he tied for fourth when it was a WGC in 2019.
Matt Fitzpatrick - $8,600 (+3500)
There's not much to think about here: Fitzpatrick tied for fifth here last year, for sixth in 2020 and for fourth in 2019. He has not been at his best over his past three starts on the calendar, but the course history is too strong of an indicator to ignore. Besides, Fitzpatrick was top-10 at the Memorial less than two months ago and top-20 at the U.S. Open.
Wyndham Clark - $8,500 (+3000)
Clark is ranked top-25 of all of this week's key stat over his past 24 rounds except one -- and he's just outside that in driving accuracy. He is ranked sixth in par-4 450-500 efficiency, and there are eight of those holes. Clark has not had a top-20 since winning the U.S. Open, but finishes of T29-T25-T33 and not missing a cut indicate he has continued to grind.
Tier 3 Values
Russell Henley - $7,800 (+4500)
Henley is coming off a runner-up at the Wyndham in which he led the field in putting and very well may have won if not for two horrible bad-break lies in the last three holes, resulting in a pair of bogeys. His sterling approach play has carried him to a bunch of top-20s of late, all in strong fields, including the U.S. Open and the Memorial.
Sepp Straka - $7,700 (+5000)
Straka has been a force lately, following up his win at the John Deere with a runner-up at the Open Championship to move into the top-25 in the world rankings for the first time. The surge has likely locked up a European Ryder Cup berth for the native Austrian. He is ranked 15th on Tour in SG: Approach and 22nd in GIR. Straka lost in a playoff here last year to Zalatoris.
Harris English - $7,000 (+7500)
English's full-season accuracy stats are not pretty. But he's been a much better golfer as the season has progressed. His play on and around the greens is exceptional, ranked top-20 on Tour in both SG: Around-the-Green and Putting. English showed he can deliver on long tracks, with a tie for third at the Wells Fargo. He tied for fourth at Southwind two years ago and even won there way back in 2013.
Alex Smalley - $6,800 (+11000)
Smalley has missed his past two cuts, including last week at the Wyndham, but he is the top $6,000 golfer in our model. He has exceptional ball striking and approach play over his past 24 rounds. He's really struggling with his putter, but this tournament is not a birdie-fest like the Wyndham was. Besides, the smaller Southwind greens should mask some of Smalley's issues on the greens.
J.J. Spaun - $6,600 (+13000)
Spaun may have been thinking about last year's fourth round here for a full year now. He was the 54-hole leader at 13-under par after rounds of 62-67-68. But he utterly collapsed with a 78 to plummet to 42nd place. Spaun is ranked 42nd on Tour in driving accuracy and 30th in greens in regulation. Like with Smalley, he's been a terrible putter but has shown he can overcome that at Southwind -- for three rounds, anyway.
Andrew Putnam - $6,400 (+13000)
The short-hitting Putnam might not be your first choice to succeed at Southwind, but succeed he has. He tied for fifth here last year, was top-25 in 2019 and runner-up in 2018. He's woefully short off the tee, but highly accurate, which explains a lot. Putnam is playing well, having made seen straight cuts, including both Opens. He is also ranked 10th on Tour in SG: Putting, which is nice to have in your back pocket at any course.
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