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Course Spotlight: Why you should tail those who fade the ball at TPC Southwind

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Course Spotlight: Why you should tail those who fade the ball at TPC Southwind

    Written by Keith Stewart @KJStewartpga

    What do Will Zalatoris, Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger all have in common? Yes, they are all recent winners at TPC Southwind. And each of them loves to play a fade shot pattern off the tee. In fact, the last six winners in Memphis see the course the same way from the tee box. When it comes to picking a winner of the FedEx St. Jude Championship, don’t look past this simple similarity.

    The average fairway width at TPC Southwind is 25 yards wide. To put it in perspective, that ranks them in the top 10 toughest to hit on TOUR. The field of 70 players will face four holes with water in play, and another eight with fairway bunkers off the tee. Southwind success starts with getting the ball in play. Those 14 tee shots define your opportunity to hit smaller-than-average sized greens (4,300 sq/ft).

    Looking back at the recent winners one trend really stands out, these guys like managing their ball flight from left-to-right. Those six names cover the last seven winners. Together they average hitting fades 68% of the time off the tee. Why does a straight or left-to-right flight lead to success at the FedEx St. Jude Championship?

    Seven of the 14 tee shots move from left-to-right. When faders walk up on the tee it just looks welcoming to their eye. On the second hole, a left-to-right ball flight can be aggressive and take driver. Longer challenges like the most difficult hole on the course (No. 5) requires a left-to-right tee shot. A fade works away from the water on the ninth hole, and the same is true on 18 even though it is a dogleg left.

    If you believe the big three (McIlroy, Rahm, and Scheffler) need another advantage, each of them favors a fade ball flight. Jon Rahm (+900 BetMGM) bends it that way the most (of that group) and has two top-7 finishes at TPC Southwind in three starts. A version of the St. Jude has been contested at Southwind since 1989. Though all lacked a $20 million dollar purse, success always stemmed from great ball striking.

    Viktor Hovland (+2000) is an elite driver of the golf ball and moves it left to right. His ability to hit fairways and manage his approach game makes him a very viable option in round one of the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Another 2023 star is Wyndham Clark (+3500). Who could forget that super fade shot tracer image on the final hole of the US Open. Wyndham wins by favoring a fade off the tee more than 75% of the time. You will very rarely see him looking left!

    The top 70 in the FedEx Cup points race will get cut to 50 for the BMW Championship. We’ll tackle the Olympia Fields par 70 North Course next week. Two great drivers of the golf ball deeper down the odds board catch my eye for a couple of reasons. Keith Mitchell (+11000) fades it and has never missed a cut at TPC Southwind in three starts and all were top 40 results. At the 3M last month, Mitchell finished fifth on another course where the driver separates you from the field.

    Since finishing fifth at THE PLAYERS Championship, Hideki Matsuyama (+5000) has nine top 30s in 12 starts. Forget the missed cut at Wyndham, in three starts at TPC Southwind, Matsuyama has finished 43-20-2. You guessed it, Hideki’s success stems from a fader’s mentality. Both he and Mitchell have a lot to play for this week sitting 57 and 58 respectively on the FedEx Cup points list. Watch as they use those drivers to cash a ticket to Chicago for the BMW Championship.

    Walking the practice areas all season, I have learned who favors each side of the fairway. Pay attention this week to the trend and you will find success at the FedEx St. Jude.

    Keith Stewart is a five-time award winning PGA Professional who covers the PGA TOUR and LPGA from a betting perspective. Founder of Read The Line, he is also published by Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News. Follow Keith Stewart on Twitter.

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