Weekly Preview: FedEx St. Jude Championship

Weekly Preview: FedEx St. Jude Championship

This article is part of our Weekly Preview series.

FedEx St. Jude Championship

TPC Southwind
Memphis, TN

The FedExCup Playoffs have arrived, and the PGA Tour heads to TPC Southwind in Memphis for the first leg of the first postseason event. 

That means, over the next three weeks, field sizes will get progressively smaller. This week's field consists of the top 125 players on the PGA Tour, as measured by FedExCup points accrued over the course of the season. Once results are finalized Sunday, only the top 70 players in the standings will advance to the second round and the BMW Championship.

The PGA Tour has made a few notable adjustments to its playoff schedule, and this week's event takes the place of The Northern Trust. TPC Southwind has hosted the FedEx St. Jude Classic and WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational since 1989, so players and golf fans should both be plenty familiar with the layout. The par-70 track was designed in 1988 by Ron Pritchard, Hubert Green, and Fuzzy Zoeller and tips at 7,243 yards.

Relative to par, Southwind will play a bit longer than many others Tour stops simply because it only offers two par-5s. The 14th hole is one of the longest par-3s on Tour at 239 yards. Eight of the twelve par-4s will play longer than 450 yards, so shorter players may struggle to approach the firm, bermudagrass greens. In years past, the course has typically fallen somewhere between the 10th and 15th most difficult on Tour, in no small part due to the penalty

FedEx St. Jude Championship

TPC Southwind
Memphis, TN

The FedExCup Playoffs have arrived, and the PGA Tour heads to TPC Southwind in Memphis for the first leg of the first postseason event. 

That means, over the next three weeks, field sizes will get progressively smaller. This week's field consists of the top 125 players on the PGA Tour, as measured by FedExCup points accrued over the course of the season. Once results are finalized Sunday, only the top 70 players in the standings will advance to the second round and the BMW Championship.

The PGA Tour has made a few notable adjustments to its playoff schedule, and this week's event takes the place of The Northern Trust. TPC Southwind has hosted the FedEx St. Jude Classic and WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational since 1989, so players and golf fans should both be plenty familiar with the layout. The par-70 track was designed in 1988 by Ron Pritchard, Hubert Green, and Fuzzy Zoeller and tips at 7,243 yards.

Relative to par, Southwind will play a bit longer than many others Tour stops simply because it only offers two par-5s. The 14th hole is one of the longest par-3s on Tour at 239 yards. Eight of the twelve par-4s will play longer than 450 yards, so shorter players may struggle to approach the firm, bermudagrass greens. In years past, the course has typically fallen somewhere between the 10th and 15th most difficult on Tour, in no small part due to the penalty areas on 11 of its 18 holes. Accordingly, Southwind's water hazards have gobbled up more golf balls than any other course on the PGA Tour schedule over the last 20 years.

Spectators and viewers alike may be in for an exciting finish, as the 18th hole at TPC Southwind is quite similar to the finishing hole at TPC Sawgrass: a 453-yard dogleg-left with water all the way down the left side. With one loose swing, the safest of leads can suddenly be in doubt. The course record is 61 and has been posted three times in its roughly 30-year history. It will take a spectacular round to match that number this week.

The weekend forecast in Memphis calls for absolutely perfect golf weather. Temperatures are projected to hold steady between 70 and 90 degrees, and rain should be out of the area by Wednesday afternoon. Notably, it is expected to rain throughout the early portion of the week, which should make for ideal scoring conditions.

With respect to winning score, players should – at the very least – expect to match last year's WGC-winning figure of 16-under-par if they plan to have a chance this week. As we have come to expect from most TPC layouts, birdies and bogeys will be plentiful throughout the week as the course separates playoff contenders from pretenders. The field will be one of the deepest of the year, and if conditions are as favorable as expected, a winning score around 20-under seems within reason.

All odds via FanDuel Sportsbook as of 8:00 PM ET Tuesday.

LAST YEAR

Abraham Ancer won last year's WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational at TPC Southwind in a playoff over Hideki Matsuyama and Sam Burns with a four-day total of 16-under par.

FAVORITES

Rory McIlroy (10-1)

McIlroy hasn't played competitively since his heartbreaking defeat at the Open Championship, so we don't have any recent results to rely on. That said, a few weeks of rest and recovery may prove to be just what the Northern Irishman needed to get his game ready for the FedExCup Playoffs. Considering all that has transpired in the golf space recently, this feels like a spot where McIlroy could be looking to make a statement.

Scottie Scheffler (15-1) 

Scheffler has also had a relatively long layoff, and his last showing was a T21 at St. Andrew's. Prior to heading across the pond for the Scottish Open, he was one of the hottest players on American soil, recording two runner-up finishes in three events. The 26-year-old Texan will look to pick up right where he left off this week in Tennessee.

Patrick Cantlay (16-1)

Surprisingly, Cantlay is still looking for his first victory this season, and he's running out of opportunities. Perhaps this is the week he puts it all together, as he comes in on the heels of a T2-T8-T4 stretch. Unlike some of his highly-ranked peers, Cantlay has played quite a bit recently, so his game should be sharp.

Xander Schauffele (18-1)

Schauffele is another American who was absolutely on fire heading into the Open Championship. Although he settled for a T15 at St Andrews, he won the Scottish Open and Travelers Championship the two weeks prior. Schauffele's swing looks completely in rhythm right now, and he will have a bit of added motivation as he pursues his first career FedEx Cup.

THE NEXT TIER

 Tony Finau (22-1)

This list just wouldn't feel complete if it didn't include Finau, a guy who – when he wins – makes it look easier than perhaps any other player on the PGA Tour. He seems to have found another level and doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon. His long, repeatable draw and calm demeanor should play nicely around watery TPC Southwind.

Will Zalatoris (22-1)

Zalatoris has been a model of consistency over the past few weeks, finishing T21, T20, T28 in his last three starts. Any concerns about his caddy change should be minimal, as he will remain competitive regardless of who carries his bag. Zalatoris has the right combination of style, motivation and experience to contend this week – and any, really.

Cameron Young (29-1)

Young should be able to use his length to his advantage and turn some of the longer Southwind par-4s into birdie opportunities, particularly if conditions soften up. He last played at the Rocket Mortgage Classic and finished T2 after carding a four-day total of 21-under par.

Sungjae Im (29-1)

This appears to be outstanding value for a player that virtually never misses a cut and has finished runner-up two weeks in a row. Im has an outside chance at winning the FedEx Cup, and a postseason victory or two would certainly help his case.

LONG SHOTS

Joohyung Kim (34-1)

Last week's Wyndham Championship champion is riding a tremendous wave of momentum right now, and his odds have dipped significantly between the time this article was submitted and the time it was posted. Kim has the ability to go very low, and he has now proven he can handle the pressure of a Sunday lead. Prior to his first career victory in North Carolina, the 20-year old rookie went 69-72-66-63 to finish T8 at the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

Max Homa (55-1)

Homa has played well on TPC tracks thus far this season, and it's reasonable to expect another strong performance in what has been a breakthrough season for the former NCAA champion. At this price, he has the potential to provide a stellar return on investment.

ONE-AND-DONE LEAGUES

Highly-owned Pick: Rory McIlroy – If the odds are any indication, many expect McIlroy to make a triumphant return following a nearly month-long hiatus. Only time will tell if this week reflects "rest" or "rust," but with him ranking sixth in the standings, he has ample wiggle room.

Moderately-owned Pick: Xander Schauffele – This course would seem to fit Schauffele's eye, and the 28-year-old won the last event he played at a TPC layout – the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands. It would not be surprising to see him find the winner's circle yet again.

Lightly-owned Pick: Sungjae Im – Over the past few weeks, Im was one of the favorites in weak fields. This week represents a rare opportunity in a strong field where Im will be undervalued relative to his more popular American counterparts. 

Buyer Beware: Rickie Fowler – Fowler has been a social media darling this week, as he was the 125th and final player to make the field. The tough reality, though, is that Fowler is still just not playing very well right now. He enters this event fresh off a missed cut at the Wyndham Championship. Like Zalatoris, Fowler is hoping a caddy change helps him get back on track, but it's unlikely that will happen immediately.

Last Week: Webb Simpson - WD - $0

Season Total: $10,536,640 

This Week: Scottie Scheffler - If the FedEx St. Jude Championship is the start of the playoffs, then Scheffler should be considered the No. 1 seed. He has already won four times this season and will be on the prowl for a fifth trophy in Memphis. With a major championship and over $13 million already in tow, a FedEx Cup is really the only thing that could make Scheffler's year materially more memorable. Most OAD players have likely already used Scheffler, but if he's still available don't be afraid to lock him in. A victory here would go a long way toward padding his lead in the standings.

FANDUEL PICKS

Upper Range: Scottie Scheffler ($11,700)
Middle Range: Sungjae Im ($10,300)
Lower Range: Maverick McNealy ($8,600)

SURVIVOR LEAGUES

Last Week: Webb Simpson - WD

Streak: 0

This Week: Seeing as I'm filling in this week, I have the benefit of having everyone available. Two golfers I would recommend going after are Sungjae Im and Maverick McNealy. Both players have missed a couple cuts lately, but between the two of them they have failed to play the weekend only nine times all season.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joseph Szmadzinski
Joseph Szmadzinski is a golf and soccer contributor. He played golf at Bucknell University (2013). When not at the office, he enjoys spending time on the golf course, playing tennis and watching whatever games are on.
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