The FedExCup playoffs begins on the PGA Tour this week which means we are three weeks away from someone earning a huge bounty and the title of the FedExCup champion. The first postseason event is the St Jude Championship.
Abraham Ancer won this tournament last year but given that he has turned his back on the PGA Tour he won’t be in Memphis to defend his title. All 125 players teeing it up know they must be in the top 70 at the end of the week to move on to the BMW Championship next week.
2021 – Abraham Ancer
2020 – Justin Thomas
2019 – Brooks Koepka
2018 – Dustin Johnson
2017 – Daniel Berger
2016 – Daniel Berger
2015 – Fabian Gomez
2014 – Ben Crane
2013 – Harris English
2012 – Dustin Johnson
TPC Southwind is once again the venue for the tournament this week. The par 70 now measures 7,243 yards. Golfers are used to courses getting longer these days but a growing trend appears to be the moving of bunkers to correspond with the likely landing spots to make them true hazards. That has happened here three years ago and dramatically altered the scoring since then. There is rain in the initial part of the week so the course may play long.
The fairways here are generally on the tight side and there is usually some scraggly rough around the greens so this is a course that needs to be played from the short grass. When you look at the list of past winners it is generally players who strike the golf ball purely. It might pay to have a bit of length this week as we are deep into summer so storms are never going to be far away. This is a decent test of golf which should make for a good watch.
The leading 125 players on the PGA Tour season have qualified to tee it up this week. Four qualifiers will not play for one reason of another in Tommy Fleetwood, Lanto Griffin, Daniel Berger and Nate Lashley. That means the latter three will be done for the season. Scottie Scheffler goes into the week as the number one ranked player with Cameron Smith in second place and Sam Burns in third. None of those have any issues about getting to the Tour Championship.
There are plenty of star names in the field this week although Hideki Matsuyama was a late withdrawal which means just 120 players will tee it up here. Of the others who are here we have recent winner of two events in Tony Finau, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, reigning FedEx champion Patrick Cantlay, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, US Open champion Matthew Fitzpatrick and the latest young gun on the scene in Tom Kim who won the Wyndham last week.
Rory McIlroy is an 11/1 favourite to win the tournament this week. This will be the first time he’s been seen since The Open where he bombed a golden opportunity for another major title. That is one concern for me but another is that he seems to be becoming a spokesperson for the PGA Tour and I wonder if and when that will catch up with him. He has an ok record here with a couple of top 10s in five visits but given the concerns he looks a little short to me.
The world number one and leader of the FedExCup standings, Scottie Scheffler, is the second favourite this week at 16/1. By his very high standards he has gone off the boil since he blew the chance to win the US Open back in June and hasn’t had a top 10 since then. His best finish around Southwind is T14 so those aren’t a good combination but we often see in these playoffs that the cream rises to the top but I prefer others at better prices.
Three men begin the week as 18/1 shots. They are the current FedExCup champion Patrick Cantlay, the USPGA champion Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele. Cantlay has been lightly raced in the last couple of months. He has only been out four times since the US Open but has figures of 13-4-8-2 in those outings so he has to be respected despite a poor record on this course. Thomas has only played twice since the US Open which I think is a negative. He did win here in 2020 though which is a positive. Schauffele has been more active and won three times since the US Open but only has one top 10 finish in four starts here.
Another trio of players come next in the betting at 20/1. They include The Open champion Cameron Smith, former world number one Jon Rahm and the US Open champion Matthew Fitzpatrick. There is a lot of hoohah about Smith and LIV in the lead up to this event so I can do without that in a loaded field. Rahm doesn’t quite seem on top of his game right now but this is a perfect fit for Fitzpatrick, who has two top 10s here, but the value might have gone given the softness of the course.
Given that the course has got soft I think the length of Tony Finau is going to play a huge part this week. He has won on his last two outings and the keys to those successes were his stunning tee to green prowess. In both wins he led the field in strokes gained from tee to green and was in the top 10 around the greens as well. It wasn’t just his length which caught the eye but in winning the 3M Open he was the sixth most accurate off the tee and then third for driving accuracy when he won the Rocket Mortgage Classic. It is no secret that once Finau broke a lengthy duck wins were going to come regularly because all he lacked was that killer instinct. Now he has it he is going to have a lucrative three weeks which can begin with another win here.
The other player who has really impressed me from tee to green in recent times is Sungjae Im. There is an easy way to think that the Korean is having a poor season because he hasn’t won this term but when you look down the numbers he has had four top 10 finishes from The Masters onwards, including coming second on his last two starts when Tony Finau and Tom Kim got the better of him. The eye catching thing for Im as well as he tee to green game, which is so good we can take it for granted, is that in those last two weeks he was fourth for putting average both times and in the top 20 in strokes gained putting. If there is a negative it is that he has a mixed record in the two years he has been here, but on both occasions he carded a 67 so if he can put four rounds together, and his current form suggests he should, then he shouldn’t be far away this week.
I’ll get on a couple of big hitting outsiders this week too because the softness of the course is going to make the course a lot wider. I thought I was collecting my coin when Taylor Pendrith hit the front a couple of weeks ago but he couldn’t quite go with Tony Finau down the final 18. That experience should have done him no harm though and when he gets in contention again I expect him to fare a lot better. The way the Canadian is striking the ball that could very well be here. Pendrith rebounded from that disappointment at the Rocket Mortgage by posting another top 15 finish at the Wyndham last week so he has character and looks overpriced the way he is playing.
Cameron Davis is another one who I sense could be overpriced here. The Australian has last four outing form figures of 8-6-16-14 so he is in decent form and when you delve deeper into the numbers he is smashing it in the strokes gained from tee to green and on approach categories. He’s a little more hit and miss in the putting but you don’t put four weeks together like that if you can’t putt. The softer course is only going to play even more into his hands so I can see the big hitting Aussie having a good week in Tennessee, a state he won in on the Korn Ferry Tour four years ago which will hopefully revoke positive memories.
Back T.Finau to win St Jude Invitational (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 23.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-8)
Back T.Pendrith to win St Jude Invitational (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 81.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-8)
Back S.Im to win St Jude Invitational (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 29.00 with Coral (1/5 1-8)
Back C.Davis to win St Jude Invitational (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 101.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back him here: