Dustin Anything But A Lost Cause for St Jude Classic
The 2014 Fedex St. Jude Classic takes centre stage in Memphis, Tennessee this Thursday with a high-class field ready to do battle. In this preview, I try and pick out the best value bets.
The tournament that used to be known as the Memphis Open has been going since 1958, and since 2007 it has been the last event for the US Open, a chance for the leading contenders to fine tune their game ahead of the season’s second Major. Fifteen of the last sixteen winners have been from the United States, and Lee Westwood is the only foreign golfer to win it in the last ten years.
TPC Southwind in Memphis is just over 7200 yards long, and although the fairways are spacious and there are few bunkers to contend with, the course is rated one of the toughest on the PGA Tour. The rough is unforgiving and the greens are small, undulating and fiendishly hard to hit. Accuracy and distance from the tee are vital, and players also have to cope with occasional downpours and high humidity.
In The Bunker
The ultra-consistent Matt Kuchar is one of my favourite golfers, but even the most reliable pros have their ups and downs and Kuchar’s efforts last week confirmed that, he is running out of steam. After missing the cut at Colonial, his first since February, he kicked off with a 74 at Memorial, and although he battled back well to finish in the top 15, I think he’s a player to avoid for the time being.
While Kuchar may be entering a temporary slump, Dustin Johnson looks like a player coming into form again. He had a purple patch at the start of the year and there have been signs of a revival in May, beginning with his top ten finish at the Byron Nelson and continuing at Colonial, where he opened with a 65 and closed with a 66. He won at Southwind in 2012, made the top ten last year and is a solid bet this week at 15/1.
Ryan Palmer has been hit and miss this year, mixing the brilliant with the ordinary and on past form, you’d be forgiven for not reading too much into his top five finish at Colonial two weeks ago, but his recent record in this event means it’s worth overlooking his inconsistency. He followed up a third at Southwind in 2012 with a fourth last year and at 22/1 he has to be worth a look this week.
And at even bigger odds, it’s worth taking a chance on another player who could be hitting form at the right time. Billy Horschel hasn’t been in great touch in recent weeks, but his fifteenth at Memorial last week was his best effort since his top ten at the Tournament of Champions in January, and he showed he can do well at Southwind when making the top ten last year. At 50/1 he’s a good value outsider.