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Sunday, June 1, 2014

FedEx St. Jude Classic - Preview

An often overlooked spot on the PGA TOUR schedule, the FedEx St. Jude Classic returns to TPC Southwind as the final tune-up for the U.S. Open. Some of the bigger stars on the PGA TOUR routinely skip this event, while others are inconsistent with their attendance, but the list of recent winners is still quite impressive.

TPC Southwind is a par-70, playing to a moderate 7,239 yards. Prior to 2005, the tournament played to a par of 71. In addition to that, the greens changed from bentgrass to bermuda in 2004. For both of those reasons, I'll start my research with the 2005 tournament.

Winners and runners-up beginning in 2005 are:

  • 2005: Justin Leonard (14-under 266) over David Toms (267)
  • 2006: Jeff Maggert (271) over Tom Pernice Jr. (274)
  • 2007: Woody Austin (267) over Brian Davis (272)
  • 2008: Justin Leonard (276) over Robert Allenby and Trevor Immelman in a playoff
  • 2009: Brian Gay (262) over Bryce Molder and David Toms (267)
  • 2010: Lee Westwood (270) over Robert Garrigus and Robert Karlsson in a playoff
  • 2011: Harrison Frazar (267) over Robert Karlsson in a playoff
  • 2012: Dustin Johnson (271) over John Merrick (272) 
  • 2013: Harris English (268) over Phil Mickelson and Scott Stallings (270)
Although not necessary, there is a strong contingent of long players on this list. We all know Garrigus and DJ are bombers but, in addition to that, guys like Westwood, Karlsson, Frazar, English, Mickelson and Stallings can all get it out there. So the last four years feature players that have the ability to overpower a course. That's in start contrast to 2005-2009, where short and straight got it done. 

There is also a school of thought that a left-to-right ball flight plays well at TPC Southwind. It's extremely tough to pick that out of the stat sheets, although you could try by deep-diving the stats that capture which way a player misses the fairway. 

Fairway are tough to find, meaning straight hitters and players that successfully find GIR from other than the fairway are in play. That could actually explain the accurate drivers vs. bombers dilemma highlighted above. If everyone is in the rough, then a longer player benefits from a shorter club. For those that can avoid the rough, they equalize the length of the bomber. 

With only two par 5s and 12 par 4s, it would be wise to lean on par 4 scoring average.

We will return tomorrow with a power ranking to try and sort all of this out.

Until then, happy research!

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