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Top-heavy PGA field for FedEx St. Jude

By Wes Reynolds  (Point Spread Weekly) 

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Xander Schauffele
© Imagn
Michael Thompson (125/1) had not won a PGA Tour title in 2,702 days, since the 2013 Honda Classic, but that changed last weekend at the 3M Open. The victory earned Thompson a spot in the PGA Championship, a trip to the U.S. Open and slots in the 2021 Players Championship and Masters. He was also outside the top 125 for the FedEx Cup coming into the week, ranking 151st, and now has risen to 39th, essentially guaranteeing that he will play the first two weeks of the FedEx Cup playoffs next month. He also got a spot in this week’s WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational thanks to the triumph in Minnesota, where he led the field in Strokes Gained: Putting and finished fourth in Strokes Gained: Approach. Thompson also hit a career-best 60 of 72 greens. He opens this week at the same price of 125/1. 
 
New world No. 1 Jon Rahm, fresh off his win at the Memorial two weeks ago, was seventh here last year and comes in as the tournament favorite at 10/1. No. 2 Rory McIlroy, fourth here last year, follows at 11/1. Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Thomas (12/1) have wins already in 2020. Patrick Cantlay is the next choice at 20/1, while Xander Schauffele and Webb Simpson, who was the runner-up here last year, round out the top choices at 22/1. Daniel Berger, the victor several weeks ago at Colonial, has won twice at TPC Southwind and is slotted at 28/1. Brooks Koepka won the first WGC event here in Memphis last year, and Dustin Johnson has a pair of victories on this course at TPC Southwind, but both come in with shaky form and are priced at 33/1. 
 
The Event
The WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational is in its second year in Memphis, after it was held from 1999-2018 at Firestone CC in Akron, Ohio. However, the PGA Tour has made an annual stop in Memphis every year since 1958. FedEx Corp., headquartered in Memphis, has been the title or presenting sponsor of this event for 31 of the last 34 years. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has been the tournament’s charity since 1970, when entertainer Danny Thomas agreed to attach his name to the event in exchange for St. Jude being the tournament’s primary charitable beneficiary. 
 
This year’s event was scheduled to be held over July 4 weekend between the U.S. Open and the British Open, but the revamped schedule forced its move to the week before the new date for the PGA Championship. A WGC event always has a strong field, and all the top players will be here except for Tiger Woods, Adam Scott, Justin Rose, Francesco Molinari, Lee Westwood and Shugo Imahira. The field consists of only 78 players who qualify under the following criteria:
 
1. Members of the U.S. and International Presidents Cup teams. 
2. Top 50 players in the Official World Golf Ranking as of March 15.
3. Top 50 players in the Official World Golf Ranking as of July 20 and 27.
4. Tournament winners from the World Golf Federations tours since last year’s event with a field strength of 115 points or more.
5. Highest-rated players outside the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking to fill the field to 78.
 
 
The Course
 
TPC Southwind was designed in 1988 by Ron Prichard and has been the venue for the PGA Tour in Memphis ever since. It is a relatively tough and technical track that has been made even harder with the move from early June to the late July/early August WGC date, when the temperatures are substantially warmer. Southwind is a par-70 of 7,237 yards. Hitting the Zoysia grass (East Lake — The Tour Championship, 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive) fairways are even more important than usual due to the 2.5-inch Bermuda rough. Eight of the 10 par-4s measure 450 yards or longer, and the track has only two par-5s, so there aren’t a ton of easy birdie holes. Water is in play on 10 holes, and the layout has 76 bunkers. The Champion Bermudagrass (Quail Hollow — Wells Fargo Championship, Sedgefield — Wyndham Championship) greens will roll a bit more slowly at an 11 on the Stimpmeter, and the greens are on the smallish side at an average of 4,300 square feet.
 
 
Recent History/Winners
 
WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational
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: Fabian Gomez (-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 Robert Karlsson
** - playoff win over Robert Garrigus and Robert Karlsson
 
 
WGC FedEx St. Jude Angles and Stats
— All winners except Ben Crane in 201) ranked in the top 10 for Greens In Regulation during their winning weeks.
— The last four winners have had at least one top-10 finish in their previous five starts.
— Six of the last 10 winners have rated eighth or better in Scrambling during their winning weeks.
As indicated above, the pertinent statistics to examine include GIR and Scrambling (Koepka led the field in his victory last year). With so many longer par-4s on this course, par-4 performance is also worth a look in addition to Total Driving and Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green, as accurate tee shots and solid ball striking will be important with narrower-than-usual fairways and smaller-than-average greens. 
 
Greens In Regulation
1. Corey Conners (2) 73.08%
2. Xander Schauffele (3) 72.78%
3. Bryson DeChambeau (8) 71.84%
4. Tyrrell Hatton (10) 71.53%
5. Paul Casey (12) 71.30%
6. Webb Simpson (14) 71.18%
7. Hideki Matsuyama (15) 71.09%
8. Gary Woodland (16) 70.95%
9. Jon Rahm (17) 70.91%
10. Patrick Cantlay (19) 70.66%
Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green
1. Justin Thomas + 1.786
2. Sergio Garcia + 1.700
3. Rory McIlroy + 1.667
4. Hideki Matsuyama + 1.661
5. Tyrrell Hatton + 1.597
6. Collin Morikawa + 1.551
7. Bryson DeChambeau + 1.481
8. Patrick Cantlay + 1.431
9. Jon Rahm + 1.424
10. Xander Schauffele + 1.403
Total Driving (Distance and Accuracy Rank)
1. Paul Casey (1) 76
2. Jon Rahm (2) 78
3. Dustin Johnson (3) 97
4. Bryson DeChambeau (T5) 107
5. Daniel Berger (T5) 107
6. Gary Woodland (7) 108
7. Scottie Scheffler (8) 110
8. Viktor Hovland (T10) 115
9. Jazz Janewattananond (12) 117
10. Sungjae Im (13) 120
Par-4 Performance
1. Bryson DeChambeau (1) -55
2. Justin Thomas (2) -48
3. Webb Simpson (3) -47
4. Xander Schauffele (4) -35
5. Tyrrell Hatton (5) -33
6. Sungjae Im (6) -32
7. Tony Finau (7) -31
8. Patrick Reed (T9) -29
9. Brandt Snedeker (T9) -29
10. Scottie Scheffler (11) -28
Scrambling
1. Brendon Todd (1) 68.24%
2. Daniel Berger (2) 67.60%
3. Tyrrell Hatton (3) 67.48%
4. Bryson DeChambeau (5) 66.82%
5. Abraham Ancer (6) 66.77%
6. Kevin Na (7) 66.46%
7. Justin Thomas (9) 65.45%
8. Webb Simpson (12) 65.06%
9. Kevin Kisner (17) 64.61%
10. Brandt Snedeker (18) 64.35%
Parentheses indicate overall PGA Tour ranking within the given statistical category. 
 
Selections
 
Xander Schauffele 22/1
Schauffele started well in the restart at Colonial with a third-place finish and very easily could have won, but a short missed putt on the 71st hole cost him a victory. Schauffele led the field at the Memorial in Driving Accuracy and Greens In Regulation in his last start. In that tournament, he was 8 over through his first 13 holes but never gave up on the round or the event and finished 1 over par for the tournament with a respectable tie for 13th. 
 
Four of Schauffele’s five professional wins have come against smaller fields in no-cut events, including the 2017 Tour Championship at East Lake (Zoysia grass there as well), 2018 WGC-HSBC Champions (counts as PGA Tour and European Tour win) and the 2019 Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua. He also went to a playoff in the 2019 WGC-HSBC Champions and at Kapalua this year. 
 
Schauffele also rates third on tour (second in this week's field) for Greens In Regulation and fourth in Par 4 Performance. His tee-to-green game is also one of the best in the world. I’m already on him for next week’s PGA at 25/1. 
 
Tyrrell Hatton 38/1
Hatton, ranked 14th in the world, seems to finally be reaching his potential as a player. He already has a win this calendar year at the Arnold Palmer Invitational (tipped by yours truly and Brady Kannon in “Point Spread Weekly” and on VSiN’s “Long Shots”). 
 
Unlike other higher-end players, he hasn’t shown much rust. This is probably due to being selective in the tournaments he has entered since the tour restarted in June. Hatton was third at the RBC Heritage and fourth at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. He has the look of a player who is primed, ready and focused for bigger events, and this week’s WGC and next week’s PGA Championship certainly qualify. 
 
Sungjae Im 77/1
The stoppage in play probably came at the worst time possible for the highly active Im. He was playing like a top-10 golfer when he won the Honda Classic in March and followed with a third-place finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. 
 
He looked like he would continue that form when he tied for 10th on the restart at the Colonial, but his usually solid tee-to-green game left him. Im doesn’t know any other way but to play his way out of a slump, and he missed the cut at the RBC Heritage, tied for 58th at the Travelers, tied for 53rd at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, finished 63rd at the Workday and missed the cut on the number at the Memorial. However, he finally took a much-needed week off, and the price has drifted up enough in a short field on a course he should like. 
 
Scottie Scheffler 80/1
The PGA Tour rookie has struggled a bit on the restart with three MCs in five starts. However, his T22 at Memorial is his best showing since the resumption in play. Scheffler ranks 10th in SG: Off The Tee and seventh in Total Driving and is in the top 10 in this week’s field for Par 4 Performance. 
 
Getting a PGA Tour maiden win against a field of this caliber will be no easy task, but four of the last 10 winners at Memphis have won in their course debuts — Westwood in 2010, Johnson in ’12, English in ’13 and Berger in ’16.
 
 
Paul Casey 100/1
Casey was 50/1 for next week’s PGA, and I unfortunately mistimed it. His price has drifted up, but at 100/1 even in an elite field such as this, he’s worth a look. He has missed back-to-back cuts at the Memorial and the 3M. Casey ended 2019 as the No. 15 player in the world but has dropped to No. 27. Nevertheless, I’ll buy on the dip here. 
 
Casey ranks in the top 10 for SG: Off The Tee (ninth) and SG: Approach (sixth) as well as 12th in GIR. He also possesses the best combination of Driving Distance and Accuracy, ranking first on the tour in Total Driving. Nevertheless, it's the putter that turns Paul Casey into “Par” Casey. He ranks 209th in SG: Around The Green and 210th in SG: Putting. He does have a better record on Bermuda throughout his career.
 
Barracuda Championship
 
The Event
 
The Barracuda Championship has been held in the Reno/Lake Tahoe area yearly since 1999 and started as the Reno-Tahoe Open before computer security and data-storage company Barracuda Networks became the title sponsor in 2014. It has always been an alternate event played opposite the British Open or more often the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, which is now the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. This alternate-event winner does not get a Masters invitation but does earn 24 OWGR points, 300 FedEx Cup points, a two-year PGA Tour exemption and an entry into the PGA Championship. 
 
Since 2012, this event has used the Modified Stableford scoring system, which had been used at the International event in Colorado. 
 
Points Strokes in relation to par
Albatross + 8 points (3 under par)
Eagle + 5 points (2 under par)
Birdie + 2 points (1 under par)
Par 0 points (Par)
Bogey -1 point (1 over par)
Double bogey or worse -3 points (2 over par or more)
 
The Course
 
Tahoe Mountain Club’s Old Greenwood Course in Truckee, Calif., plays host to the Barracuda Championship for the first time after many years at the Montreux Golf and Country Club. The track plays as a par-71 of 7,390 yards. However, it is at nearly 6,000-foot altitude, so it will actually play closer to about 6,800. The course was designed by Jack Nicklaus in 2004. Old Greenwood is a resort track that is a combination of mountain forests and desert. Water is in play on six holes, and the layout has 95 bunkers. The fairways and greens (5,300-square-foot average) are Bentgrass/Poa Annua, and the rough is Bluegrass cut to about 1.75 inches. With a Modified Stableford scoring system, the premium is on making eagles and birdies, and players are rewarded for doing so more than they are penalized for scores of bogey or worse. 
 
Recent History/Winners
 
2019: Collin Morikawa 47 points 10/1
2018: Andrew Putnam 47 28/1
2017: Chris Stroud 44 75/1*
2016: Greg Chalmers 43 300/1
2015: J.J. Henry 47 66/1**
2014: Geoff Ogilvy 49 66/1
2013: Gary Woodland 44 40/1
2012: J.J. Henry 43 40/1
 
 * - playoff win over Greg Owen and Richy Werenski
** - playoff win over Kyle Reifers
 
 
Barracuda Championship Angles and Stats
 
Birdie or Better Percentage
1. Sheamus Power (T10) 25.00%
2. Chesson Hadley (T15) 24.38%
3. Will Gordon (21) 24.01%
4. Charley Hoffman (24) 23.69%
5. Bronson Burgoon (25) 23.64%
6. Dominic Bozzelli (26) 23.61%
7. Maverick McNealy (27) 23.57%
8. Denny McCarthy (28) 23.50%
9. Sebastian Munoz (29) 23.48%
10. Peter Uihlein (T34) 23.08%
11. Richy Werenski (36) 23.07%
Driving Accuracy
1. Ryan Armour (2) 73.59%
2. Brian Stuard (4) 71.30%
3. Kyle Stanley (5) 71.15%
4. Johnson Wagner (T9) 69.34%
5. Tim Wilkinson (11) 69.11%
6. Ryan Moore (12) 69.01%
7. David Hearn (14) 68.91%
8. Chris Baker (15) 68.68%
9. Alex Cejka (17) 68.44%
10. Roberto Castro (20) 67.90%
Selections
 
Will Gordon 50/1
Gordon missed the cut last week for us at the 3M Open, but we’ll come back with him for this event, which rewards players who can make birdies in bunches. Gordon did just that a few weeks ago at the Travelers when he led the field with 27 birdies on the way to a third-place finish, which earned temporary PGA Tour membership for the former SEC player of the year at Vanderbilt. He also rates 18th on tour in Birdie Average (4.21) and 21st on tour in Birdie or Better Percentage (24.01%). Those marks rank third overall in both categories in this week’s field. Gordon is also in the top 20 on Tour in SG: Off The Tee and should have a lot of short wedge shots this week with his length at altitude. 
 
Maverick McNealy 50/1
McNealy continues the theme of young players with distinguished amateur careers. The former world No. 1 amateur comes in off two MCs but had a strong T8 at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. He ranks seventh overall on the tour for Total Birdies (274) and 23rd in Birdie Average (4.15). McNealy lives in Las Vegas and will be used to the altitude. 
 
Denny McCarthy 65/1
Only Tyrrell Hatton, who is one of the hottest players on the planet, ranks ahead of McCarthy on the PGA Tour for SG: Putting. McCarthy’s issues are that his Tee-To-Green game hasn’t been up to par, but his short game is one of the best on tour, and he ranks eighth in Total Birdies (272) and 21st in Birdie Average (4.18). 
 
Brian Stuard 67/1
Stuard comes in off back-to-back MCs at Muirfield Village but had two top-30 finishes before that, tying for 30th at the Rocket Mortgage Classic and tying for 20th at the Travelers. He also ranks eighth on tour in Total Birdies (272), but the strength of Stuard’s game remains Driving Accuracy, where he ranks fourth on tour, hitting 71.30% of his fairways. At altitude, his lack of length shouldn’t matter as much. 
 
Doug Ghim 100/1
Ghim has struggled on the PGA Tour but comes in off his best finish of the season with a T18 at the 3M last weekend, where he made only two bogeys over the last three days. Like last year’s Barracuda winner, Collin Morikawa, Ghim was a highly regarded amateur who has a lot of expectations for PGA Tour success. He’s also a Las Vegas resident who should be comfortable playing at altitude. 
 
Chris Baker 196/1
Baker finished only T41 at the 3M Open but rated sixth in SG: Approach in the field. He has made five straight cuts dating to the Honda Classic. He got his PGA Tour card last year through the Korn Ferry Tour finals, rates 185th in FedEx Cup points and needs a high finish here to have a chance to avoid having to return to the KFT Finals to secure his card. 
 
Hero English Open
 
Italian Renato Paratore earned his second European Tour victory with a three-stroke win last weekend at the Betfred British Masters as a 70/1 price. Paratore, now shortened to 30/1, will also be part of this week’s field at the Hero Open, which returns to the European Tour for the first time since 2002 when it was known as the English Open. With most of the top European players stateside for this week’s WGC event, next week’s PGA Championship and the FedEx Cup playoffs to follow, the European Tour fields are substantially weaker but provide opportunities for many players to earn victories and world ranking points. Joost Luiten, as he was two weeks ago, is the tournament favorite at 14/1. Thomas Detry still knocks at the door for his maiden European Tour win, and Andy Sullivan, born and raised in Warwickshire County, England, is the hometown hero for this event. Both are priced at 20/1. Ryan Fox (22/1) made his restart season debut last week at the British Masters and finished eight. Justin Harding, third last week, and Eddie Pepperell, born about 70 miles from Warwickshire, round out at the top choices at 25/1. 
 
The Event
 
The English Open was a fixture on the European Tour from 1988-2002 and was won by such stalwarts as Darren Clarke, Mark James, Ian Woosnam, Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood. The event disappeared from the schedule mainly due to lack of sponsorship but returns this year as part of the six-week UK swing on the revamped pandemic European Tour schedule. Hero Motorcorp., a motorcycle and scooter manufacturer based in New Delhi, India, will be the sponsor. Hero has sponsored the Hero World Challenge each winter since 2014 and usually sponsors the Indian Open, which was supposed to be held in March but was canceled due to COVID-19.
 
The Course
 
The Forest of Arden Hotel and Country Club will play host to the English Open. The property, owned and operated by Marriott Hotels and Resorts, is in the town of Warwickshire, about 4 miles east of Birmingham International Airport. There are two courses here, Aylesford and Arden, and the latter is the one that will be played this week. Donald Steel designed the track in 1970 and renovated it in 1992 with subsequent renovations completed in 1994 by European Golf Design. The course hosted several European Tour events, including the British Masters (1997-98, 2003-05) and the English Open (1994-96, 2000-02) but nothing of note in more recent years. Arden plays as a par-72 of 6,958 yards. It’s a flat and short resort-type track. The front nine is about 200 yards shorter and contains most of the water holes. The back nine is more wide open. The fairways are relatively wide and generous, but it’s key to avoid some fairly thick rough. The greens are a Bentgrass/Poa Annua combination similar to what the players saw a couple of weeks ago in Austria. 
 
Selections
 
Andy Sullivan 20/1
Sullivan earned another top-10, his fourth in his last 10 starts, last weekend at the British Masters. He was born about 10 miles away in Nuneaton. Sullivan ranks fourth on the European Tour in SG: Approach, ninth in Scrambling and 10th in SG: Tee To Green. 
 
Aaron Rai 50/1
This time last year, Wolverhampton’s Rai was finishing 12th at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Classic, where he had a spot in that elite field by winning the 2018 Hong Kong Open. Rai is part of a theme of accurate drivers selected this week, as he rates fifth in the category, and has a strong game off the tee, ranking 17th in Strokes Gained. 
 
Connor Syme 80/1
Syme disappointed last weekend, missing the cut at the British Masters. However, he is closing on a win, as evident from his T4 at the Austrian Open three weeks ago, and has posted three top-10s as a European Tour rookie. The young Scot ranks first on the European Tour in Strokes Gained: Off The Tee and for Greens In Regulation while also ranking second in Driving Accuracy. 
 
Adrien Saddier 80/1
The Frenchman was a relatively popular pick at the British Masters and for good reason due to recent form of T18-T12-3 in his previous three events. Unfortunately for his backers, he missed the cut. Nonetheless, this is a buy on the disappointing dip. Saddier ranks second for Greens In Regulation, 11th in SG: Approach, 15th in Driving Accuracy and 19th in Driving Distance. 
 
Ashley Chesters 80/1
Chesters was tied for fifth going into last weekend’s final round at the British Masters, but a 74 dropped him to T14. Despite the disappointing finish, Chesters ranked first in Driving Accuracy (first for the season on the European Tour) and third for GIR (fourth for the season overall). He grew up about an hour away in Shrewsbury, so this is as close to a home game as he will get.
 
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