Frazzled previews the 2016 Fedex St Jude Classic and he has a number of bets including Charles Howell, Hudson Swafford and Justin Hicks.
Event & Venue
The PGA Tour makes its last stop before the US Open at Oakmont next week in what is now the familiar surroundings of TPC Southwind for the Fedex St Jude Classic. This has been the last stop on the PGA Tour before the US Open since the Fedex Cup was introduced in 2007 and as a result quality of the field can vary from year to year, with numerous withdrawals in the run up to the event also now commonplace given that qualifying for the US Open takes place at the start of the same week. This has been the case again this year, with withdrawals including qualifiers such as Luke Donald and Brendan Steele.
Many players will now be focused on the test at Oakmont, but for others it is an opportunity to fine tune their game ahead of next week and for many of the field, it gives them a final opportunity to make the field for the second major the year.
The 7,244 yard TPC Southwind course (an adjustment of 5 yards on 2015) plays to a par 70 and was designed by Ron Prichard. It has played host to this event since 1989. It is a beautiful venue that incorporates natural lakes, streams and ponds as it rolls through the countryside.
The course underwent a major reconstruction in 2004 which has made it significantly more difficult. The Bentgrass greens were replaced with the much more easily managed Bermuda Grass, all the greens were re-constructed, the fairways were narrowed, 125 trees were planted and 15 bunkers were added. The course now has 94 bunkers in play and 10 water hazards and is a real test of a player’s game.
This is one of the longer Par 70 courses that will be played on Tour and its scoring average of 70.93 in 2015 was again one of the most challenging on the Tour at +0.93 over par.
The Par 3 and Par 4 holes are a real test, but there is some relief on the relatively straightforward Par 5s and if a player misses the green with his approach, the course is not a severe test of scrambling, although ranking high in scrambling is important.
There are numerous doglegs to the left and right and they usually alternate on the Par 4s meaning that a player will have to shape his shots both ways, although some pundits have correctly stated that a fade is the more important shot from the tee this week.
Form at venues that match up well with course form at TPC Southwind is also very persuasive and the OHL Classic at Mayakoba, Sony Open and the RSM Classic fields are worth studying, to find some positive form lines. these courses all link up will with each other, but another that may be worth noting is Copperhead, home of the Valspar Championship.
In addition we are going to look at players that have not qualified for the US Open at this stage, as many of those that have could have one eye on next week and will be tailoring their game for the beast that faces them. Those that do not will see this as a chance to get in next week or simply a big week to gain a victory and earn Fedex Cup points.
We have tipped Howell in the past and I think we have cashed once, without making any real money from him. However this looks very much like an ideal week for him and he is worth an interest at 40/1 with 7 places being paid by Paddy Power. Howell has excellent form at some of the key venues, such as 7 Top 8 places in the Sony Open, a 6th at Mayakoba, 3 Top 10s including a runner up finish and a 5th place (in 2016) in the Valspar Championship and also 3 Top 10s in the last 6 RSM Classics. He has also finished 3rd here in 2011.
He also arrives here with his game in very shape. He is 24th in the Fedex Cup standings with 5 Top 10 finishes this year, including 9th in the RSM Classic, 5th in the Valspar and a recent 4th in the Byron Nelson. he is 30th in GIR this season and 30th in Scrambling, while he is 8th in Bogey Avoidance, which is also crucial this week.
Howell is also not in the US Open field at the moment and although he is hard to win with, the 7 places each way with Paddy Power provide a real incentive to have a decent each way bet on him and that is what we will do here.
2 points each way Charles Howell at 40/1 with Paddy Power (each way 1/5 odds 7 places)
Hudson Swafford has not quite put the results together yet that his game entitles him to, but he has the game that looks an ideal fit to this venue and the lower key atmosphere might suit him after he ruined what was a brilliant start last week at Memorial to eventually finish 38th. He is a player with an excellent tee to green game and he ranks 31st in GIR and 45th in Proximity to the Hole. He also has some solid for,m at key venues with an 8th and 9th on his last two visits to the Sony Open, along with a 12th place finish at the RSM Classic.
He is having a solid year with 4 Top 25 finishes including the 9th in Hawaii, but he needs a big finish to secure his Fedex Cup position and this looks exactly the type of week that should suit him. We will back him at 100/1 each way with Paddy Power, but given that he has finished 57th, 34th and 38th in three of his last four starts and all of these opened with a 66, he is worth backing in the First Round Leader Market as well. If he is going to contend, he will get off to a fast start and the 100/1 with Paddy Power and Betfred is worth an interest.
1 point each way Hudson Swafford at 100/1 with Paddy Power (each way 7 places at 1/5 odds)
1 point each way Hudson Swafford - FRL at 100/1 with Paddy Power and Betfred
After a very promising 10th last time out in the Byron Nelson, where he closed with a 65, we will take a chance on a player that very badly needs some strong finishes to secure his playing rights for next season. Justin Hicks has been in the doldrums for some and the Byron Nelson was only his 4th made cut and first Top 25 finish of the current season. He also struggled in 2015 and it is a far cry from the player who managed finishes in 2014 of 2nd in the Barracuda Championship, 3rd in the Canadian Open and 6th in the OHL Classic at Mayakboa. He was also 7th at this venue in 2013, so he has form here and at venues that correlate. He has also performed well at some of the other difficult venues that are laid to Bermuda Grass, such as finishing 17th in the Honda Classic and Players Championship in the recent past.
Hicks is a short hitter, but he is very accurate from tee to green, ranking 5th in Driving Accuracy, 50th in GIR and 15th in Proximity to the Hole. If he can have a solid week on the greens, he could build on his 10th at TPC Four Seasons and he is worth an interest each way and also an interest in the Top 20 Finish market.
0.75 points each way Justin Hicks at 150/1 with Betfred (each way 6 places)
1 point win Justin Hicks - Top 20 Finish at 5/1 with Betfred and Paddy Power