Sobel: Stay Away From The Ol’ 36ers at FedEx St. Jude Classic

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Keegan Bradley

Earlier this week, I wrote about the perils of trying to predict U.S. Open contenders too far in advance. Really, it’s a theory we should practice for all tournaments, but it’s especially relevant going into this week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic.

Chances are, between the time I write this and the time you read this, a few more players will have withdrawn from the field at TPC Southwind. Nothing against the event, but that’s the byproduct of so many original committals having to start their week by playing in a 36-hole U.S. Open sectional qualifier.

Some of them (such as Adam Scott and Russell Knox) withdrew because they qualified, already meeting their goal for the week by Monday evening. Others (such as Jamie Lovemark and Beau Hossler) might be so spent from “Golf’s Longest Day” that they simply decided to take the next six of ’em off.

 

And then there are those who play 36 holes and keep going to Memphis for more golf. These players should own a slight betting disadvantage.

We can’t categorically look at all of the players in this week’s field who played a full 36 on Monday and automatically drop them from our radar screens. Simply put, there’s strength in numbers, and some of the players, at least by happenstance, will wind up on the leaderboard this weekend.

But we should still give an advantage to those who instead spent Monday resting and relaxing or practicing and prepping. The first three players on my list of eight to watch this week fit those criteria.

Before I get to them, a few other notes.

I already wrote about Joaquin Niemann, the 19-year-old phenom, in a separate column. He’s good. Really good. And he should be on your radar this week.

Daniel Berger is the two-time defending champion of this event. Obviously he’s a horse for the course, but lightning rarely strikes twice. Don’t expect it to strike a third time. Berger’s recent track record doesn’t do much to keep me interested in him this week.

And, yes, Phil Mickelson owns a solo ninth and T-2 in his past two Memphis starts. I’m still wary of him the week before a major, especially the U.S. Open, where you know all of his thoughts are being directed. Besides, we might be able to point to this tourney last year as the beginning of the end for Lefty and longtime caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay. Could be some bad karma here in his return.

Brooks Koepka

+750 to win; +155 for top-five

You’re not going to find much value in picking Koepka, but you might find a champion. He’s played like a man making up for lost time since his return from a wrist injury. After a T-42 in what was essentially a rehab start at Quail Hollow, he has finished T-11 and runner-up in his past two starts. Getting in one more rep before his title defense next week, don’t expect him to take his foot off the gas pedal now.

Luke List

+2800 to win; +550 for top-five

I was trading messages with my colleague Joshua Perry the other day and mentioned how Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson and Bryson DeChambeau, the winners of the three biggest PGA Tour events over the past two months, had all been trending the same way before breaking through — strong results, but still hungry for that first win of the season. He replied that List might fall into this same category this week, and I completely agree.


John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Luke List

Peter Uihlein

+3500 to win; +700 for top-five

A final-round 66 on Sunday moved him into solo fifth place at the Memorial Tournament — his second top-five in his past three starts — and I think it’s just the beginning of a big summer for Uihlein. Don’t worry about his T-78 in Memphis last year; he’s a more experienced player this time around.

Harris English

+8500 to win; +1600 for top-five

The winner of this event five years ago, English has endured a bumpy ride on the road to success. His results the past few years have been hit or miss, but he’s hit more of ’em lately, with five top-40 results in his last eight starts to go along with three MCs.

 

Ben Crane

+8500 to win; +1600 for top-five

OK, so Crane breaks that “rule” of not picking guys who went 36 on Monday, but a few caveats: First, he played in Memphis, so at least he had the luxury of not having to travel anywhere after the rounds; and second, he owns a convergence that’s too good to ignore, with finishes of 11th or better in two of his past three starts and a T-10 at this event last year.


Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Ben Crane

Braden Thornberry

+10000 to win; +1900 for top-five

Man, isn’t gambling great? Thornberry is still an amateur, playing for Ole Miss, which means he’s ineligible to collect on any prize money. And yet, you, dear reader, are certainly eligible to profit off his success, especially if he can double up on last year’s T-4 here.

Austin Cook

+7500 to win; +1450 for top-five

Sometimes, you’ve just gotta play a hunch. Cook has fallen off the pace that he set earlier this season after his first victory, but this price is too nice to ignore.

T.J. Vogel

Odds not yet listed

Shoutout to the King of the Monday Qualifiers, as Vogel four-spotted into a tourney for the sixth time this season. That’s pretty amazing. He’s made the cut in three straight starts and owns a season-best T-16 at the Valspar Championship. If you can get odds on him for a top-10 or a top-20, he should provide some nice value.


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