Power Rankings: FedEx St. Jude Classic

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June 04, 2012
Rob Bolton, Fantasy columnist

TPC Southwind hosts the FedEx St. Jude Classic for the 24th time this week. The host course is a par 70 measuring over 7,200 yards, and it stands out as one of the more grueling tee-to-green tests on the PGA TOUR schedule.

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Last year, it registered a fairways-hit clip of 56.94, good for 13th-lowest on the docket. That extended its streak inside the top 20 most challenging in driving accuracy to eight consecutive years. Showing no mercy, the track ranked ninth in greens in regulation at 59.09 percent a year ago. It's the seventh time in eight years that it has finished inside the top 10 most difficult in GIR.

Greens average 5,420 square feet, so they're a tad smaller than the TOUR standard, but they are undulating, thus translating into tinier target areas enhanced by flirty hole locations. Therefore, scoring is more about avoiding bogeys than it is finding birdies.

As you'd expect, the birdie average over the years has fallen in line with the difficulty of mounting birdie opportunities on severe surfaces. Last year, TPC Southwind surrendered just 2.82 birdies per round, seventh-lowest all season. It's been inside the top 10 in five of the last six.

The overall scoring average checked in at 70.987 in 2011, its eighth consecutive year over par. It was the fourth-hardest par 70 of 14 utilized in non-majors all year. However, guys can get up and down, evidenced by a scrambling percentage of over 60 percent in each of the last three editions. That's inside the top half easiest on TOUR.

Early-week deluges will no doubt have softened the turf in Memphis, but the threat of rain will have cleared out by Wednesday at the latest. A dry pattern will dominate throughout the tournament. Temperatures will rise into the upper 80s, and then the low 90s on the weekend. Winds will be light until Sunday, when the early forecast calls for a moderate breezes.

MORE: Rookies | Medical | Reshuffle | Major qualifiers

Power Rankings: FedEx St. Jude Classic
Rank Player   Comment
Zach
JOHNSON
Arguably the hottest golfer in the field of 156. He took a week off following his victory at Colonial, which chased a pair of runner-up finishes in his previous three starts. Sits third on TOUR in bogey avoidance. Two top-15s in three appearances here.
Graeme
MCDOWELL
Finished T7 in 2009 in his only prior start at this event. Squeezed a runner-up at the Volvo World Match Play Championship between missed cuts at THE PLAYERS and BMW PGA Championship. Leads PGA TOUR in fairways hit; ranks 18th in GIR.
Martin
LAIRD
Two weeks after a co-runner-up at THE PLAYERS, where he buried 24 birdies, he missed the cut at the BMW PGA Championship. However, the Scot ranks ninth on the PGA TOUR in greens in regulation and leads the circuit in birdie average.
Charles
HOWELL III
Zero top-25s in his last five starts, but he shared third place here last year after a similarly quiet stretch. Ranked T6 in greens hit and fourth in total distance of putts made that week. Currently 44th on TOUR in GIR and T32 in bogey avoidance.
David
TOMS
Two-time champ (2003, 2004) and all-time money leader at the event. Tied for 10th at THE PLAYERS four weeks ago. Currently second on the PGA TOUR in fairways hit and 22nd in both greens in regulation and bogey avoidance.
Spencer
LEVIN
Held the 54-hole lead at the Memorial before fading to a share of fourth place with a Sunday 75. Went out in bogey-free 1-under though and led the field in Strokes Gained-Putting for the week. Ranked T2 in fairways hit en route to a T15 here last year.
John
ROLLINS
Converging trends in play. Prior to missing the cut at Colonial, he strung together three straight top-25s. In his last two trips to Memphis, he's finished T15 (2010) and T25 (2011). Currently 28th on TOUR in greens hit and 26th in adjusted scoring.
Ryan
PALMER
Since a T10 here in 2006, he's missed three straight cuts, but his recent play takes precedent. Top-10s in three of his last four starts, including both stops in Texas in May. Ranks 10th on TOUR in Strokes Gained-Putting and 16th in adjusted scoring.
Chris
KIRK
Fatherhood is agreeing with the second-year TOUR member. After a T5 at Colonial, he placed T25 at the Memorial despite a pair of 75s. He ranks 41st in greens hit and second in birdies or better on par 4s, important given TPC Southwind's par of 70.
Rory
MCILROY
Arrives having missed three consecutive cuts worldwide, but deserves his place just inside the top 10 here on cachet alone. Tied for 29th at TPC Southwind in his only appearance as a PGA TOUR rookie in 2010. Sits second in the all-around ranking.

In 2012, our expert will be publishing his list of players who didn't quite make the top 10 for that particular week. Here are five other players Rob Bolton likes at TPC Southwind:

11. Robert Karlsson ... He's lost in a playoff in each of the last two years at TPC Southwind. His irons paved the way to both second-place finishes; he hit 68.06 percent of his greens over those eight rounds. He's gone 18 consecutive, full-field, stroke-play events without a top 10, however.

12. Dustin Johnson ... Making his debut at TPC Southwind. Tied for 19th at last week's Memorial after an 11-week respite due to a back injury. He ranked T60 in greens hit at Muirfield Village but fourth in putting, the preferred as compared to the converse.

13. Bob Estes ... The 2001 champ has seven top-10s in 22 appearances at TPC Southwind and ranks third in all-time earnings at the tournament. He's posted five top 25s among seven cuts made in 12 starts this year. Ranks 15th in scrambling and 29th in bogey avoidance.

14. Camilo Villegas ... The Colombian has exhibited an affinity for TPC Southwind no matter his form entering the week. He's 6-for-6 with four top 20s, including top 10s in each of the last two editions. Hasn't posted a top 15 in a stroke-play event all year.

15. Fredrik Jacobson ... Off since missing the cut at THE PLAYERS. Top 20s in four of his eight cuts made in nine starts this year following time off due to torn ligaments in his left thumb. He's 8-for-9 at TPC Southwind with five top 20s, including a T15 two years ago.

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