2018 St. Jude Classic picks, field: Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson prep for U.S. Open

I really can't believe the U.S. Open is taking place next week. It feels like the Masters just ended! But first, the FedEx St. Jude Classic will take place this week in Memphis and for the last time in this position. Starting in 2019, the event will take place in likely July or August (because Memphis in July or August is where everyone wants to be!), and it will be a WGC event, replacing the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

That will certainly bring out elite fields to TPC Southwind, but this year is one final version where the tournament is an opportunity for some, but merely a tune-up for the world's best before one of the biggest events of the year next week.

Let's take a look at this week's contest.

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Event information

What: St. Jude Classic | Where: Memphis, Tennessee | When: June 7-10

Field and odds

  • Dustin Johnson: 13-2
  • Brooks Koepka: 9-1
  • Henrik Stenson: 11-1
  • Phil Mickelson: 16-1
  • Tony Finau: 20-1
  • Billy Horschel: 22-1
  • Charl Schwartzel: 28-1
  • Daniel Berger: 28-1

Field strength: B-

It's not a great field, but it does have some good characters (Mickelson, D.J., Kiradech Aphibarnrat) as well as some fun young players (Joaquin Niemann, Braden Thornberry).

Three stories to watch

1. Throw it away! I wonder what Phil Mickelson will be thinking if he comes to the final hole with a two-stroke lead given the fact that the six-time runner up at the U.S. Open is still looking for the grand slam next week at Shinnecock. If he makes a triple in Memphis to lose by one to J.T. Poston, just remember this stat.

2. Driving D.J.: Johnson said this in his post-Memorial interview with Amanda Balionis of CBS Sports, but he didn't drive the ball very well at Muirfield Village. It's something to keep an eye on this week because, if the driver is locked in at Shinnecock, it's extremely easy to see him winning U.S. Open No. 2 next week at a classic track like the one he won on in 2016 (Oakmont).

Johnson is No. 1 on the PGA Tour in strokes gained off the tee this year (1.003 per round), but he was outside the top 20 last week at Memorial.

3. Joaquin in Memphis: Mostly I just wanted to use a headline that literally every golf media outlet is going to use this week. Niemann now has three (!) top 10s on the PGA Tour so far this year and has gained a special temporary membership. Now he needs around 100 more FedEx Cup points to lock up a spot inside the top 125 and gain his card for 2018-19 (365 points was the magic number last year).

Past winners

Daniel Berger is to the St. Jude Classic what Tiger Woods is to the Bridgestone Invitational. OK, maybe not that far, but back-to-back wins here is still impressive.

St. Jude Classic picks

Tony Finau
Winner: Finau is 20th on Tour in strokes gained overall. He's making his first appearance at this event, but it's a course that demands great approach shots, and he's one of the best in the field in that category. Needs a win soon to get into the Ryder Cup conversation.  Odds: 20-1   
Top 10:  Three top fives in the last five years, and he's coming off of a T13 at the Memorial last week. Combine a weak field with a semi-hot Mickelson, and I feel good about locking this in. Odds: 16-1   
Sleeper: Ben Crane always seems to play well here. He has six top 20s plus a win and finished in the top 10 last year. He's coming off his best week of the season two weeks ago at Colonial (where he finished T8). The 80-1 number is at the very least compelling. Odds: 80-1   
CBS Sports Writer

Kyle Porter began his sports writing career with CBS Sports in 2012. He covers golf, writes poetry about Rory McIlroy's swing, stays ready on Tiger watch and loves the Masters more than anyone you know.... Full Bio

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