ST. JUDE INVITATIONAL UP NEXT FOR PGA

By Brady Kannon  () 

That was one wild ride indeed. Not only last week at Royal Portrush but really the entire 2019 season of golf’s major championships. It began with maybe the most dramatic situation possible of all, Tiger Woods winning The Masters. Major killer, Brooks Koepka then followed up with a win at Bethpage at the PGA in New York and Gary Woodland came of age on the other side of the county, capturing his first major championship at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Another well-deserved first-timer, Ireland’s Shane Lowry, then became the Champion Golfer of the Year, getting his hands on the Claret Jug amidst the wind and rain along the coast of Northern Ireland.

Like everyone in the golf world, so too must the players regroup and get back to work this week in Memphis, Tenn., as it is the third of four annual World Golf Championships. The WGC-FedEx St. Jude at TPC Southwind features a limited field of 64-players with no 36-hole cut. In years past, this tournament fell the week before the U.S. Open and this World Golf Championship, since 1999, used to be The Bridgestone, held at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio.

With the changes to the schedule, the best players in the world will now gather in Memphis as The PGA Tour season winds down - just two weeks until the FedEx Cup Playoffs, and just five weeks until the season finale at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta for The Tour Championship. TPC Southwind is a Par 70, designed by Ron Pritchard with help from Fuzzy Zoeller and Hubert Green. It stretches to over 7200-yards and the course is no pushover as it consistently ranks in the Top 15 hardest on the annual Tour rotation. Players really like it here. Phil Mickelson and Billy Horschel have been a couple of the most notable to speak out about how challenging but fair the course is and how the course has always been very underrated. The greens are small and equipped with a Bermuda grass surface. Water is in play on 10 of the 18 holes and nine holes throughout the layout are doglegs. Fairways are on the narrower side but the rough will not be brutal

at only about 2.5 inches thick. It will be a little wet and sticky, however, with the recent moisture they’ve had in the area. The most telling statistics we have seen translate into success here are Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, Strokes Gained: Tee to Green, Scrambling, and Par 4 Scoring. Forty-five of the top 50 players in the world are in the field

this week. Notable withdraws are Lowry, Rickie Fowler, Woods, Francesco Molinari and Lee Westwood.

Three Picks to Win the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational

Xander Schauffele (25/1)

Schauffele was one of our choices to win The Open Championship last week and he really had a good thing going before shooting a 7-over par, 78 on Sunday. Schauffele was the subject of an illegal driver investigation by The R&A and it came out on Saturday that his driver failed to meet regulations. Drivers are randomly tested all the time and many are thrown out for having too much spring effect. The golf club manufacturers try to push this to the brink and sometimes it goes over the legal limit. However, we almost never hear a player’s name being released and Schauffele was very upset his privacy was not maintained by The R&A. I think he may be playing with a little bit of fire under his collar this week and I expect him to challenge for the win. He’s 14th in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, 13th from Tee to Green, 33rd in Greens in Regulation, 68th in Scrambling, and 14th in Par 4 Scoring.

Justin Thomas (16/1)

The wrist injury is clearly behind him. Thomas just came off of two extremely impressive weeks in Europe, playing links style golf, a brand of golf that has not suited him in the past. He was 9th at the Scottish Open and 11th at The British Open. His game looks to be really coming back around and I would not be surprised to see him in the mix here this week. He ranks Top 20 in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, Tee to Green, and Around the Green. He’s 4th on Tour in Par 4 Scoring.

Hideki Matsuyama (30/1)

I don’t think it hurts one this week, to have missed the cut last week in Northern Ireland. A couple of extra days off could be very beneficial coming into Memphis. Matsuyama only missed the cut by a shot and wasn’t playing all that poorly. It’s also his first missed cut all season. Otherwise he is 3rd in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green, 2nd in Strokes Gained: Approach the Green, and 15th in Scrambling.

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