Welcome to a new feature here at SwingU, Three Shots at the Green, where each week I’ll use my experience as a PGA Tour caddie and golf writer to identify the three best bets on the board.
It’s time for the playoffs on the PGA Tour.
The PGA Tour’s annual $75 million boondoggle begins Thursday with 120 or so pros competing in the FedEx St. Jude Championship in the Memphis suburbs.
While making its debut as a FedEx Cup Playoffs tournament, TPC Southwind has been a staple on the circuit since 1989. The layout is a 7,233-yard, par-70 designed by Ron Prichard and renovated by various architects through the years.
Hitting the fairways is critical here. The longer hitters have had success in the past banging driver over the corner of the dogleg par-4s. Regardless of the strategy, hitting these smallish greens in regulation from the rough is difficult (41 percent GIR) on a course featuring the ninth narrowest fairways on the PGA Tour.
Introducing the new star of the show 🏆 pic.twitter.com/zzxzkJlyJM
— FedEx St. Jude Championship (@FedExChamp) August 8, 2022
Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka are among the recent champions here. Of course, Johnson and Koepka have departed for LIV land and aren’t in the field. But for all its quirkiness and the disaster looming with 11 water hazards, the elite usually rise at Southwind.
For this week’s picks, we focused on players with strong approach play and good around-the-green stats out of Bermuda rough.
Mito Pereira Top-40 +125
The obvious observation is oh no, Pereira missed the last four cuts. But let’s take a step back and dig deeper. First of all, two of those tournaments were on Scottish links, where strange things can occur. The young Chilean rookie is second in this field in total driving on difficult driving courses over the last 36 rounds. He’s also top-10 in greens in regulation in the same period.
He’s a natural fader of the ball and TPC-Southwind has historically rewarded players who prefer that flight. It’s a good time to buy low on Pereira, a strong par-4 scorer who finished third on a par-70 at Southern Hills and 13th on a par-70 at Colonial.
Sam Burns Top-20 +175
Burns has won three times this season and established himself as one of golf’s rising stars. Now he returns to a course where he lost in a sudden death playoff last season, gaining 4.4 shots on approach and 6.3 shots on the green.
Burns is an elite putter on Bermuda greens (6th in the field) and 12th in SG: Approach over the last 50 rounds. He’s in great position to win the massive FedEx Cup cash prize and will be locked in this week in the Memphis suburbs.
Will Zalatoris Top-10 +240
With a new caddie on the bag, expect Zalatoris to arrive in Tennessee rejuvenated and ready to finally break through and claim his first PGA Tour victory. While playing him in the outright market takes a leap of faith, his consistent ball-striking and affection for putting on faster greens make this the best value play for the budding superstar.
He finished eighth here last year, enjoying a strong putting week, ranks second in the field in SG: Approach over the last 50 rounds and has the requisite power to capitalize on TPC-Southwind’s two par-5s and set up many makeable birdie putts on the par-3s and par-4s.