June 5 2013
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Columnist
The stretch between the first two majors of the season is one of the most underrated as scoring for the majority of events averages over par. The FedEx St. Jude Classic is no exception.
Even when Brian Gay lit up par-70 TPC Southwind with an 18-under 262 en route to a five-stroke victory, the course registered a scoring average of 70.291. Interestingly, since the tournament found its home as the lead-in to the U.S. Open, Gay is the only champion to rank inside the top 15 in fairways hit at T9.
This would seem to belie the belief that the course demands accuracy off the tee, but it's probably more of a coincidence as it relates to Gay, who led his field in strokes gained-putting, converted all 51 chances from six feet and in and submitted a par-3/4/5 slash line of T1/T2/T6, the only winner during the FedExCup era to do so. In other words, he fared just fine throughout his bag.
For all of the murmurs about Dustin Johnson's length, he's the only champion to crack the top 20 in both distance and accuracy, ranking a respective T20 and T18 last year. TPC Southwind's greens are smaller than most at 5,420 square feet -- a measurement that plays into DJ's propensity to succeed on tiny surfaces (e.g. Pebble Beach) -- but he submitted the second-shortest clip in proximity to the hole at 27 feet, 2 inches. Only Lee Westwood in 2010 failed to crack the top 13 in proximity. The Englishman ranked T53 but he enjoyed a strong week with his putter, ranking third in strokes gained-putting.
In 2011, Harrison Frazar turned a nifty trick, leading his field in distance off the tee, scrambling and par-4 scoring. He was also T8 in greens hit, second in proximity and seventh in strokes gained-putting. Oddly enough, as compared to the other five winners, he ranked last in fairways hit at T46.
The notion entering last week's Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance was that hitting fairways was largely irrelevant, but recent winners contradicted the theory. Naturally, champion Matt Kuchar then pushed back by ranking a pedestrian T37 in driving accuracy. Conversely, hitting fairways would seem to be important at TPC Southwind, but the track and its history of high scoring demands that contenders can overcome wayward drives.