It's another case of the calm before the storm this week. Oakmont is on everyone's minds for the US Open but Diamond CC and TPC Southwind are the venues in question in the run up to the 2nd major of the year. Players can still qualify for the US Open over the weekend but the Sectionals have been going on across the US and it's always a good angle to use if betting on the ST. Jude Classic. Over the Atlantic for the Lyoness Open, eight players teeing it up in Austria have already booked a slot at Oakmont.
Markets - ST Jude Classic
A few big names have chosen competitive action rather than an early arrival at Oakmont and Dustin Johnson leads the betting at 7.00. Phil Mickelson - 13.00 - is a fancy of mine for the US Open and Phil usually chooses to play the week before a major. Vying for 2nd favouritism is Brooks Koepka - 13.00 - who missed out in a playoff to Sergio Garcia last time out. Harris English - 23.00 - is a self confessed lover of tree-lined golf courses which he demonstrated once again at Colonial when finishing runner up to Jordan Spieth. Harris won here on his debut in 2013.
There's a kind of "big 3" feel in what can only be classed as a second rate European tour field in Austria. Joost Luiten leads the market at 7.00 while home favourite and former winner here, Bernd Wiesberger - 7.50 - will be looking to thrill the home support. Bernd has been at Diamond CC the last couple of weeks. Chris Wood - 9.00 - wraps up the trio, and Wood actually comes here as defending champion, while also winning at Wentworth on his last start.
Courses , features and premiums
TPC Southwind: par 70, length 7,244 yards
TPC Southwind is annually one of the toughest par 70s on the PGA Tour. The tree-lined fairways are tight and rough is usually thick. Greens are smaller than average at just over 5,000 square feet. Both the landing areas and the surfaces - some elevated - are statistically tough to find and 10 water hazards lurk throughout the course for those errant with their tee shots and approaches. There's a premium on accuracy from the tee and par four performance. Players with good scrambling and short stick ability should prevail with greens expected to be running fast this week.
Diamond CC - Par 72, 7,458 yards
Diamond CC is a lengthy, flat, largely exposed track with water featuring on no less than 13 holes. Fairways are generous enough but according to Bernd Wiesberger the rough is up this year so it will be vital to find the short grass. Bernd also mentions the wind is expected to blow. Greens are prepped to run just over 11' on the stimp but a look at past stats shows an emphasis on tee to green play. Total driving ability was a dominant stat on the leaderboard in 2015, leading to a very high GIR% clip amongst the top 10. The putting stats may take a back seat here.
Best bets - ST. Jude Classic
David Toms at 81.00 or 17.00 the place is the all-time highest money earner at TPC Southwind having won back-to-back in 2003 and 2004. His recent record isn't nearly as strong here but we can forgive him that due to injuries. Actually the stats show a T62 for Toms at the 2015 ST. Jude but they don't portray that he was actually in contention on the final day before he made a swing that hit a tree stump and he damaged his wrist, eventually firing +8 for the day. Toms is back in the groove with a top 25 at Colonial followed by a -7 total at German Town and Ridgeway nearby to book a US Open spot. The veteran is 21st in driving accuracy, 6th in proximity and 16th in scrambling in 2016.
Spencer Levin - 81.00 or 19.00 - left Wedgewood and Kinsale also with a -7 total (-6 at Wedgewood) to book his own spot at Oakmont next week and Levin has some sneaky form figures of late with a 4th at the Byron Nelson and a top 15 in New Orleans. Levin also owns two top 25s in his last three at TPC Southwind. The fiery American sits 23rd in driving accuracy and 36th in proximity to the hole. He's shown in the past he's capable of serious birdie streaks.
Another with some sneaky course and current form is my best bet of the week at TPC Southwind: Scott Brown - 101.0 or 23.00 - was 12th here last season but was right there after 54 holes only to post a +2 over par on the Sunday. Long and straight driving was the key for Scott who regularly splits fairways. He ranks 39th in total driving and hit 70% of fairways at Memorial, carding a 54 hole total of -11 before settling for a t27 after another disappointing final round.
Best bets: Lyoness Open
Lucas Bjerregaard - 41.00 or 9.00 - tweeted that he finally got the putter going when shooting a 67 in round 2 last week at the Nordea Masters. He rounded out with a top 20, ranking 2nd in driving distance and 21st in accuracy. This total driving display produced a GIR ranking of 14th and this kind of tee to green efficiency is the brief at Diamond CC. The promising Dane was 3rd in the Volvo China Open a few weeks back.
Lee Slattery - 41.00 or 9.00 - owns some good course form at Diamond CC reading 9-4-32 and he's shown some good early season form too with a 4th in both Shenzhen and Qatar. Lee put in a good performance at Walton Heath posting -6 for 2 rounds in testing conditions last week to qualify for the US Open. The Englishman catches the eye from tee to green with 65% of fairways hit combined to a driving average of 285 yards and a GIR clip of 70.6%.