This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
WGC-FEDEX ST. JUDE INVITATIONAL
Winner's Share: $1.787M
FedEx Cup Points: 550 to the Winner
Location: Memphis, Tenn.
Course: TPC Southwind
2019 champion: Brooks Koepka
It's hard to believe we're entering the home stretch of the 2019-20 PGA Tour season. Just six weeks are left. It feels as if the campaign started only last month, which in many ways it did. Of course, golf never really ends, no more so than this year, with the Masters delayed until late autumn. Regardless, we are about to hit a stretch featuring a series of big events, beginning with the WGC-FexEx St. Jude Invitational. Late last week, Tiger Woods announced he would not be heading to Memphis, saving himself for the PGA Championship next week and, presumably, some of the playoffs beginning two weeks after that. He is one of six golfers in the top 50 of the world rankings skipping the 78-man, no-cut WGC event, though a number of internationals we hadn't seen in some time have made the trek, most notably Henrik Stenson. The other top-50 golfers not playing are Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Francesco Molinari – all are expected at the PGA – Lee Westwood and Shugo Imahira.
So who IS here? Nine of the top 10 in the world, including Jon Rahm – making his first start as world No. 1 – newly-relegated No. 2 Rory McIlroy and defending champion Brooks Koepka. Past winners at TPC Southwind teeing it up include Dustin Johnson (2012, '18) and Daniel Berger (2016-17). Phil Mickelson is a two-time runner-up (2013, '16). All those results took place in a different tournament, however.
Things changed last year. And it was a little weird. A tournament switched locations to a course where there used to be a different tournament. The WGC event that for years was sponsored by Bridgestone and played at Firestone Country Club in Ohio moved to Tennessee. Memphis-based FedEx, in connection with the nearby St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, was the title sponsor of the longtime St. Jude Classic at TPC Southwind. There is no bigger sponsor on the PGA Tour than FedEx, so a regular Tour event just wasn't enough. There are no title sponsors for majors, so a WGC event is the next best thing.
The PGA Tour has been coming to Memphis since 1958. The tournament was long associated with entertainer Danny Thomas and was played at TPC Southwind beginning in 1989. The course is long for a par-70. There are only two par-5s. It features eight par-4s of more than 4445 yards and the bermudagrass greens average a smallish 5,400 square feet. That has typically made reaching greens in regulation a real challenge, an aspect we'll amplify in the Champion's Profile below. The most obvious characteristic of Southwind is water. It's on more than half the holes and there have been far more water balls at this track over the past 15 years than at any other on the PGA Tour, including TPC Sawgrass. Nowhere is there more danger than No. 18, a 453-yard dogleg surrounded by water nearly the entire way.
TPC Southwind was annually a very difficult track – it was the 11th hardest on Tour in 2018 and generally fell between 10th and 15th. But last year it was middle of the road, at 25th hardest, even though it was made more challenging for the WGC field. This brings up an interesting hypothesis. With the fields generally being weak before that, maybe the course wasn't THAT hard, and it was just the quality of the golf and the golfers. We'll need a few more years to fully make that determination, but it clearly was not as difficult last year as in the past.
Weather-wise, the good news is that is expected to be not quite as stifling hot as it was last year, with temperatures only in the 80s. The bad news is, that's because it's supposed to rain pretty much every day. Just about every day has a 50 percent chance of showers and/or thunderstorms. It will be humid, but the wind is expected to be very light.
Some fun Memphis facts: The first 59 in PGA Tour history was recorded there. Al Geiberger did it at par-72 Cordova Country Club in the second round of the 1977 tournament, then known as the Danny Thomas Memphis Classic. Geiberger won the tourney, three strokes ahead of former Memphis winner Gary Player. Also in 1977, get this: former president Gerald Ford...wait for it...made a hole-in-one during the pro-am. You thought we were gonna say he plunked a spectator in the head, didn't you?
Key Stats to Winning at TPC Southwind
Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.
• Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green
• Greens in regulation/Strokes Gained: Approach
• Scrambling/Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green
• Par 4 efficiency 450-500 yards
Note - The 2010-2018 winners won the St. Jude Classic prior to the tournament becoming a WGC event.
Last year, Koepka finished fourth in the field in driving distance, ninth in driving accuracy, eighth in greens in regulation, first in scrambling and first in putting – many weeks, that awesome display of balance would win by more than three shots. The thing is, so many of the leaders excelled across the board. You don't usually see the longest hitters also among the most accurate, or among the best putters. But unlike in years past at Southwind, the leaders were great on the greens. Five of the top six on the leaderboard – Koepka, Webb Simpson, Marc Leishman, Tommy Fleetwood, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Rory McIlroy – finished in the top 10 in putting. We'll give you no guesses who didn't; that's right, it was Fleetwood. Koepka won at 16-under-par, a mark better than most of the winning scores in prior years. The winning score every year from 2010 to 2017 fell between 9-under and 13-under-par. Johnson did win at 19-under in 2018, but he was six shots clear of runner-up Andrew Putnam. So in an eight-year span only one golfer eclipsed 13-under. Year after year, success in the Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green department correlated to success on the leaderboard. It was really tough to get on the green, which heightened scrambling. Last year may throw some of that out the window, but we won't change years of strategy based on one tournament with a small field. This year, if the rain materializes as expected, there would be more of a premium on distance, making a long course play even longer.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Justin Thomas - $11,400 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 12-1)
This is such a tough call at the top among the five-figure guys. A strong case could be made for any of Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Cantlay, and Rory McIlroy is too goo to keep down for too long. But the guy who has played the best of all of them this season has been Thomas. When he's made the cut this season – and he'll make the cut this week – he has finished top-20 every single time, a perfect 10-for-10. Most of those have resulted in a Tour-leading eight top-10s. He played this track for the first time a year ago and tied for 12th. Thomas ranks third on Tour in SG: Approach, first in SG: Tee-to-Green and is 11th Par 4 450-500.
Webb Simpson - $9,900 (20-1)
No one on Tour has been better on par-4s between 450 and 500 yards this season, and that will be a major factor on a course where almost half the holes fall in that range. That's right, Simpson is ranked first in the Par-4 450-500 department. You know most of the rest. He's played only nine times this season, but four of them resulted podium finishes: two wins, one second, one third. He's ranked top-15 in SG: Approach, Putting and Tee-to-Green. And he was runner-up here a year ago.
Tyrrell Hatton - $9,700 (30-1)
Since getting his wrist surgically repaired late in 2019, Hatton can't miss. He has played only four events in 2020 but has finished no worse than a tie for sixth. He won at Bay Hill and added two top-5s after the restart. These results have come on all kinds of courses. You saw how Simpson is ranked top-15 in three SG categories? Hatton is top-5 in all of the same, as well as Par-4 450-500.
Tier 2 Values
Collin Morikawa - $9,500 (25-1)
The key to success at TPC Southwind is hitting the ball straight, and Morikawa does it better than just about anyone else. He's first on Tour in SG: Approach and fifth in SG: Tee-to-Green. It was a just a few weeks ago he took down Thomas in a playoff at the Workday Charity Open, so this field won't faze him.
Viktor Hovland - $9,400 (30-1)
It's hard to believe, but Hovland has gotten a bit lost in the blinding light that has been Morikawa. He was the third wheel at the Workday duel, but there's no shame in a solo third, especially when it's your fifth straight top-25. Hovland ranks top-12 in SG: Off-the-Tee, Approach and Tee-to-Green, and his short game has gotten so much better.
Jason Day - $8,200 (40-1)
Day played six straight weeks out of the restart with nary a health issue, and he even delivered a top-5 and a top-10 at the two Muirfield Village tournaments. He took last week off, and we hope he didn't hurt his back opening the refrigerator or something like that. Seriously, if Day can recapture even 75 percent of his old game, and he can be a force. He is ranked first on Tour in SG: Around-the-Green.
Tier 3 Values
Joaquin Niemann - $7,400 (80-1)
Niemann played very similarly from tee to green at both events at Murifield Village, where he tied for 31st at the Workday event and missed the cut at the Memorial. The difference? He putted far worse the second week. The rest of his game aligns nicely with Southwind. He played the course once before, two years ago, and missed the cut. He was 19 at the time. Niemann is ranked top-20 on Tour in SG: Approach, SG: Tee-to-Green and Par-4 450-500.
Scottie Scheffler - $7,300 (80-1)
Things have not gone well for Scheffler since the restart, with five poor results in a row, four of them missed cuts. But he delivered a very pretty top-25 at the Memorial in a field stronger than this one. Sure, he shot 77 on Sunday, but so did a lot of guys. Scheffler has not withered in the big events – he just missed a top-25 at the WGC-Mexico. He is ranked 10th in SG: Off-the-Tee and 24th in SG: Tee-to-Green.
Adam Hadwin - $7,200 (100-1)
Hadwin has been steady since golf resumed. He's 5-for-5 in cuts, with a top-5 at the RBC Heritage. He's never played TPC Southwind before, but his game is well-suited for success there. He's a little short off the tee, but not too short. He's accurate off the tee (ranked 32nd) and with his irons (33rd in greens in regulation) and a very good putter (29th in SG: Putting). Hadwin also ranks ninth in Par-4 450-500. We're not saying he'll win, but he should be more valuable than his price tag.
Rafa Cabrera Bello - $6,900 (125-1)
Cabrera Bello cost a whopping $1,000 more last year. All he did then was tie for 12th. And two years before that he tied for fourth. So it's clear he likes the track. His game has not been great since the restart, but he did climb the leaderboard on Sunday at the 3M Open with an 8-under 64. He notched top-20s in a couple of difficult fields earlier this season at Riviera and in Mexico.
Brandt Snedeker - $6,400 (150-1)
There's not a lot to like about Snedeker's game right now. But there are some things. First, he's ranked third on Tour in Par-4 450-500, something you wouldn't necessarily expect from one of the game's shorter hitters. There are only eight guys on Tour playing those long par-4s under par, and Snedeker is one of them. Second, his short game remains almost as good as always: he sits third in SG: Around-the-Green and 21st in SG: Putting. Snedeker finished a respectable 27th here last year and was sixth the year before.
Graeme McDowell - $6,100 (300-1)
Look, everyone makes the cut. You're going to get four rounds out of McDowell. He last played this course three years ago and tied for 27th. And he also finished 24th three years before that. He's ranked 53rd on Tour in SG: Approach, better than a chunk of the field. Yeah, he's a gamble, but if he connects, that's some serious value.