The PGA Tour is back in action following a one-week hiatus due to the Olympics. This week we will see only 66 golfers make the trip to Memphis, Tennessee for the WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational. This event transitioned to WGC-status in 2019 which obviously strengthened the field. Previous iterations of this events can still give us clues as to what type of golfer will find success at TPC Southwind. As a WGC event, there will be no cut which means the best golfers in the world are all guaranteed four rounds.
TPC Southwind is a Par 70 and measures slightly over 7,200 yards. The tight fairways and penal rough makes this course play much longer than the scorecard indicates. The Champion Bermudagrass greens are very small for PGA Tour standards which will lead to plenty of missed greens-in-regulation. Small greens, and tight fairways suggests that a strong short-game will be required in order to avoid bogeys and this assumption is supported by the fact that the last three winners of this event have all ranked inside the Top 6 in Scrambling for the week they won. Not only are the fairways tight, but there are numerous water hazards in play throughout the course. Accuracy and consistency Off-the-Tee will be imperative for keeping a clean scorecard. Memphis, Tennessee can be brutally hot this time of year, and the Real Feel will be over 100 degrees for three of the four days.
Previous winners at TPC Southwind are: Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, and Daniel Berger twice. Since becoming a WGC, the two winners were ranked #3 and #1 in the OWGR. The last five winners have all recorded a Top 10 Finish in one of their five most recent PGA Tour starts, and four of the last five winners had recorded multiple Top 10 finishes in their five most recent starts. Essentially, the cream will rise to the top and elite players in good form should be targeted.
Four of the last five winners of this event finished their winning week as the #1 player from Tee-to-Green. The five recent winners finished inside the Top 15 of GIR Percentage and the Top 15 in Approach on their way to victory. Four of the last five winners were ranked inside the Top 10 in Off-the-Tee. Ball-striking has shown itself to be a key indicator of success at TPC Southwind. Players will need to pound both greens and fairways in order to contend. The scoring distribution from the former winners shows that the Par 4s are scoreable, but challenging. The Par 5s are birdie and eagle opportunities that golfers must capitalize on.
Key Stats: Ball-Striking, GIRs Gained, Around-the-Green/Scrambling, and Tee-to-Green
Scoring Upside: Birdies-or-Better Gained, Par 4 Scoring, Bogey Avoidance
WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational Tips
Dustin Johnson 20-1
The world’s #2 ranked golfer has been struggling in recent months but this could be a great “buy low” opportunity. Dustin Johnson has dominated TPC Southwind over the course of his career. In eight appearances, DJ has recorded seven Top 25 Finishes, four Top 10 Finishes, and two wins. Dustin Johnson reaching the 20-1 range reminds me of Rory McIlroy earlier this season when he won at Quail Hollow.
Since 2015, Dustin Johnson has been the best player in this field on courses that are Par 70s and have small greens. Applying those parameters, Dustin Johnson has 38 rounds of data, and he has gained 2.54 Total Strokes per round. The next closest golfer is .72 strokes per round behind DJ’s mark. DJ has dominated on these types of course, in particularly with his Tee-to-Green game. Johnson’s recent form has been improving. Over his last five starts, DJ has four Top 25s and two Top 10 Finishes. Dustin Johnson is returning to a course he has dominated on, and is coming in at very attractive odds for a player of his caliber.
Scottie Scheffler 31-1
Scottie Scheffler has made a name for himself this season by showing up at all of the high-level events this season. In 25 total starts this season, Scheffler has recorded eight Top 10 finishes. Seven of those eight Top 10 Finishes came at either a WGC/Major or on a TPC course. Scheffler has been flashing good form in recent weeks, recording four Top 10 Finishes in his last six starts. Scheffler has played on this course three times in his career. Last year, he finished in 15th place after shooting four sub-par rounds.
Over his last 24 rounds, in this field Scheffler is ranked: third in Birdies-or-Better Gained, seventh in Strokes Gained on Par 4s, 22nd in Tee-to-Green, 24th in Ball-Striking, and 27th Around-the-Green. Scheffler is a very balanced golfer, and the completeness in his game has allowed him to contend on tougher courses against elite fields. Among all PGA Tour players, Scheffler is the #1 ranked player in Par 4 Birdie-or-Better Percentage. This should translate well on a course that features twelve Par 4s.
Shane Lowry 50-1
Shane Lowry is another player whose recent form has been trending positively. Over his last six events, Lowry has recorded four Top 15 finishes. He has only played TPC Southwind two times, recording a 30th place and a sixth-place finish. Lowry is a true grinder, and plays his best golf on tougher tracks and in windy conditions. Memphis is expected to have 15 mph winds throughout the week, and the blistering conditions will make this event a grueling four days.
Over his last 24 rounds, in this field Lowry ranks: ninth in GIRs Gained, 11th in Birdies-or-Better Gained, 12th in Around-the-Green, 14th in Strokes Gained on Par 4s, 14th in Tee-to-Green, and 21st in Ball-Striking. Lowry’s improved iron play has been extremely encouraging because he was primarily a short-game specialist in the past. If Lowry is able to continue the strong Ball-Striking he has displayed recently, this is a good course set-up for him.
Corey Conners 55-1
If Ball-Striking is the path to success then Corey Conners has to be on the card. The only player who has been a better Ball-Striker than Conners this season has been Collin Morikawa, who is far and away the best Approach player in the world. Conners biggest weakness is obviously his putter, but he has seen improvement with the flatstick this year.
Over his last 36 rounds, in this field Conners ranks: third in GIRs Gained, third in Ball-Striking, eighth in Strokes Gained on Par 4s, and tenth in Tee-to-Green. If Conners can remain neutral with his putter than he can ball-strike his way into contention this week.
Sergio Garcia 70-1
Sergio Garcia is a Tee-to-Green machine, and recent winners have shown that an excellent Tee-to-Green week will lead to victory at TPC Southwind. The 41-year-old Spaniard is always one of the best Off-the-Tee players and this is a course where he can capitalize on his strengths. Sergio has been in very good form as of late. Over his last 24 rounds, in this field Sergio ranks: third in Ball-Striking, seventh in Tee-to-Green, and tenth in GIRs Gained. Similar to Corey Conners, Sergio is not a good putter. However, Justin Thomas won this event last year while losing nearly two strokes putting so if there is ever a course to fully embrace TeamNoPutt it is on this one.