This week's FedEx St. Jude Classic presents one of the most underrated narratives of the year.
On the eve of the season's second major – the U.S. Open, colloquially accepted to identify the best overall golfer – there isn't a fairer, more consistent or more reliable host course than TPC Southwind.
Now in its 30th consecutive year as the site of the SJC, TPC Southwind rewards one's game as much as it tests it. In accordance, two-time defending Daniel Berger has solved it as much as he's survived one of the stingiest par 70s on the schedule. Scroll beneath the ranking for more on his formula, how the course sets up and more.
Power Rankings: FedEx St. Jude Classic
15 T.J. Vogel 14 Kiradech Aphibarnrat 13 Ben Crane 12 Adam Scott 11 Joaquin Niemann 10 Charl Schwartzel 9 Peter Uihlein 8 Luke List 7 Daniel Berger 6 Tony Finau 5 Billy Horschel 4 Henrik Stenson 3 Phil Mickelson 2 Dustin Johnson 1 Brooks Koepka
Memorial co-runner-up Byeong Hun An, Kevin Chappell, Charles Howell III, J.B. Holmes and Steve Stricker will be among the notables included in Tuesday's Fantasy Insider.
TPC Southwind sets up as properly as any touring professional would want. It's as good a primer for the U.S. Open as you're going to find, but it very much stands on its own merit, thank you very much.
At 7,238 yards, it's long enough but it doesn’t eliminate the lightest of knockers. The set of four par 3s and both of its par 5s are scorable, but the dozen par 4s are challenging as a group. Yet, only once in the last nine years has any of the par 4s ranked inside the top-50 hardest on the PGA TOUR (hole No. 5 in 2015).
Last year's field scoring average of 70.630 aligned with its history, which is to say that it's predictable, which is exactly what any collection of any tournament organizers targets. Finding fairways is a secondary objective to hitting greens that average just over 5,400 square feet, a smaller-than-usual area that helps defend par. The Champion bermuda surfaces are prepped to run as long as 12 feet on the Stimpmeter, so there's nothing foreign or tricky about that.
Tinier targets tend to cater to ball-strikers. Case in point, although Berger is renowned for loving himself bermuda greens, but he's done his work at TPC Southwind without the putter, leading the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green en route to both of his titles. He finished a respective T1 and T10 in greens hit and T5 and T7 in proximity to the hole.
Returning participants in the field of 156 will see some modifications on and around the greens at the par-3 eighth and 14th holes. The redesigned target at No. 8 resulted in a six-yard reduction. It now tips at 172 yards. The primary rough (also bermuda) has been manicured to reach two-and-a-half inches.
Mother Nature will do her part in seeing that the course plays as planned. Warm and dry (but typically humid) air is in store through the 36-hole cut. A risk of rain and storms creeps into the picture on the weekend. Wind is not expected to be a factor.
It was announced this spring that this tournament will evolve into the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational in 2019. It will replace the existing WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and will continue to be contested at TPC Southwind. The dates for the competition are TBD.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton reviews and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
MONDAY: Rookie Ranking, Qualifiers, Reshuffle, Medical Extensions, Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Facebook Live, Fantasy Insider
WEDNESDAY: One & Done
THURSDAY: Champions One & Done
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf presented by SERVPRO, which also publishes on Tuesdays.