This week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic at TPC Southwind in Memphis falls in the direct shadow of the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. A number of players are using the event as a tune-up, while several others who haven’t qualified for the year’s second major are simply vying for a big payday.
Over the last several years, the FedEx St. Jude Classic has been won a variety of ways. But of the last five winners (Ben Crane, Harris English, Dustin Johnson, Harrison Frazar and Lee Westwood), three have led the field in strokes gained/tee-to-green (English, Johnson and Frazar). Last year, TPC Southwind’s greens were the sixth toughest on tour to hit in regulation, with the field hitting only 58%.
With those numbers in mind, here’s a look at who we like this week in Memphis. We’ve also included a look at each player’s irons, and odds from GolfOdds.com.
Phil Mickelson 15/1
Those fretting over Mickelson’s ugly showing at the Memorial (T65 after a final-round 75) shouldn’t; Lefty rarely plays well at Jack’s event and has only one top-10 finish since 2007 at Muirfield Village. It’s no secret that Phil likes to play the week before a major. He won the Scottish Open a week before his British Open victory in 2013. Mickelson also finished T11 at TPC Southwind last year and T2 in 2013.
Mickelson’s ball-striking numbers this year are far from superb, but the looming U.S. Open should be enough to break the slump. He’s currently playing Callaway Apex muscleback irons.
Ryan Palmer 15/1
Palmer is 13th on tour in strokes gained/tee-to-green and 13th in distance of approach to hole from 175-200 yards, a key range. He’s finished in the top 10 four times this season, including a T10 at the AT&T Byron Nelson. In 2013 he finished fourth at TPC Southwind after a T3 finish in 2013.
Palmer hasn’t won since the 2013 Sony Open, a bit surprising considering that he seems to be hanging around the leaderboard every time he plays. In his bag are Titleist 710 AP2 irons (5-PW).
Billy Horschel 15/1
When he’s on, Horschel is one of the game’s best ball strikers. Right now he is 15th in GIR % without having played his best all season. Horschel finished T6 last year at TPC Southwind and T10 in 2013. At the Memorial last week he finished T11. Horschel seems to love the U.S. Open—remember when he hit every green in the second round in 2012 at Merion?—and a win this week would vault him into the Chambers Bay conversation.
Horschel is currently playing Ping S55 irons.
Harris English 20/1
A champion at TPC Southwind in 2013, English is very much at home in this event. He’s currently 10th in scoring average on tour. He shot 67 in the first round at the Memorial but finished a disappointing T18. Returning to a place he’s won should be comforting for English, who hasn’t lived up to his potential quite yet.
Notably a good ball striker, English is T33 on tour in GIR %. He’s playing Callaway RAZR X muscleback irons. Here’s a look at his bag from the WGC-Cadillac Match Play.
Check back Monday to see how our picks did and which club(s) played the biggest role in victory at TPC Southwind.