2023 FedEx St. Jude Classic DFS Preview: Fowler Can Win Again

The PGA Tour FedEx Cup playoffs begin this week with the FedEx St. Jude Championship. The playoffs are generally held at a rotating band of courses, but this week will see the players on a venue that has been used a lot on the PGA Tour in previous seasons in TPC Southwind. Formally the host of the WGC FedEx St. Jude Classic, TPC Southwind is located in Memphis, Tenn., and could bring some of the hottest temperatures we’ve seen all season. For daily fantasy golf purposes, the field will be reduced this week to 70 players (the top 70 players in the FedEx Cup standings), a reduction in size from 125 used in previous seasons.

From a field perspective, it will make this more like a WGC no cut event (when those were around) and bring new dynamics into play for DFS and betting. This will be the first time we’ve seen a lot of the big names like Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, and Scottie Scheffler since the Open Championship and there will be a lot on the line over the next three weeks with the massive FedEx Cup playoff prize pools in the near distance. As only the top 50 players move on to next week and the BMW Championship, no one can afford to start slow.

There is lots to wade through this week, with the FedEx Cup bubble in play as well, and there has never been a better time to check out the Stokastic PGA DFS projections to get an edge. But before you do, make sure you keep reading the full preview for the 2023 FedEx St. Jude Championship DFS picks.

2023 FedEx St. Jude Championship DFS Picks & Preview

The top 5 finishers at the Wyndham Championship the week prior were as follows:

  • 1st – Lucas Glover
  • 2nd – Russell Henley / Byeong Hun An
  • 4th – Billy Horschel
  • 5th – Webb Simpson / Michael Kim

The FedEx St. Jude Championship is where we begin to pare down the field to eventually crown a FedEx champion. Unlike previous seasons, there is no cut this week in the actual tournament but regardless of where you finish in this event, anyone outside of the top 50 in the FedEx Cup standings once it ends is done for the year and doesn’t get a spot in the BMW Championship the following week.

The venue remains the same as last year in TPC Southwind and it has done well in creating drama. The tighter course has plenty of water-edging the greens and fairways, which forces players to hit multiple pressure shots down the stretch in order to take home the win.

Here’s a list of the top 10 players in the FedEx Cup playoffs heading into the first playoff event of the season.

  1. Jon Rahm
  2. Scottie Scheffler
  3. Rory McIlroy
  4. Max Homa
  5. Wyndham Clark
  6. Brian Harman
  7. Viktor Hovland
  8. Keegan Bradley
  9. Rickie Fowler
  10. Tony Finau

Notables: Jordan Spieth (31), Cameron Young (48), Hideki Matsuyama (57), Aaron Rai (65)

FedEx St. Jude Championship DFS & Betting Trends

  • Eight out of the last 12 winners of this event finished T22 or better in their previous start before winning.
  • Seven of the last nine winners of this event have finished T15 or better at the year’s final major championship.
  • Eight of the last nine winners have finished T15 or better at one of the last two majors of the season

Below are some of the top players in the field to watch given their recent form and course history:

  1. J.T. Poston: Was first in this category last week and finished 7th at the Wyndham so pretty hard to bump him. Yes, the field this week is much stronger but Poston is in great form right now.
  2. Byeong Hun An: Another name that deserves recognition. He’s finished top five in two of his last three starts and is playing some great golf at the moment. He gained 5.4 strokes on approach at the Wyndham.
  3. Rory McIlroy: Won two starts ago in Scotland and then was 6th at the Open. He’s dominated in the playoffs before and it would shock no one if he did it again.
  4. Tom Kim: Hasn’t won in 2023 but did finish 6th in Scotland and then tied for second at the Open. Kim is dialing it in and was 13th at this venue last season.
  5. Brendon Todd: Like An and Poston, Todd deserves some recognition for his consistency and upside. He’s finished 7th or better in two of his last three starts and made the cut at the Open two weeks ago as well.

Field Notes For the Fedex St. Jude Championship DFS Picks: The field this week is limited to 70 players but only the top 50 in the FedEx Cup standings get to advance to the next event. Some names currently sitting between 60-70 in the standings (and in need of a big week) include Cameron Davis (62), Aaron Rai (65), and Vincent Norrman (68).

React App

FedEx St. Jude Championship/TPC Southwind Past Winners

2022: Will Zalatoris (15 Under Par — first leg of FedEx Playoffs)

  • Lead-in: 21/20/28 (played Wyndham the week prior – 21st).
  • Zalatoris came in off a solid summer of work where he was in contention at numerous majors and hitting the ball at an elite rate.
  • His approach game carried him and he was able to fend off the hot putting of Sepp Straka in a wild playoff.

Strokes Gained: TTG: 9.8 | SG: APP 7.7 | SG: OTT: 1.8 | SG: ATG: -0.1 | SG: PUTT: 2.5

2021: Abraham Ancer (16 Under Par — played as a WGC)

  • Won in a 3-man playoff against Sam Burns and Hideki Matsuyama
  • Each of the playoff participants ranked in the top-six for strokes gained approach stats for the week — Matsuyama was 2nd and gained 8.9 strokes on approach
  • Ancer was consistent throughout the bag, shot a second-round 62, and avoided the big numbers on Sunday as others crumbled

Strokes Gained: TTG +8.6; APP +4.4; OTT +1.4; ATG +2.9; PUTT +3.6

2020 — Justin Thomas (13 Under Par — played as a WGC)

  • Venue played quite tough in 2020 (a lot of blowups from big names) with fast green speeds and hard-to-hit fairways
  • Thomas was by far and away the best tee to green, was second in approach stats and third in around-the-green stats
  • The rare case of “lost strokes putting” but still won, don’t expect history to repeat that much though unless the course really dries out again

Strokes Gained: TTG +13.1; APP +7.7; OTT +2.3; ATG +3.1; PUTT -1.9

2019 — Brooks Koepka (16 Under Par — played as a WGC)

  • Koepka’s win was pretty much the exact opposite performance of Thomas from 2020
  • Went absolutely nuclear on the Bermuda greens with his putter and hit the ball well enough that his terrible around the green performance didn’t drag him down
  • Spike-putting weeks on Southwind are common so don’t be shocked if there is a blend of elite ball striking and hot putters get in the mix again

Strokes Gained: TTG +4.7; APP +3.2; OTT +3.7; ATG -2.3; PUTT +9.3

Want to see who is trending as a strong play early? Check out Stokastic’s PGA DFS projections, which will be updated on Monday and throughout the week.

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FedEx St. Jude Championship DFS Course Preview

This week sees the FedEx St. Jude Classic, a long mainstay on the PGA Tour schedule, move into a FedEx Cup playoff event for the second year in a row. TPC Southwind remains the venue for this event and used to host the FedEx St. Jude Classic (played directly prior to the U.S. Open) but was then turned into a WGC event for three years. The event will maintain its August date this year but now remains part of the PGA playoff system.

TPC Southwind (Memphis, Tennessee): Par 70, 7,243 yards

Greens: Champion Bermudagrass

Designer: Ron Prichard (with Hubert Green and Fuzzy Zoeller)

Similar Courses:

  • Copperhead Country Club
  • PGA National
  • TPC Sawgrass
  • Aronimink Golf Club

Course Correlations

Some other venues on tour have similar tendencies and have leaderboards worth checking out. These are generally tighter tracks with smaller Bermuda greens that require precision ball striking. TPC Southwind may be located in Memphis, but it tends to have a lot in common with the venues on the Florida swing in March to April.

Copperhead Country Club (Valspar)

  • Russell Henley (T7 Sedgefield, winner Sony Open and Honda Classic)

PGA National (Honda Classic)

  • Daniel Berger (two-time winner at TPC Southwind; lost in playoff at PGA National — 2016)
  • Justin Thomas (has won at both courses — PGA National in 2018 and TPC Southwind in 2020)

TPC Sawgrass (Players Championship)

  • Cameron Smith (Winner Players in 2022 and was in contention deep at TPC Southwind in 2021 — 5th)
  • Si Woo Kim (Winner Sedgefield, winner TPC Sawgrass and runner-up Hilton Head)

Aronimink Golf Club

  • Another Ron Prichard-designed venue (also plays as par 70) and former host of the BMW Championship

TPC Southwind is another very approach-driven venue. The top four finishers here last season all gained over 3.0 strokes on approach. Being solid off the tee is a pretty big must as well as Southwind has plenty of water lurking off the tee and some doglegs. You don’t have to be uber long and we had two shorter hitters, Brian Harman and Lucas Glover, finish in third at this event last season. Of the top 12 finishers from 2022, only one failed to gain strokes off the tee for the week.

There are six par 4s measuring between 450-500 yards and the small Bermuda greens tend to roll pure and allow for an above-average number of 10-20 foot birdie putts to sink.

Key Stats For FedEx St. Jude Championship DFS Picks: SG: Approach / SG: OTT / Par 4 scoring / Par 4 efficiency 450-500 yards

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What the Players Are Saying 

Justin Thomas (2021)

“It’s a great track. It’s all right in front of you. I think it’s one of those places that kind of stands over time, it’s not a place that’s going to change much each year. You really could play nine holes as a practice round but kind of check it out and see what the firmness or softness is like and if there’s much rough, then from there it’s just about going out and hitting the shots and take advantage of some opportunities when you get them.

Dustin Johnson (2021)

“It’s a golf course where you’ve got to hit pretty much every club in the bag. You’ve got to drive it well, that’s first and foremost. If you’re not playing out of the fairway, it’s going to be a long day. Even the rough, the rough’s not that deep, but it’s Bermuda rough, ball always sits down, it’s tough to judge how it comes out.

Daniel Berger (2021)

“It reminds me of the place I grew up at, the Dye Preserve in South Florida. I’m familiar with that type of grass, the Bermuda grass, the temperatures get hot there, too. I just have a sense of calm when I get out there.”

Abraham Ancer (2021)

“If you hit a good putt it’s going to go in … these greens are just so perfect”

2023 FedEx St. Jude Championship Recent Form Watch

Strokes Gained: Approach (Last 24 Rounds)

  • Scottie Scheffler
  • Alex Smalley
  • Russell Henley
  • Mark Hubbard
  • Hideki Matsuyama

Par 4 scoring (Last 24 rounds)

  • Rory McIlroy
  • Tyrrell Hatton
  • Scottie Scheffler
  • Xander Schauffele
  • Tommy Fleetwood

Fairways Gained (Last 24 Rounds)

  • Aaron Rai
  • Si Woo Kim
  • Brendon Todd
  • Patrick Cantlay
  • Russell Henley

2023 FedEx St. Jude Championship Weather Update

Thursday morning: 78-80 F, winds 9 mph/ 40% chance of precipitation.

Thursday afternoon: 80-87 F, winds 9-10 mph/ 20% chance of precipitation.

Friday morning: 80 F, winds 6-7 mph/ 30% chance of precipitation.

Friday afternoon: 85-87 F, winds 8-10 mph/ 20% chance of precipitation.

The weather this week looks relatively mild with the only caveat being that thunderstorms and summer pressure systems are expected to move through the area during the week. That could mean a stoppage or two as we go and also may soften up the course and greens which have been known to play notoriously firm at times.

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2023 FedEx St. Jude Championship DFS Picks and Early Betting Targets

Rickie Fowler | BetMGM Outright

Fowler couldn’t complete the dream comeback in his last start at the Open Championship, but there is still time left for him to add to his remarkable season. The American has been solid across the board in 2023 and comes in with the kind of complete game that can take on a tougher test in TPC Southwind. He’s 5th in strokes gained approach stats and 9th in par 4 scoring over the last 50 rounds but also comes in armed with a return to form of the most dangerous club in his bag — his putter.

Fowler has had some terrific results on pure Bermuda greens in his past life grabbing wins at courses like PGA National and TPC Sawgrass, Florida venues that compare quite well at TPC Southwind. Unsurprisingly, Fowler has also had some success around TPC Southwind, landing a 15th here as recently as 2020. Armed with a new set of confidence and swagger, I expect him to get in the mix again soon as he looks to cash in on lost time and take advantage of his burgeoning form.

Aaron Rai | BetMGM Outright + Top 10/20

Of course, Aaron Rai imploded for bettors and DFS players last week when everyone and their mother were counting on him to perform. Such is the life of an above-average Tour pro when he gets a little too much hype. The thing is, Rai only really imploded in one area and that was around the greens where he lost over -2.0 strokes over two rounds of play. His putting wasn’t great either but we have seen Rai putt well this summer and the main thesis for this week is that it wouldn’t be shocking to see him bounce back quickly in both of those areas.

Rai’s arrow straight off the tee (he gained 2,6 strokes OTT last week over just two rounds) and that’s a skill that comes in plenty handy around TPC Southwind. Aside from a couple of untimely missed cuts, Rai’s shown good upside this summer and ranks out 9th in approach stats and 7th in proximity from 150-175 yards over the last 50 rounds in this elite field. As a top 10/20 target, we should get a good opportunity to chase him this Monday with lower sentiment sure to suppress his odds after a missed cut in North Carolina.

Geoff Ulrich
Author

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