The week before a major championship is always a little bit chill. I don't know if that's because everyone is soaking in the calm before the storm or because of the lack of star power at the tournament, but this week's St. Jude Classic is top-heavy with talent and short on a great field. Still, it's one final opportunity for some golfers to get into the top 60 in the Official World Golf Rankings and into the U.S. Open next week.
Let's take a look at this week's contest.
What: St. Jude Classic | Where: Memphis, Tennessee | When: June 8-11
Participants and odds
- Rickie Fowler: 15-2
- Adam Scott: 12-1
- Brooks Koepka: 12-1
- Phil Mickelson: 16-1
- Francesco Molinari: 18-1
- Daniel Berger: 25-1
- Kyle Stanley: 25-1
Field strength: C+
It's (expectedly) not a good field, but Scott and Fowler have been playing terrific golf so maybe we'll get a shootout of some sort. Also, Kyle Stanley has been tremendous over the last month. I'm with Chris Solomon, zero surprises if he wins soon.
Three stories to watch
1. Rickie Fowler's tune-up: Last week, I was watching Jordan Spieth closely at the Memorial Tournament to see how he played in his last tournament before the U.S. Open. This week it will be Fowler. The former Oklahoma State Cowboy has had a solid year teetering on great. He has five top 10-finishes and a win, but considering he's missed the last two cuts at the U.S. Open, I'd like to see one more solid week before penciling him in for a top 10 at Erin Hills.
2. NCAA Champion present: Ole Miss' Braden Thornberry is fresh off a big NCAA Championship individual title and playing this week on a sponsor exemption. He's the No. 16 amateur golfer in the world and playing his first PGA Tour event.
3. Getting to 60: As the U.S. Open fills out, guys Ian Poulter, Kyle Stanley, Danny Lee, Jason Kokrak and Ryan Palmer need to win to get to Erin Hills next week. Here is a handy guide about who's in and out of the 117th U.S. Open and how that will be affected by this week's event.
- 2016: Daniel Berger
- 2015: Fabian Gomez
- 2014: Ben Crane
- 2013: Harris English
- 2012: Dustin Johnson
Is Fabian Gomez the most unlikely two-time PGA Tour winner in history? I think he might be. An odd list here. You won't find two more opposite players than Crane and Johnson, and yet they've both won at this course. The average winning score in that timespan, by the way, is 11 under.
St. Jude Classic predictions
Winner: Rickie Fowler is pretty easily the best player in this field. He doesn't have a big history with this tournament (T13 in his last appearance in 2014), but I'll ride with the only golfer on the PGA Tour in the top 10 in strokes gained off the tee and on the greens. That seems like a nice bet in this field. Odds: 15-2
Top 10: Phil Mickelson has not missed a cut this season, but he only has two top 10s to show for it (somehow). That is the opposite of what we usually expect from Lefty. The roller coaster that has been his career normally results in either wins or missed cuts, but all he has exuded this season is a consistency between T15 and T55. However, he has four top 11s in his last four appearances at this tournament, and I think him missing the U.S. Open (allegedly) is going to be a massive storyline as he contends this week in Memphis. Odds: 16-1
Sleeper: Ian Poulter finished T6 in 2014, and he's had a solid run including a T11 at the RBC Heritage and T2 at The Players Championship. Poulter is somehow doing this even though he ranks outside the top 140 in strokes gained off the tee and on the green (the opposite of Fowler). He's No. 8 in strokes gained on approach shots, though, and No. 3 around the greens with his wedges. Both Poulter staples. Odds: 50-1