The lead up tournament to the US Open on the PGA Tour is the St Jude Classic which is the tournament that takes place this week as those looking to fine tune their game ahead of Shinnecock Hills head to Memphis.
Daniel Berger has certainly got the most out of his game here in the last two seasons as he arrives in search of a three-peat, a feat rarely seen on the PGA Tour these days. He defends the title with a number of household names challenging him.
2017 – Daniel Berger
2016 – Daniel Berger
2015 – Fabian Gomez
2014 – Ben Crane
2013 – Harris English
2012 – Dustin Johnson
2011 – Harrison Frazar
2010 – Lee Westwood
2009 – Brian Gay
2008 – Justin Leonard
TPC Southwind hosts this tournament once again and the players know they are going to get a decent test of their entire game. It is a tough par 70 which measures 7,244 yards with some of the smallest greens that are seen on the PGA Tour.
With that in mind there is a premium for accuracy around this track. Hitting into what can be firm greens will be a lot easier from the fairway, in keeping with next week really, but given that the greens are so small there will be a good test of scrambling too, another thing that is good preparation for next week.
While twice winner Daniel Berger will get the attention as the defending champion the likes of Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson and US Open champion Brooks Koepka are sure to take some of the limelight away from the Presidents Cup star.
It must be said this is a slightly weaker field with a host of big names heading to New York early to get stuck into their preparations for next week but the likes of Tony Finau, Billy Horschel, Charl Schwartzel and the loser of the play-off last week Byeong-Hun An all add some spice and profile to the field teeing it up here.
I dare say it comes as no surprise that Dustin Johnson is the 13/2 favourite this week. It is a bigger surprise that he is actually in the field this week. Whether the tournament suits him or not is another thing entirely. He has a couple of top 10s since he won here in 2012 but I’ve got to believe he’s only here to work on his game. He isn’t for me this week.
Brooks Koepka may not normally be here the week before he defends a major if it wasn’t for that fact he is still working up to full speed after his injury lay off. He is 9/1 to prepare for his title defence next week with a win here. He has been third and second around this track so you would be a fool to dismiss him but with an inkling he’s preparing for next week I’m not sure I could pull the trigger on him.
Henrik Stenson has a skill set which is perfectly suited to this golf course but the fact he hasn’t teed it up here since 2012 tells you everything you need to know about why he is here. If everything clicks he could be the man at 12/1 and certainly his form is good enough for him to win but he’s another with an eye on next week and as a result he’s not for me either.
You never really know whether Phil Mickelson wants to win the week before a major or not. Either way, he is 16/1 to win this week which if you take his form earlier in the season into account is a perfectly acceptable price. Mickelson has not been outside the top 11 on his last five visits to this tournament so he clearly likes the place but again is he here to win or fine tune for next week? I’m not convinced. It is 22/1 bar those mentioned.
I’ll go with a couple of main bets this week with the first being for Byeong-Hun An who I fancy can go one better than he did last week. An hit the ball lovely last week and what was really impressive was his putting which will stand him in good stead here. He hit a lot of shots close last week especially down the stretch. He was actually the statistical leader with nobody hitting more greens in regulation than him. If his irons are dialled in to the same level this week he should go very well.
For my second bet we go back to me being convinced that Chez Reavie is a winner in waiting this season and having finished fourth here last year there is no reason to think that it can’t be this week for him. Reavie is monotonously straight from tee to green as I keep saying and his short game is much improved. He should get on really well with the firm conditions too if his run in Phoenix is anything to go by and at 45/1 he looks a leading light to me.
Scott Piercy leads the PGA Tour is strokes gaining on approach to the green and if that is going to count for anything then this is the week it should make a difference. To be fair he hasn’t been that bad off the tee either. It has been on the greens where his problems have lied but on much smaller greens than we are used to on the PGA Tour, if he can continue to find them in the right number he should get more putts rolling to the hole. There are much worse 90/1 pokes than him this weekend.
Matt Jones has a decent record around here. He was third here in 2015 and has been in the top 30 in the two years since then. He arrives here with the pressure off having come through US Open qualifying on Monday, which actually shows he is hitting the ball well and is handling the pressure nicely. We know he is one of the better putters on the tour but he was in the top 10 in greens hit at the Byron Nelson recently where he was right in the mix heading into the final round when the scoring got too hot. It won’t do here so a repeat of that could see him out late on Sunday once again, at a huge price.
Back B-H.An to win St Jude Classic (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 34.00 with Coral (1/5 1-7)
PLACED – Back C.Reavie to win St Jude Classic (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 46.00 with Skybet (1/5 1-8)
Back S.Piercy to win St Jude Classic (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 91.00 with Skybet (1/5 1-8)
Back M.Jones to win St Jude Classic (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 111.00 with Skybet (1/5 1-8)