St. Jude Championship

I hadn't picked up a hard copy of the Sunday New York Times in a while. In this week's there was a New York Times Sports Magazine included. On the cover was Phil Mickelson. The design is a head shot of Phil looking at the viewer as if from the bottom of a hole, a golf hole, that is. And it's upside down---you get a pretty good idea of where the story is going.

The article covers a lot of familiar ground. I'm not knocking it for that---I've spent plenty of time trying to get at the Mickelson approach. And this article brings up an often overlooked point: it's fun to try to hit the miraculous shot. It's fun to play aggressively and you can see that he clearly enjoys it, except when things like Winged Foot happen. The writer, Charles McGrath, makes the Tiger comparison side point that there is actually something a little bit scary about the ferocity with which Tiger works.

He also said Mickelson looks a little like Hugh Grant, only not so pretty. At that point I flipped back to the cover, turned the magazine upside down, and saw a portrait of Phil that reminded me more of James Caan character from Misery.It's mostly in the eyes---Mickelson looks more grave (as often happens with portraits), looks a little beat down. But possibly wiser. Now I'll stop with Phil analysis through a photo.

There's a surprising amount of golf in the magazine, including a U.S. Open preview and a one-page fashion look: you can buy a Prada golf bag with matching head covers for $3,665.

My approach to the Stanford St. Jude Classic is pretty simple. Look at the winners from 2000 through last year: Notah Begay, Bob Estes, Len Mattiace, David Toms (twice, in 03 and 04), Justin Leonard and Jeff Maggert. Runner-ups in that span have included Nick Price, Bernhard Langer and Chris DiMarco. That's a collection of light drivers and strong iron players impossible not to notice.

Take Vijay Singh (8-1), 1/6 unit: Despite noting of above trend I'm going to start with a long hitter and note another trend. I took a look at Vijay's performances prior to majors over the last several years and saw a consistent trend of success. He doesn't play the week before the Masters and his schedule for the other three has varied, but I see success in both the week before a major and his last tournament prior to a major. For example, last year he won the Barclays Classic in this slotted week before the U.S. Open. His prep for the PGA Championship in 2005 was the Buick Open two weeks before---he won it. With the same schedule in 04, he finished T4 at the Buick Classic the week before the U.S. Open and won the Buick Open two weeks before the PGA later that summer. Again, it was his tune up for the major. The week before the PGA in 03 he finished T2. He was T4 at the Memorial two weeks before the U.S. Open that year. Vijay's a top-10 kind of guy, for sure, and the years mentioned have been his best, true, but those results are striking by any standards.

Take Jose Maria Olazabal (50-1), 1/6 unit: There's still kick left in Olazabal. He's got a top-10 and four top-25s this year. He likes the competition and this is a strong field. On the week before angle, at the BellSouth before the Masters he finished T2 in 2005 and P2 in 2004.

Take Tim Herron (66-1), 1/6 unit: Not sure I understand the odds given he seems to like TPC Southwind---in his last five walks in Memphis he hasn't finished out of the top-25 (best was a T3 in 04). And he's coming off a T15 at last week's Memorial.

by: Staci Richards - theSpread.com - Email Us

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