Confidence Factor: FedEx St. Jude Classic
Since the FedEx St. Jude Classic was entrenched on the schedule in 2007 as the competition on the eve of the U.S. Open, it's been the constant followed by the variable in the equation. TPC Southwind can't be a chameleon because the season's second major migrates. There have been occasions when the par 70 can replicate specific challenges, but it's its own course. This is different than the dynamic at the Golf Club of Houston, which hosts the Shell Houston Open immediately before the Masters every year. Because Augusta National is a fixed location for the season's first major, the setup in Houston has evolved to mimic certain design elements those headed to the Masters will face. That can be attractive to golfers exempt into that major. TPC Southwind's allure for those headed to Erin Hills next week fulfills both the opportunities to compete in the tournament proper and sharpen skills on a test returnees can be confident will cater to preparation for the U.S. Open. Using an extreme example to frame the point, imagine if TPC Southwind was modified even just a little bit every year. That would demand its own attention and preparation, therefore likely dissuading U.S. Open participants from attending. The confidence borne from this expectation is arguably greater than data defining success, but the latter is as easy to see as any other site we review. As you scan over how the last two winners performed statistically, note the strong correlation in tee-to-green proficiency across the board. Furthermore, in theory, by hitting more greens in regulation, even an average putter should square fewer bogeys. That's evident as well on greens that favor aggressive putting since they measure 11.5 feet on the Stimpmeter. Finally, although there are only two par 5s (Nos. 3 and 16), they averaged 4.63 last year, easily within the easier half of sets of par 5s of all courses, so taking advantage of them is imperative. TALES OF THE TAPE You'll note that Ben Crane's formula for the win in 2014 is essentially a photo negative of how Fabian Gomez and Daniel Berger prevailed since. That's not an anomaly inasmuch as it's the mark of a proper golf course. All lanes should be open at all times. Still, adhering to the message above the table, the data supporting how to conquer TPC Southwind is clear. The dots connected between ranking high in all of the following four identifiers and leaderboard position are arguably as direct as any we've observed. In an additional nod to par-5 scoring, TPC Southwind was the third-hardest par 70 in a non-major in each of the last two seasons and the hardest in 2013-14. So, capitalizing on the vulnerable pair of par 5s carries elevated value. Golfers in this week’s field inside the top 10 in the following categories in last year’s FedEx St. Jude Classic: * - Currently inside the top 50 on the PGA TOUR in the stat. (Golfers who haven't logged enough rounds are not tagged.) Greens in Regulation Rank Golfer (Tournament Finish) T1 Daniel Berger (Win) T1 *Russell Henley (T7) T3 Seung-Yul Noh (T7) 5 Johnson Wagner (T32) T6 Brett Stegmaier (T9) T6 Harold Varner III (T16) T10 *Stewart Cink (T65) T10 Brooks Koepka (T2) Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green Rank Golfer (Tournament Finish) 1 *Daniel Berger (Win) 2 Brett Stegmaier (T9) 3 Seung-Yul Noh (T7) 4 *Boo Weekley (T12) 5 Harold Varner III (T16) 6 *D.A. Points (T18) 7 Russell Henley (T7) 8 Tyrone Van Aswegen (T18) 9 Ken Duke (T9) 10 Brooks Koepka (T2) Par-5 Scoring Rank Golfer (Tournament Finish) T1 Sam Saunders (T34) T3 Daniel Berger (Win) T3 Ken Duke (T9) T3 *Russell Henley (T7) T3 Seung-Yul Noh (T7) T7 Chad Collins (T18) T7 Brian Gay (6th) T7 Retief Goosen (T12) T7 *Matt Jones (T26) T7 Carl Pettersson (T70) T7 Brett Stegmaier (T9) T7 Harold Varner III (T16) T7 Camilo Villegas (T58) Bogey Avoidance Rank Golfer (Tournament Finish) T2 *Daniel Berger (Win) T2 Seung-Yul Noh (T7) T2 Brooks Koepka (T2) 5 Phil Mickelson (T2) T8 Retief Goosen (T12) T8 *Shawn Stefani (T9) T8 Boo Weekley (T12) While the groupings below include dynamic performers like Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Billy Horschel, Daniel Berger and Russell Henley, they are populated primarily by rank-and-file grinders otherwise known as the heartbeat of PGA TOUR membership. It's the kind of no-chrome knowhow coaches and mental gurus love to witness. So, when rounding out your roster, dip into the commodities with confidence. NOTE: The groups below are comprehensive to assist in data mining. Inclusion doesn't imply automatic endorsement in every fantasy game as all decisions are specific to your situation. CONFIDENCE MEN Selected golfers with multiple cuts made sorted by rank on the tournament's money list. BUILDING CONFIDENCE Sorted by best finish, selected golfers who are either finally finding form on the course or are still relatively new to the tournament but have enjoyed some success. OTHER SIGNS OF CONFIDENCE Sorted by most recent top 10s, selected golfers for whom it's been a few years since their last.
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