Best bets for the FedEx St. Jude Championship

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FedEx St. Jude Championship

Lucas Glover won his way into the FedEx Cup Playoffs with a two-shot victory at the Wyndham Championship on Sunday. Glover, a winning ticket at 90-1, managed a two-hour rain delay and took advantage of a faltering Russell Henley to win for the first time in more than two years.

 

Henley let one get away at Sedgefield for the second time in three years. When play resumed, he took the lead with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 15th, then everything went wrong in a bogey-bogey-bogey finish.

His mediocre tee shot on the par-3 16th came down the slope at the front of the green and took one more turn into a deep divot. He chopped that out to 35 feet and made bogey. He sent his tee shot on the 17th into the trees, and his next shot buried in a deep hole in thick rough. He had to scramble for bogey.

Then on the closing hole, his approach from the fairway came up short and rolled off the green. He pitched to 18 feet and two-putted. He had gone 21 straight holes without a bogey and finished with three straight for a 69.

Two years ago, he had four bogeys over the last eight holes and missed a playoff by one shot.

Meanwhile, Glover led the field for Strokes Gained: Approach and was fourth in the field for Strokes Gained: Off The Tee.

The other Sunday story involved Justin Thomas and his attempt to get into the top 70 for this week’s playoffs. Thomas ended his season with a shot he won’t soon forget. Needing a birdie on the 18th hole, his pitch from 100 feet short of the hole smacked off the base of the pin and settled inches away as he fell to the ground in disbelief. Thomas finished 71st on the points list and will not be a part of the playoffs. He’ll now have to wait to see if he will also miss out on the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

Adam Scott closed with a 63 and missed the postseason for the first time since the FedEx Cup began in 2007.

That leaves Matt Kuchar as the only player who has been eligible for the playoffs every year since 2007.

The FedEx Cup Playoffs begin this week at the FedEx St. Jude Invitational in Memphis. The top three in the point standings — 1. Jon Rahm (9-1), 2. Scottie Scheffler (+650), and 3. Rory McIlroy (8-1), a three-time FedEx Cup winner (2016, 2019, 2022) — are the single-digit favored prices this week.

Patrick Cantlay (16-1), the 2021 FedEx Cup winner, Xander Schauffele (18-1) and Viktor Hovland (20-1) follow in the market.

Players priced in the mid-20s and 30s include Collin Morikawa (25-1), Tyrrell Hatton (25-1), Tommy Fleetwood (33-1), Rickie Fowler (33-1), Tony Finau (35-1), Wyndham Clark (35-1), Matt Fitzpatrick (35-1), who has three top-6 finishes in the last four years here, and 2015 FedEx Cup winner Jordan Spieth (35-1).

The Event

The top 70 players in the FedEx Cup point standings will compete this week at the FedEx St. Jude Championship. After the conclusion of this week’s event, the top 50 in the points move on to next week’s BMW Championship. Then, the top 30 in points advance to the finale at the Tour Championship.

On the line this week: $20 million in prize money.

Last year’s champion of this event, Will Zalatoris, is recovering from back surgery and finished 138th in the point standings. Even with its long history, the only player in the field who has won an event at TPC Southwind is Harris English who triumphed at the 2013 St. Jude Classic.

​FedEx’s history with the PGA Tour dates to 1986, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has been the event’s beneficiary since 1969. The city of Memphis has hosted an event on the PGA Tour each year since 1958.

The Field

Here is a list of the top 70 players who qualified for the FedEx Cup Playoffs and their current point totals:

1: Jon Rahm, 3,320

2: Scottie Scheffler, 3,146

3: Rory McIlroy, 2,304

4: Max Homa, 2,128

5: Wyndham Clark, 1,944

6: Brian Harman, 1,827

7: Viktor Hovland, 1,795

8: Keegan Bradley, 1,774

9: Rickie Fowler, 1,732

10: Tony Finau, 1,655

11: Jason Day, 1,506

12: Nick Taylor, 1,463

13: Patrick Cantlay, 1,443

14: Tom Kim, 1,422

15: Sepp Straka, 1,413

16: Xander Schauffele, 1,406

17: Tyrrell Hatton, 1,381

18: Si Woo Kim, 1,372

19: Sam Burns, 1,335

20: Russell Henley, 1,296

21: Emiliano Grillo, 1,275

22: Collin Morikawa, 1,246

23: Kurt Kitayama, 1,216

24: Adam Schenk, 1,213

25: Taylor Moore, 1,193

26: Tommy Fleetwood, 1,184

27: Denny McCarthy, 1,179

28: Chris Kirk, 1,161

29: Seamus Power, 1,133

30: Corey Conners, 1,103

31: Jordan Spieth, 1,099

32: Sungjae Im, 1,098

33: Justin Rose, 1,088

34: Sahith Theegala, 1,065

35: Lee Hodges, 1,052

36: Matt Fitzpatrick, 1,049

37: Byeong Hun An, 1,041

38: Adam Svensson, 1,014

39: Brendon Todd, 973

40: Eric Cole, 950

41: Andrew Putnam, 918

42: Harris English, 914

43: Patrick Rodgers, 914

44: Adam Hadwin, 908

45: J.T. Poston, 907

46: Tom Hoge, 897

47: Mackenzie Hughes, 890

48: Cameron Young, 889

49: Lucas Glover, 885

50: Nick Hardy, 868

51: Alex Smalley, 864

52: Thomas Detry, 851

53: Taylor Montgomery, 823

54: Davis Riley, 768

55: Brandon Wu, 763

56: Hayden Buckley, 754

57: Hideki Matsuyama, 742

58: Keith Mitchell, 698

59: Mark Hubbard, 697

60: Matt Kuchar, 695

61: Stephan Jaeger, 692

62: Cam Davis, 685

63: Sam Ryder, 675

64: Sam Stevens, 670

65: Aaron Rai, 670

66: Beau Hossler, 658

67: Matt NeSmith, 642

68: Vincent Norrman, 636

69: J.J. Spaun, 634

70: Ben Griffin, 617

The Course​

Located in Memphis, Tenn., TPC Southwind was built in 1988 and was designed by Ron Prichard, in consultation with PGA Tour professionals Fuzzy Zoeller and Hubert Green. It is regarded as one of the more difficult TPC courses. The past four events at TPC Southwind played to 0.69 strokes under par, which puts it right near the middle for tour difficulty.

TPC Southwind itself was first renovated in 2004 to modernize the course and make it more challenging. Eleven new tee boxes were added along with 125 trees and 15 bunkers. Three of the water hazards were also enlarged. Even more changes occurred in 2020. This time, most of the upgrades were related to adding, resizing and re-edging numerous bunkers (only 75 on the course, which is about tour average). The third and seventh holes were extended 15-plus yards. Twelve of the holes are doglegs.

The layout plays as a 7,243-yard par-70. The Zoysiagrass (like East Lake in Atlanta) fairways are some of the narrowest (25 yards wide on average, second narrowest of 46 PGA Tour courses) on tour. The Bermuda rough measures to 2.5 inches and can be tricky and unpredictable. The greens, featuring Champion Bermudagrass, are straightforward and average speed (12 stimpmeter) but are some of the smallest (third on tour) at just 4,300 square feet.

With 11 holes having the danger of water, TPC Southwind has the most “water balls” on tour by far. Since 2003, TPC Southwind’s 6,166 balls in the water are the most at any PGA Tour course during that stretch. The second-highest course is TPC Sawgrass with a huge drop to 5,089.

Aside from the narrower fairways, smaller greens and multitude of water hazards, the layout could be a bit less challenging because the Memphis area saw one of the wettest Julys on record with more than 15 inches of rain over the past month. That will most likely allow the course to play much softer than in other years where it has been mostly dry. Typically, TPC Southwind plays firmer and faster.

TPC Southwind is the only Prichard design on the PGA Tour, although he has worked on several restorations of Donald Ross designs, most notably Aronimink Golf Club, which hosted the 2018 BMW Championship in the FedEx Cup Playoffs and will also host the 2026 PGA Championship. So there are now direct course designer correlations, but TPC Sawgrass (due to the largesse of water holes), East Lake (Zoysia fairways), CC of Jackson (Zoysia), PGA National (similar length), Innisbrook and Concession.

Recent History/Winners

FedEx St. Jude Championship

2022: Will Zalatoris (-15/265); 25-1*

WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational

2021: Abraham Ancer (-16/264); 45-1**

2020: Justin Thomas (-13/267); 12-1

2019: Brooks Koepka (-16/264); 11-1

FedEx St. Jude Classic

2018: Dustin Johnson (-19/261); 7-1

2017: Daniel Berger (-10/270); 28-1

2016: Daniel Berger (-13/267); 33-1

2015: Fabián Gómez (-13/267); 400-1

2014: Ben Crane (-10/270); 175-1

2013: Harris English (-12/268); 66-1

2012: Dustin Johnson (-9/271); 20-1

2011: Harrison Frazar (-13/267); 275-1***

2010: Lee Westwood (-10/270); 12-1****

Playoff win over Sepp Straka – *

Playoff win over Sam Burns and Hideki Matsuyama – **

Playoff win over Robert Karlsson – ***

Playoff win over Robert Garrigus and Robert Karlsson – ****

Statistical Analysis

Last year, 44.8% of strokes gained at TPC Southwind came on approach, which is well above the tour average of 34.7%. Will Zalatoris, last year’s winner, ranked first in the field for Strokes Gained: Approach. Justin Thomas (2020) and Dustin Johnson (2018) also ranked second on approach during their wins in Memphis.

Strokes Gained Approach (Last 36 rounds)