Horses for Courses: WGC FedEx St Jude Invitational

Back to Memphis for the second WGC event of 2020.

Haven’t even had a major yet!

That all changes this week and next!

Put on your blue suede shoes, board the plane as it’s time for a walk in Memphis. TPC Southwind is on deck for the 32nd-consecutive season and second running as host of the WGC FedEx St Jude Invitational.

Ron Pletcher’s test served as the warm-up for the U.S Open since 2007 but this year will be the tune-up before the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco next week.

TPC Southwind lines up 40 yards deeper this year with the addition of two new tee boxes but length hardly bothers these elite players. New bunker positioning and re-shaping will make the pros think twice as the choice of sand (76 bunkers), water (11 penalty areas) or dealing with 2.5 inches of Bermuda rough.

Defending champion Brooks Koepka is the only winner of the last five to finish top 10 in fairways so accuracy isn’t a premium. The focus this week will be second shots into the well-protected, undulating 4,300 square foot Bermuda greens. Small targets will require scrambling skills if missed and conversions of birdie chances with the flat stick when found in regulation. Walking off with par will not be a bad score this week. Taking advantage of the two Par-5 holes won’t hurt either.

Returning to Bermuda greens for the first time since Harbour Town will take a quick recalibration. The heat of Memphis won’t bother anyone who has been practicing in Florida or playing on TOUR the last few weeks.

A field of 78 will feature 17 players making their course debut but plenty of familiar names are on site. Of the 50 OWGR top players, 45 are on property as they prepare for the first major of the season with a major-like purse. Nothing gets the attention, just check the winners all-time of WGC events, of the best of the best than a big field on a big-time course. There’s no exception this week as the total purse of $10.5 million will see the winner take $1.82 million of that plus 550 FedExCup points. The good news is there isn’t a cut so everyone will get four rounds of prep before heading to San Francisco.

 

2019 WGC-FESJC Invitational: Top 25 (* – course debut)

1 Brooks Koepka
2 Webb Simpson
3 Marc Leishman
4 *Tommy Fleetwood
4 Rory McIlroy
4 *Matthew Fitzpatrick
7 *Jon Rahm
8 Ian Poulter
9 Billy Horschel
9 Bubba Watson
11 *Justin Rose
12 Rafa Cabrera Bello
12 *Patrick Cantlay
12 Patrick Reed
12 *Cameron Smith
12 *Jordan Spieth
12 *Justin Thomas
20 Dustin Johnson
20 *Haotong Li
20 *Louis Oosthuizen
24 *Matthew Wolff (1st WGC event)

Recent Winners

2019: Brooks Koepka (-16)

Started in the final group one back of McIlroy and fired 65 to win by three … Bogey-free effort beat McIlroy by six. … Fifth straight winner top 10 GIR (T8). … First winner in five NOT to lead in Strokes-Gained: Tee-to-Green (6th). … Led the field in Bogey Avoidance, Par-4 scoring, Scrambling and Bogey Avoidance. … Only winner of last five NOT to finish in top 3 in Par-5 scoring (T48). … Only winner in the last six to finish top 10 in driving accuracy. … Fifth player to win a major and a WGC event in the same season. … Entered off T4 The Open Championship week prior. … Sick most of the week.

Notables: Webb Simpson posted the round of the day on Sunday, 64, to take second. … Marc Leishman closed 63-67 for solo third. … Tommy Fleetwood closed 65-66 for T4. … Matthew Fitzpatrick (T4) led after 36 holes. … McIlroy (T4) matched the course record on Saturday to lead after 54 holes by one. Jon Rahm (7th) tied the course record, 62, to lead after the first round. …… Top 10 players 10-under or lower. … Only 14 bogey-free rounds. … The top 23 players posted just 13 rounds above 70. … Last three winners of this EVENT have been either Nos. 1, 2 or 3 in the OWGR AND FedExCup at the time. #Chalk.

2018: Dustin Johnson (-19)

Walk-off eagle to win by six. … Last regular TOUR event played here. … Won here in 2012. … Led after 36 and co-led after 54 holes. … Missed the tournament record by a shot. … Clinic in all phases minus Driving Accuracy. … Led the field in Par-4 scoring and Strokes-Gained: Tee to Green; Second in Bogey Avoidance, Strokes-Gained: Approach the Green and Proximity.

Notables: Chez Reavie (T6) and Brandt Snedeker (T6) were the only others entered this week that finished in the top 10, just 12 shots back! … Snedeker tied the course record (62) in Round 2, his only round below 70 of the week. … Phil Mickelson closed with 65 for T12. … CT Pan and JT Poston shared T18. … Only two players double digits under-par. … Only 10, bogey-free rounds on the week.

Key stat leaders

Top golfers in each statistic on the 2019-2020 PGA TOUR are listed only if they are scheduled to compete this week.

Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (* – previous WGC event winner)

1 *Justin Thomas
2 Sergio Garcia
3 *Rory McIlroy
4 *Hideki Matsuyama
5 Tyrrell Hatton
6 Collin Morikawa
7 Bryson DeChambeau
8 Patrick Cantlay
9 Jon Rahm
10 *Xander Schauffele
11 Tony Finau
12 Viktor Hovland (first WGC event)
13 Paul Casey
14 Webb Simpson
15 Joaquin Niemann (first WGC event)
18 Daniel Berger (won FESJC 2016-17)
19 Corey Conners
21 Abraham Ancer
23 Tommy Fleetwood
24 Scottie Scheffler
25 *Jason Day

Bogey Avoidance

1 Tyrrell Hatton
2 Bryson DeChambeau
3 Webb Simpson
5 Jon Rahm
6 *Justin Thomas
9 Abraham Ancer
10 *Xander Schauffele
11 Daniel Berger
12 *Rory McIlroy
14 Brendon Todd
15 Gary Woodland
16 Brandt Snedeker
20 Kevin Na
25 Adam Hadwin

Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee

1 Bryson DeChambeau
2 Cameron Champ (debut)
3 Sergio Garcia
4 *Rory McIlroy
6 Jon Rahm
7 *Xander Schauffele
8 Viktor Hovland
9 Paul Casey
10 Scottie Scheffler
11 Jason Kokrak
12 Tommy Fleetwood
13 *Bubba Watson
14 *Dustin Johnson
15 Matthew Wolff
16 Corey Conners
17 *Brooks Koepka
18 Sungjae Im (debut)
20 Ryan Palmer
21 *Justin Thomas
23 Collin Morikawa
25 Billy Horschel

Heat Checks

Brooks Koepka: In six starts, he’s found the podium three times and is the defending champion; happy hunting ground.

Dustin Johnson: Won on debut in 2012 and won the last TOUR event here in 2018 with two more top 10s squeezed in between; T20 last year and WD last week.

Daniel Berger: Won on debut in 2016 and backed it up in 2017; mc last visit 2018.

Billy Horschel: In seven paydays, five have produced top 10s, including four straight trips (2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017); six straight weekends before adding T9 last year.

Phil Mickelson: Annual attendee to tune up for the U.S. Open saw him rattle off T12 or better in six straight before 57th last year.

Rafa Cabrera Bello: T4 debut in 2017 included 65-66 sandwich; T12 in his second visit last year included 67-66 weekend.

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