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St. Jude Classic Preview: A Winning Brandt of Golf

Greg Vara

Vara is the lead golf writer at RotoWire. He was named the 2013 FSWA Golf Writer of the Year. In addition to producing the weekly preview and the bulk of the draft kit content, Vara participates in Yahoo!'s "Experts Picks" where he routinely dominates. He also picks college football games against the spread in his "College Capper" article.

It was only a week ago that I wrote that a certain predictability had returned to the game of golf when one Tiger Woods was in the field. A few days later, we all learned that isn't quite the case. In a bizarre turn of events, Tiger Woods, coming off a win at The Players, posted his highest nine-hole score as a professional, and at Muirfield of all places where he usually dominates. It was a reminder that the game of golf may be many things, but predictable isn't one of them. In the same vein, Tiger's trouble this past Saturday means absolutely nothing next week at Merion. Unlike other professional sports we all follow, trends rarely develop in golf and even less often are reliable once they've been spotted. It's one reason that there are "surprises" on the leaderboard at every major during the season. It's also the reason that more times than not, the "hot" player coming into a major is rarely a factor. There is an upside to this, though. Anyone who had pinpointed Tiger for the U.S. Open may find it easier to grab him in a draft or pool scenario next week because of his performance last weekend. Whether his Saturday round at Muirfield has any bearing on his performance at the Open, well that's anyone's guess.

This week:
FedEx St. Jude Classic

Last Year:
Dustin Johnson shot a final-round 66 on his way to a one-stroke victory over John Merrick.

Players to Consider:

1. Freddie Jacobson

Jacobson is one of the few players in the field this week who's playing well this season and has a good track record here. He's slowed a bit from his early season pace, but he should get back on track this week.

2. Brandt Snedeker

Snedeker hasn't resembled the player we saw earlier in the year lately, but with a watered-down field this week, this might be the spot where he comes back to life. In addition, he's a Tennessee native, so you can bet that he won't be looking ahead to the Open next week.

3. Robert Karlsson

Karlsson sure has a feel for this course. He's finished runner-up here two of the past three years. Most of the international players in the field this week will use this event as a partial tuneup for the Open, but not Karlsson - he's looking to finally get that elusive win here.

4. Boo Weekley

When we last saw Weekley he resembled a man possessed. In fact, he's looked like a man on a mission all season. His struggles the last few years look to be behind him, and if that's the case, he could be a factor nearly every time he tees it up, including this week.

5. Scott Stallings

Although he's really played well lately, Stallings is still probably under the radar heading into this week, but he shouldn't be. Stallings enters this week off consecutive top-5s and has played well here before, as well, with a top-25 a couple years back.

Players to Avoid:

1. Jonathan Byrd

Byrd is the type of player who comes out of nowhere to play well every now and then, and while that could happen this week, it was more likely to happen last week at the Memorial, where his track record was solid. Byrd missed the cut last week by a country mile.

2. Jimmy Walker

Walker has been on quite a roll this year, and while he's still yet to miss a cut this season, his most recent performance leaves a lot to be desired. Walker finished T73 last week at the Memorial and comes into this week off of six consecutive rounds in the 70s.

3. Aaron Baddeley

Baddeley's play lately has been, well, bad. Four consecutive missed cuts entering this week and a missed cut here in his most recent appearance in 2009.

4. Casey Wittenberg

Wittenberg showed us a glimpse of his talent at The Players Championship last month, but since his top-10 there, the wheels have come off. Wittenberg enters this week on a streak of three consecutive missed cuts.

5. Ricky Barnes

After a decent start to the season (two top-20s), Barnes has really struggled. His lone top-15 came at the Byron Nelson a few weeks back, but since that finish, he's missed consecutive cuts.


Group A

1. Brandt Snedeker
2. Boo Weekley

Not a lot to choose from in Group A this week and as you can probably tell, I left a big name off my roster. Phil Mickelson doesn't look all that sharp, and I dare say he might have one eye looking ahead to Merion while playing this week.

Group B

1. John Merrick
2. Freddie Jacobson
3. Scott Stallings
4. Dustin Johnson

Group B is extremely thin this week and with Jimmy Walker on my Avoid List, it's almost impossible to find four good options. Jacobson is an easy choice and should be on nearly every team. D.J. would normally be an easy choice, but his back issues lately make me nervous. Stallings looks like a solid play on recent form, and Merrick has played pretty well lately and finished runner-up here last year.

Group C

1. Billy Horschel
2. Robert Karlsson

An interesting mix of players in Group C this week. Karlsson looks like the best option, but beyond him, there are a handful of guys that should work out. I'm going with Horschel as it looks like he might be rounding back into the form that saw him capture his first win earlier this season.

Starters Round One

1. Boo Weekley
2. Freddie Jacobson
3. Scott Stallings
4. Robert Karlsson

Fairly easy to set the starting lineup this week. The only tough decision was Group A where it was between Sneds and Weekley. I chose Weekly because he's coming off a win and Snedeker is coming off a missed cut. Group B was pretty clear cut with Jacobson and Stallings. Jacobson is the best pick from the group, and Stallings comes in with great form. I considered Merrick for a minute, but I couldn't pull the trigger. Group C was an easy call as well as Karlsson has a great feel for this course.

Round Two and Going Forward:

With any luck, Group A should be interesting this week. I expect Weekley and Snedeker to play well, so starting Friday, it's going to be a tough call on who starts. If they both play well out of the gate, I'll likely start Snedeker on Friday. Jacobson has a pretty strong hold on one of the starting spots in Group B, and Stallings has a chance to hold one of the spots for a while if he continues to play well also. D.J. is the wild card this week as no one is sure how his back will hold up and how he'll play if it does. He could obviously force his way into the lineup if he starts well, but he could ride pine all week if he starts slowly. Horschel is the one to watch in Group C. If he finds his early season form again, I'll be forced to put him in the lineup, no matter how Karlsson starts.