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St. Jude Classic Preview: At the Top of His Game

He's back! Wait, no, he's not. Hold that thought. He's back! The Tiger Woods rollercoaster continued last week as Woods again proved his mettle at the Memorial. Are we any closer to answering the question that's plagued us all season, though - is Tiger really back? Yes and no. Let's start with the reason why we can't jump to the conclusion that he's back. First, Tiger looked awfully good while closing out his win at Bay Hill, yet two weeks later at Augusta he failed to resemble that form in any fashion. The following month he appeared mere mortal once again at Sawgrass, leaving us to wonder once again if Bay Hill was the exception or the rule. Fast forward to last Sunday and it does indeed look like Tiger is back on form. The difference this time, and the reason why he might contend at the U.S. Open in two weeks, is this - he has his swagger back. Yes, this was his second win of the season, but the ultimate confidence seemed to be missing the first time around. That's not the case this time, as evidence by his remarks Sunday. "That was some good stuff out there," Woods said. "I never really missed a shot today." There'll be no consensus on the state of Woods' game before he tees off at the U.S. Open in two weeks, but one thing is for certain, Tiger believes he's back this time.

This week:
St. Jude Classic

Last Year:
Harrison Frazar shot a final-round 67 on his way to a playoff victory over Robert Karlsson.

Players to Consider:

1. Robert Karlsson

The odds are against a third consecutive top-two finish here, but there's no doubt that Karlsson is comfortable on this course, and a good showing is almost guaranteed.

2. Blake Adams

Adams started well last week at the Memorial, but a second-round 77 destroyed any hope of seriously contending. He managed to stay inside the top-20, though, as he did last year at this event.

3. Spencer Levin

Levin again failed to close last week at the Memorial, but that, of course, was overshadowed by one Tiger Woods, which is probably a good thing. Levin played well on the whole last week and played well here last year also, which adds up to another good showing this week.

4. Zach Johnson

Johnson hasn't made this event a regular stop on his schedule a lot since turning pro, which is a bit strange considering he's never finished worse than T32. His best finish came in 2005 when he finished T5, and considering his current form another top-5 could be in the cards.

5. Harrison Frazar

Frazar is nowhere near the top of his game, but he is the defending champ, and he does have a pair of top-3s this season. Perhaps a trip back to the St. Jude will snap him out of this funk.

Players to Avoid:

1. Brian Gay

Gay cruised to victory here just three years ago, but he's simply not that player now. His current form is very poor, and he missed the cut here last year as well. It looks like Gay has too many problems to fix.

2. Justin Leonard

Leonard won here in 2008, but just like Gay, he's not the same anymore. Leonard has missed consecutive cuts here and skipped the event altogether last season.

3. Ken Duke

Duke's mini-run came to a halt last week at the Memorial where he opened with a 75 and followed with a 76 on his way to a missed cut. His fortunes are not about to improve this week either as his best finish at the St. Jude is T47 in 2004.

4. Padraig Harrington

Harrington finished T4 here in 2008, but that result looks like the outlier when compared to his other results here. Among the lowlights of his other four starts are two missed cuts and two finishes outside the top-50.

5. Kyle Stanley

Stanley is doing everything he can to break out of his funk, including teeing it up at the St. Jude Classic for the first time. The fact remains, though, that he's currently on a run of four consecutive missed cuts, and even if he makes the cut this week, he's probably not going to get much on the weekend.


This week:
St. Jude Classic

Group A

1. Zach Johnson
2. Spencer Levin

Group A is a little light this week, but then again, so is the entire field. Fortunately, two of my top 5 are in this group. Johnson is the top pick in this group, and I would guess that most Yahoo! players will have him. But Levin should provide an opportunity to gain some ground on the competition.

Group B

1. Harrison Frazar
2. Dustin Johnson
3. Rory McIlroy
4. Blake Adams

A strange selection of players in Group B this week. Strange in that the biggest names aren't exactly the ones you must have this week. That said, it looks like Johnson and McIlroy are still good choices from this group. As for the other two, Adams and Frazar are solid picks, even if they aren't the biggest names from Group B.

Group C

1. Robert Karlsson
2. Matt Every

It seems like there are about 200 players in Group C this week, yet few quality options. Karlsson is a quality option, though; just scroll down a bit and you'll find him. I'm not crazy about Every this week, but he's coming off a good showing last weekend and, considering the lack of strength in the field, he could make another charge this week.

Starters Round One

1. Zach Johnson
2. Dustin Johnson
3. Blake Adams
4. Robert Karlsson

An easy call in Group A this week as Johnson appears to be the top pick in the field. Adams also seems like an easy call from Group B, considering two of the four players are struggling coming in. The other start goes to Dustin Johnson, who's teeing it up here for the first time. It's certainly a risky move, but I think he's about to get back into a groove sometime soon. Karlsson has been lights-out here the last two years, and I'm hoping he picks up where he left off last year right out of the gate.

Round Two and Going Forward:

Johnson has a strong hold on the starting spot in Group A this week, but Levin could force my hand with a good start Thursday. It will have to be quite a round, though, as Johnson should be a good option for all four rounds this week. Unlike Group A, Group B is going to be a clean slate at the start of every round. The reason being, I've got a couple big names in McIlroy and Johnson, who both happen to have some issues this week: McIlroy's current form and Johnson's lack of experience here. That could change, however, with a good start from either player. If either player starts well, they'll likely have a starting spot following two rounds. Hopefully, Karlsson starts well in Group C because I'm not sure about Every's prospects this week.