The first of the week’s two tournaments in the States is a good one, in fact it’s a perfect curtain-raiser to next week’s USPGA Championship. It’s the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational.
Being a WGC event there’s a fine field assembled, with the best players in world golf aiming to get some valuable extra course-time ahead of next week’s Major.
Here’s the Golf Insider’s preview of the action…
WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational
This week’s event carries the “WGC” (World Golf Championships) prefix, which means it’s one of the four events held each year under the umbrella of the International Federation of PGA Tours. In other words, the world’s separate golf associations – European, PGA, Asian, JPGA (Japan), Sunshine (South Africa) and Australia – combine to stage a select number of top quality tournaments.
WGC events are viewed as being just below the Majors in terms of quality. In a usual year the quartet of WGC events are the WGC-Mexico, WGC-Match Play, WGC-Fedex St Jude Invitational and the WGC-HSBC Champions. What does this all mean? A smaller field than usual, but a stellar one in terms of quality. Slightly less well-attended this week, for obvious reasons, but still a very strong line-up.
A familiar destination for the PGA Tour, it’s TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee. This is a par 70 laid out over 7,244 yards, designed by Ron Prichard. Originally opened in 1988, it should prove a good test for the players – a few years ago it was ranked the ninthth toughest track on the PGA Tour. It’s been further upgraded in recent years with the addition of more trees, a host of extra bunkers and even less shots on the scorecard (the par five 5th hole being reduced to a par 4 – making Southwind a par 70 from a 71). So don’t expect too many fireworks in terms of scoring!
263: Adam Scott (2011)
61: Bob Estes (2001)
2019: Brooks Koepka
2018: Justin Thomas
2017: Hideki Matsuyama
2016: Dustin Johnson
2015: Shane Lowry
The WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational sees an invitational field of 75 players this week. Jon Rahm is $17 equal outright favourite with TopSport.
Not good! The chance of rain is 80%-80%-60%-40% across the four days, all with some thunderstorms thrown in. Temperatures in the high 80s (F) makes for a humid, damp week. Wind speeds are low… but that’s about as good as it gets!
WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational: Tips from The Golf Insider
Paul Casey – currently $56 with TopSport
Casey is playing how you’d expect him to play, which is great from tee-to-green. But he’s been awful on the greens. He’s played three events since lockdown, with a best finish of 32nd at the Travelers Championship, which is insane considering he’s gained a combined nine strokes from tee-to-green on the field for those events. Casey and Niemann (below) really have putted about as badly as I’ve ever seen, which of course is a concern, but I’m hoping for just a small improvement and we could be in business at massive prices.
Casey is world class and three bad putting performances for players like him can happen, but one thing that stays constant is his superb tee-to-green play which will set up plenty of chances. One of the reasons he missed the cut at The Memorial was because he took a 9 (!) at a Par 3 on Friday, and if he’d made par then he would have comfortably made the cut, and likely would have finished in the Top 20 or so. If Casey holes a few putts this week, he’s a huge price.
Joaquin Niemann – currently $67 with TopSport
Niemann is another golfer who is a supreme ball-striker, but often fails on and around the greens. This has certainly been the case since golf returned a month or so ago. Niemann’s finishing positions have just been steady. But he did play superbly at the Heritage, where he finished fifth and ranked as the third best player from tee-to-green. His last event was The Memorial where he missed the cut, but he did gain 4.7 strokes from tee-to-green for two days, and lost a whopping 5.7 strokes putting.
Niemann has played five events since lockdown and has gained a massive 25 strokes from tee-to-green on the field during those events, which is an average of 5 per event. These figures are insanely good… but on the flipside he’s lost 10 strokes putting for these same events. This has seriously hurt his chances of winning most weeks. As you probably know by now, I’m a huge believer in backing players who are hitting the ball great off the tee and on approach shots, as it only takes one week for the putter to warm up and these players will compete or win when this happens. At the price this “flusher” has to be backed this week.
Max Homa – currently $67 with TopSport
Homa is yet another ball-striking machine who seems to go blind on the greens. Last week at the 3M Open was Homa’s fifth Top 10 from his last 14 starts. He finished third and ranked fourth in Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green, but only gained 1.5 strokes putting. This was the difference between winning and finishing third. Homa is a classy player who has come into his own in the last two years. He made his breakthrough when winning the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow, which is a great tournament to win. Homa has become a super-consistent performer over the last 12 months, and last week he was back to his best, which is why I was surprised to see him at this price this week. He’s a no-brainer this week and if he plays like he did last week we’ll have a huge chance at a big price.
Bubba Watson – currently $71 with TopSport
I’m sticking with Bubba again this week because he really is doing nothing wrong from tee-to-green. But he just seems to have a mental block on the putting surfaces. Last week he was playing great and posted 4-under-par in Round 1. But after missing birdie chances on his first six holes on Friday, he lost his head on the par 5 and made 8, which led to another MC. There’s not much more to add other than he finished ninth here last year, which is great news as it means Bubba likes the venue. He’s hitting his ball great off the tee and on approach shots. We just need him to find some magic with the flat stick. At the price I’m prepared to persist.
It’s a great time to get on board with the Golf Insider. COVID-19 has thrown the calendar around, and we have some major tournaments coming up over the next few months. The USPGA is next week… click here to learn more about the Golf Insider.