St Jude Classic: Luke is top of the List
The PGA Tour heads to TPC Southwind in Tennessee this week. Dave Tindall picks out his three best bets for the St Jude Classic...
"Get the map out, plot his top 10s and it’s all in a concentrated area of the United States."
*Each-way terms: 1/5 odds, 7 places
Main Bet: Back Luke List each-way @ 35/1
It's perhaps not the price I was hoping for but I'm willing to take winner-waiting-to-happen Luke List at 35/1.
If form in the Southern States is a key to victory here (think two-time defending champion Daniel Berger and the likes of former winners Ben Crane, DJ, Harrison Frazar, Brian Gay, Justin Leonard and on it goes), List certainly stands out.
Earlier in the year he finished runner-up to Justin Thomas in the Honda Classic (Florida), added T16 and T7 at the Valspar and Bay Hill (Florida again), took third place at Hilton Head (The Heritage) and added T9 at Wells Fargo (North Carolina).
Get the map out, plot his top 10s and it's all in a concentrated area of the United States.
Of course, Bermuda grass takes it to a level beyond geographical quirk and on Future Of Fantasy's Bermuda grass specialists, List sits there in 20th.
Many of those above him in the list (most world-class stars) aren't playing this week.
Has he got any course form though?
List first came to TPC Southwind in 2013 and withdrew after a poor opener but on his return in 2016 he played all four rounds for T50.
It was time to kick on last year and, after a steady level-par opener, List crafted rounds of 66 on both Friday and Saturday to sit tied fourth and just one off the lead with 18 to go. A disappointing closer knocked him back to T18 but he's a much better player now and the groundwork has been laid at this venue.
His Driving Accuracy stats aren't pretty but bombers have a strong record here and there's always the option of clubbing down. That said, he's fourth in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee and 15th in SG: Around-The-Green and the latter is another very useful weapon at this track.
T14 at Memorial last week before fading a little, List looks primed for a big week here.
Dustin Johnson heads the betting and is a former winner having lifted the trophy on debut in 2012. He's since gone 10-24-5 at St Jude.
He keeps suggesting something big could happen soon but I don't really want to back someone at 13/2 when they haven't had a top five finish since the first half of February.
However, I do like the golfer immediately below him in the odds...
Next Best: Back Brooks Koepka each-way @ 10/1
Sometimes the short-priced players need to be backed and that's the feeling I have with Brooks Koepka this week.
Fit and flying again, the big-hitting American will defend his US Open crown at Shinnecock Hills next week.
However, one of the Tour's most laid-back characters is hardly likely to be fretting about that. Instead, he can give himself the perfect boost by banking victory at TPC Southwind.
Koepka has course form here of 19-3-2-37 over the last four years and it's fast become one of his favourite stops.
"Driving is a big key. If you drive it well you can have good shots on almost every hole. That's key. You got to hit the fairway.
"It helps to hit it far and when you're hitting the fairway you got a lot of wedges into this place. You should be hitting it inside 15 feet all day."
One observation is that Koepka feels he can score here without really having his best stuff.
"You can shoot 8, 9-under in a round out here. I feel like the greens are so good, you put the ball in the fairway you really take it 8, 9-under," he said after opening 64-67 last year.
"I think it's very attainable to get to 20-under. This golf course sets, you know, really well for me. I feel like I kind of played ho-hum golf and gotten to 9-under."
Since a three-month injury break, Koepka has missed the cut at the Zurich Classic pairs event, finished T42 at Wells Fargo, improved to T11 in the Players Championship and ended runner-up at the Fort Worth Invitational.
To show how well, he's playing, Koepka has shot 63 in three of his last five rounds!
"It's nice to finally be playing well and get going into the season. Kind of peaking right where I need to be. Just build on it. I'm playing well, so just go out in Memphis and play well, and obviously the U.S. Open hopefully defend the title," he said last time out.
With excellent scrambling stats at both Sawgrass and Colonial, his game looks in great shape to throw in a title-winning performance this week.
I'm happy to take the 10/1.
Final Bet: Back Abraham Ancer each-way @ 150/1
Abraham Ancer has taken the eye in recent months although it's a slight surprise when perusing his results and noting actual finishing positions.
Despite seeing him on early leaderboards, since the start of April he's gone: 58-MC-MC-42-52-57.
Perhaps the smart play is to just think of him as a first-round leader option but I think it's a matter of time before we see something tangible over four rounds.
He made a better job of that in March/April when taking T16 at the Valspar Championship, T13 in the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship and T8 in the Houston Open.
Because of his bare form, Ancer is on offer at 150/1 here which is enough to interest me in itself.
What elevates him further is a previous knock at TPC Southwind in 2016 when ranked 478th in the world. He played 19 events on the PGA Tour that year and missed 13 cuts. There was just a single top 25 and it came here at TPC Southwind thanks to rounds of 68-69-69 taking him to T18.
That the Texas-based pro's best result should have been recorded in one of the Southern States is no real surprise and he'll certainly have good vibes when returning (he didn't play last year).
To add to the belief that this is a good location for him, Ancer was also runner-up at the Web.com's Nashville Golf Open last February on his last start in Tennessee.
At a three-figure price, I also looked closely at Matt Jones.
The Aussie has course form at TPC Southwind of 3-26-18 from 2015-2017 and fired 67-65-68-71 to take T13 at the Byron Nelson Championship on his last start so could be coming into form again after a dip.
Jones had good Scrambling and GIR figures in the latter and is another with some notable form in the South, including a victory in Houston in 2014.
One more at triple-figure odds - Shawn Stefani at 125s.
"Being here in the heat, the bermuda grass the zoysia fairways and the town is very nice," he said a couple of years ago. "I feel like I have a lot of support. I feel like I'm kind of a home town kid over here. It really is one of my favourite places on Tour to come."
He backs up the words with top 10s in both 2013 and 2016 while T26 at the Byron Nelson a couple of starts ago forms part of a run of three straight cuts he's made.
Dave's 2017/18 PGA Tour P/L (based on £5 ew per selection outrights, £10 win top 5s/10s)
(After the AT&T Byron Nelson)