This article is part of our DraftKings PGA DFS Picks series.
FEDEX ST. JUDE CHAMPIONSHIP
Winner's Share: $2.7M
FedEx Cup Points: 2,000 to the Winner
Location: Memphis, Tenn.
Course: TPC Southwind
2021 champion: Abraham Ancer (WGC-FedEX)
All season long the golfers play for FedExCup points to get into the FedExCup Playoffs to win the FedExCup. And now the playoffs will begin with the FedEx St. Jude Championship. There is no bigger sponsor of the PGA Tour than FedEx, and right now the Tour needs all the friends it can get. FedEx has sponsored the playoffs since their inception in 2007. It has been the title sponsor of the Memphis tour stop since 1986, first as a regular tournament, then as a WGC and now as the first playoff event. These types of partnerships will be tested during the PGA Tour's ongoing battle with LIV Golf.
Next week comes the BMW Championship and, following a week off, the season-ending Tour Championship, which used to have a title sponsor (Coca-Cola) and could very well have one in the future. Hey, the money is gonna have to come from somewhere.
The field size is a bit tricky to explain. As always, the top 125 golfers in the FedExCup point standings qualify for this event. Then they cut to the top-70 for the BMW and the top-30 for East Lake. But as we all know by now, nothing in this PGA Tour season has been simple. First, three golfers -- Tommy Fleetwood, Daniel Berger and Lanto Griffin -- have decided not to play. Okay, that's 122. But -- and this is a big but -- 11 golfers who left for LIV are suing the PGA Tour and three of them are trying to get into this field. The fates of Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones were to be decided via a temporary restraining order on Tuesday in Federal Court in Northern California. Regardless of the TRO outcome, they will not be a part of any of our lineups. They will get a very chilly reception from their fellow players and likely even fans.
LIV has created an ugly schism in professional golf, but for about two dozen golfers, there is a silver lining. With 20-25 guys leaving for LIV, that's about how many qualified for the playoffs who otherwise wouldn't have, and they also kept their Tour cards for next season. For most of them, it will be one and done. We're not talking about just this week. As one of the myriad changes on tap for the PGA Tour in response to LIV beginning next season, the playoff field will max out at 70, so there are dozens of golfers in Memphis this week who likely will never reach the playoffs again.
That's not the case for the top guys. Scottie Scheffler, Cameron Smith and Rory McIlroy lead a loaded field. Twenty-two of the top-25 in the world are on hand, missing only LIVers Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Abraham Ancer. Ancer won the WGC-FedEx last year, but in the Tour's eyes he is not considered the defending champion (well, he's not even defending). No. it is Tony Finau, who won last season's Northern Trust, which was the first playoff event and now is defunct.
The PGA Tour has been stopping Memphis since 1958. The tournament was long associated with the late entertainer Danny Thomas until 1984. (Thomas founded the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis in 1962 and his family is still closely associated with it.) Two years later, FedEx came on board. TPC Southwind has been the host course since 1989.
Southwind is a long par-70, thought there are 11 doglegs that curb distance. There are only two par-5s. It features eight par-4s of 450ish-plus yards and the bermudagrass greens average a small 4,300 square feet. Hitting from far back into small greens makes getting on the green in regulation a challenge. That doesn't even take into account the 11 water hazards affecting 11 holes. There have been far more water balls at Southwind over the past two decades than at any other course on Tour, 5,989, according to the Tour, vs. 4,809 at No. 2 TPC Sawgrass (TPC Twin Cities is now bidding to be No. 1). Nowhere is there more danger than at No. 18, a 453-yard dogleg left with water almost the entire way.
For years, Southwind annually fell somewhere between 10th and 15th among the hardest courses on Tour. But the past three years after switching to a WGC it has gotten easier. Or has it? Did the course get easier or did it just play harder when lesser golfers made up the field? Last year, Southwind was 19th easiest among the 51 courses in play.
Weather-wise, there is a chance of thunderstorms on Thursday, but otherwise the week will be dry and steamy with high temperatures around 90, high humidity and very light wind. The official Golf Course Superintendents Association fact sheet noted that the "area has seen one of the hottest Julys on record with more than 11 days over 100 degrees" and that the "area has been in an extreme drought with June and July down 5" of rain."
Fun Memphis golf factoids: The first 59 in PGA Tour history was shot in Memphis. Al Geiberger did it at par-72 Cordova Country Club in the second round of the 1977 tournament then known as the Danny Thomas Memphis Classic. Geiberger won the tourney, three strokes ahead of former Memphis winner Gary Player. Also in 1977, get this: Former president Gerald Ford hit an incredible shot during the pro-am ... no, he didn't plunk a spectator in the head as he was wont to do -- he made a hole-in-one!
Key Stats to Winning at TPC Southwind
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.
• Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green/Ball Striking/Driving Accuracy
• Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation
• Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green/Scrambling
• Par 4 Efficiency 450-500 yards
Let's focus on the past three years. Not because the course changed but because the quality of the field did when the tournament became a WGC. The course is a long, narrow par-70, but the past two years only two of the top-15 finishers were inside the top-10 in driving distance for the week. Eleven doglegs do a good jump of blunting distance, We're focusing a little on hitting fairways but more on greens in regulation and scrambling. The past three years the winner has ranked in the top-10 in fairways hit. Last year, Ancer won at 16-under after a playoff with Sam Burns and Hideki Matsuyama. All three finished the week in the top-seven in Strokes Gained: Approach, SG: Around-the-Green and SG: Tee-to-Green. Two of the three were top-10 in SG: Putting (Matsuyama was not). In fact, among the top-15 finishers, seven ranked in the top-10 in putting for the week. That's not always the case at Southwind. Two years ago, again, Thomas ranked second in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach, fourth in SG: Around-the-Green and first in both proximity and SG: Tee-to-Green. But he was only 55th in putting. As far as scrambling, get this: Ancer ranked first, Thomas was sixth, Koepka was first and even Johnson was second. Ancer and Koepka won at 16-under, while Thomas was 13-under. This year, however, golfodds.com has pegged the over/under on the winning score at 263.5 -- 16.5 under par.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Rory McIlroy - $11,000 (Winning odds via DraftKings Sportsbook: +900)
The price is steep, but not if McIlroy wins. And he surely can win. This will be the first time we'll see McIlroy since his crushing Open Championship, and we don't want to completely discount that. But, and not to be flip, McIlroy has had numerous crushing moment throughout his career and has always bounced back. He is one of the longest, straightest drivers, and that's an important skillset this week. It's more important to be straight then long, but if you can do both, hey, why not? McIlroy really does everything well -- even scramble (ranked 26th). He was 12th here last year and fourth at the WGC in 2019.
Scottie Scheffler - $10,800 (+1400)
Don't forget, Scheffler is still No. 1 in the FedEx and No. 1 in the world. So seeing him second on the DK board and tied for second at the Sportsbook is a mild surprise. Like McIlroy, Scheffler is one one of the longest, straightest drivers -- plus, he leads the Tour in greens in regulation. Even the weakest part of his game, putting, is not weak at all with a ranking of 36th in SG: Putting. Scheffler has gone eight tournaments since winning, but he has been runner-up twice. He was solo 14th here a year ago and 15th the year before that.
Xander Schauffele - $10,600 (+1400)
Here is yet another long, straight driver. Schauffele is not quite as long as McIlroy and Scheffler, but he does hit more fairways -- and that ultimately will more important this week. Schauffele is also the hottest of the trio with two wins over the summer. He did not have a good WGC last year but shared sixth place in 2020.
Cameron Smith - $10,600 (+1800)
There are three guys priced higher than Smith in DFS pricing and SIX at the Sportsbook. Smith cannot match the above trio off the tee, but as we saw at St. Andrews the weakest part of his game is not so weak anymore. And with the golfers facing long iron shots to tiny greens this week, short game will be a factor after greens are missed. And we know no one can match Smith with a wedge/putter in his hand. It may come down to whether the Champion Golfer of Year hangover is over.
Tier 2 Values
Matt Fitzpatrick - $9,800 (+1400)
Fitzpatrick is No. 8 on DFS board but co-second at the Sportsbook. Yes, we're playing DFS, but it is an indication that he might be underpriced. Fitzpatrick has proven he can play this track, finishing top-six in both 2019 and '20. And now he's a far better golfer than he was then. He leads the Tour in SG: Tee-to-Green and there really is no weakness in his game.
Will Zalatoris - $9,500 (+2200)
After spending the past two weeks at birdie-fests -- and why was he even playing those tournaments with the playoffs looming? -- Zalatoris is at a track that best suits his game. His all-around tee-to-green game (ranked second behind Fitzpatrick) should allow him to separate himself from much of the field this week. Zalatoris made his Southwind debut a year and shared eighth place. Also, Zalatoris debuts a new caddie this week, the veteran bagman Joel Stock. We think that will be a positive.
Collin Morikawa - $8,700 (+3000)
This is a stunner even though it's really not. Morikawa is concluding a terrible season -- for him. He even missed his last two cuts. Both were in Scotland, so we'll call that a mitigating circumstance. Frankly, this price is just too good to pass up, either in a DFS lineup or wherever. Morikawa is still fourth on Tour in SG: Approach and 22nd in SG: Tee-to-Green. That's a pretty nice combination for $8,700.
Billy Horschel - $8,200 (+4000)
Horschel has a lot of off weeks for such a highly ranked golfer (No. 15). And he hasn't been great since winning the Memorial. But there's no denying his Southwind success going back many years, including top-25s all three years of the WGC and numerous top-10s when it was a regular Tour event. Horschel is incredibly accurate off the tee and from the fairway -- he's ranked in the top-25 in both fairways hit and greens in regulation -- plus he's top-10 in SG: Putting.
Tier 3 Values
Aaron Wise - $7,700 (+6500)
Wise will be making his Southwind debut but this course seems like a great fit for him. He's ranked 26th on Tour in both greens in regulation and SG: Tee-to-Green. The issue with Wise has always been his putting. This year, however, he's ranked 102nd, far better than usual. Wise sits 27th in the point standings, showing how good he's really performed this season.
Seamus Power - $7,600 (+6500)
Power has been idle since missing the cut at the Open Championship, so he is well rested. He has had a great season Tour, finishing in the top-25 almost every time he makes a cut -- 13 out of 15. Power is ranked 13th on Tour in greens in regulation despite being an average-length driver, and he's also a very good putter, ranked 28th.
Keith Mitchell - $7,400 (+13000)
Mitchell is ranked fourth on Tour in SG: Off-the-Tee, combining very good distance with pretty good accuracy. He's had a successful season already with six top-10s and 10 top-25s. Mitchell finished 39th here in 2019 but we can't pass up his elite ball striking.
Emiliano Grillo - $7,000 (+15000)
As we get down here toward the long shots, we'll be looking for more conservative plays because of all the water that could wreck a round with one swing. Grillo is ranked 16th on Tour in ball striking. It's well documented that his putting has held him back, but let's get to the weekend and go from there. Grillo has had a great late-summer run with a pair of runners-up at the John Deere and 3M Open.
Matt Kuchar - $6,900 (+15000)
Before missing the cut at the Rocket Mortgage, Kuchar had made eight in a row. At age 44, his upside appears limited in a strong field. Kuchar is not only accurate off the tee, he leads the Tour in SG: Around-the-Green and is 15th in Putting, things that will come in handy when he invariably misses some greens.
Tom Hoge - $6,800 (+15000)
Hoge ended a stretch of six consecutive missed cuts with a tie for fourth at the 3M Open last time out. That has done little to boost his price. Remember, Hoge is still ranked in the top-50 OWGR and is a near-lock to play in the Tour Championship (he's 17th in points). Hoge is ranked 11th on Tour in SG: Approach and 26th in Tee-to-Green.
Aaron Rai - $6,800 (+20000)
Unlike a lot of guys in the $6,000s, Rai is quite familiar with the course. The Englishman qualified for the WGC twice in the past three years, tying for 12th in 2019 and for 26th last year. This season, he's ranked 24th on Tour in driving accuracy, 34th in greens in regulation and 48th in SG: Tee-to-Green, so we can see why he has performed well at Southwind. Meaningless stat that we feel like sharing: Rai has missed five cuts in 2022 -- a pretty low number -- but only one has come on the U.S. mainland.
Lee Hodges - $6,400 (+40000)
We always like to offer at least one sub-$6,500 play to help you squeeze a sixth guy into your lineup. Hodges has had a decent rookie season. Yes, he's missed 11 of 27 cuts, but he's come on strong by making seven of his past eight. Good ball striking will do that -- Hodges is ranked 35th on Tour. Poor putting should limit his upside.