Preview: 2020 WGC FESJ Invitational

78 players tee it up in the second WGC of 2020.

The first major of 2020 is next week.

Because 2020.

World Golf Championships – FedEx St. Jude Invitational

TPC Southwind

Memphis, TN

Yards: (per official scorecard): 7,277
Par: 70; (35-35)
Greens: Champion Bermuda; 4,200 square feet on average.
Stimpmeter: 13′ max.
Rough: 419 Bermuda at 2.5″.
Bunkers/Water Hazards 76/11
Architect(s): Ron Prichard (1989)
Purse: $10.5 million; $1.82 million and 550 FedExCup points (winner).
Defending Champion: Brooks Koepka (-16).
Fact of the Week: Second year as host; previous course history from Firestone CC need not apply.

 

2019-2020 Season Winners

*- First-time winner

**- First-time winner AND rookie winner

Event Winner
   
A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier *- Joaquin Niemann
Sanderson Farms Championship *- Sebastian Munoz
Safeway Open Cameron Champ
Shriners Hospitals for Children Open Kevin Na
Houston Open *-Lanto Griffin
CJ CUP AT NINE BRIDGES Justin Thomas
ZOZO Championship Tiger Woods
WGC-HSBC Champions Rory McIlroy
Bermuda Championship Brendon Todd
Mayakoba Golf Classic Brendon Todd (2)
The RSM Classic *-Tyler Duncan
Hero World Challenge Henrik Stenson
Sentry Tournament of Champions Justin Thomas (2)
Sony Open Cameron Smith
The American Express Andrew Landry
Farmers Insurance Open Marc Leishman
Waste Management Phoenix Open Webb Simpson
AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Nick Taylor
The Genesis Invitational Adam Scott
WGC-Mexico Championship Patrick Reed
The Honda Classic *-Sungjae Im
Arnold Palmer Invitational Tyrrell Hatton
THE PLAYERS Championship Abandoned due to COVID-19, no winner
Charles Schwab Challenge Daniel Berger
RBC Heritage Webb Simpson (2)
Travelers Championship Dustin Johnson
Rocket Mortgage Classic Bryson DeChambeau
Workday Charity Open Collin Morikawa
Memorial Jon Rahm
3M Open Michael Thompson

 

Horses for Courses publishes at PGATOUR.COM Tuesdays. It’s a look who has played well here recently so I suggest reading it as I won’t replicate all of the information here.

 

Recent Winners

Year Player Notes
2019 Brooks Koepka, -16 First WGC title; fifth to win WGC title in the same year as a major.
     
2018 Dustin Johnson, -19 Holed out for eagle to win by six in the final TOUR event; third was 10 back.
     
2017 Daniel Berger, -13 Defended his title, only player to do so this century.
     
2016 Daniel Berger, -10 Koepka and Mickelson three back in second.
     

 

Facts and Figures:

Tournament Record: 264; Koepka
Course Record (TOUR): 62; Jon Rahm (Rd 1, 2019), Rory McIlroy (Rd 3, 2019); Brandt Snedeker (Rd 2, 2018).
Defending Champion (last): Berger.
Multiple Winners Entered: Johnson (2012, 2018).
First-time – TOUR (WGC) Shane Lowry (2015).
First-time – Course Johnson, Berger.
Low Rounds 2019: See above.
Odd Fact: TPC Southwind ranks No. 1 in most hole-outs since 2003.
Odd Fact II: TPC Southwind ranks No. 1 in most water balls since 2003.

 

So What? So Let’s Dance!

Back to Memphis for the second year in a row and 31st year running on TOUR. TPC Southwind is no stranger to preparing pros for major championships. From 2007 to 2018 its position on the calendar was the week before the U.S. Open so this is anything but uncharted territory.

Stretching 40 extra yards this year won’t bother these guys at all. What will bother the best players in the world is pulling the trigger and making decisions. New bunkers and newly shaped bunkers in the landing areas will force decisions to carry or play short. Plenty of water (11 penalty areas on 11 holes), mixed with plenty of wind doesn’t put the mind at ease either. The forecast looks rough and tumble but Memphis has only received three or so inches of rain in July so nothing is going to soften up. Last year it was target golf after huge rainfalls. I’d expect some higher scores this year unless the rain is massive this week.

Smallish greens aren’t anything new but Bermuda and the grain returns this week for the first time since Harbour Town. The formula this week isn’t hard: Keep it out of trouble, make pars when you can, and take advantage when you can from the fairway. There were only 13 rounds above par from the top 23 players last year so wedges better be dialed in!

 

Top 50 OWGR

  1. Jon Rahm: Rolls in as No. 1 in the world and fresh off a W. Opened with tying the course record on his first visit last year before cashing seventh. Never short of confidence anyhow, enters with his tail up after a convincing weekend at Memorial.
  2. Rory McIlroy: Hasn’t posted a top 10 since the restart in four tries so he should be ready to pop. No. 2 has unfinished business here as he couldn’t finish off Koepka from the final group last year. He’s done the WGC-PGA double before and it wouldn’t surprise me if he gives it a run again.
  3. Justin Thomas: Didn’t bounce back at Memorial (T18) after losing the previous week in a playoff to Collin Morikawa. He’s a fantastic wedge player by all standards so if he can figure it out off the tee, he’ll be in contention, as usual. T12 on debut last year.
  4. Webb Simpson: Runner-up last year never contended as his final round 64 was posted early. It was his second top 10 in three trips but the last was 2014. He’ll pound the sprinkler line, GIR and loves Bermuda so I’d expect another solid week after MC Memorial.
  5. Dustin Johnson: 80-80-78-WD versus two wins in six starts here. I’m not sure I can pick up just the course form here. In a loaded field I won’t feel the need to push him up. If he’s truly hurt, BEWARE THE INJURED GOLFER, right? Right??? No cut will help this week if he’s looking for reps.
  6. Brooks Koepka: Surely defending his title needs to have his full attention this week. Or is it his knee(s) that are occupying his mind? Wonder if anyone will ask about him about keeping up with Bryson and Tony again. His W last year was after T4 at The Open. Different story this year after MC-T62-MC in his last three. The value will be up to you. 28-1 as of Monday evening at Bet365.com.
  7. Bryson DeChambeau: Last time we saw him he was revolutionizing the game, bringing it to its knees with his power and distance. Oh, and he MC. I’ll be interested to see how he recalibrates his mindset with strategy, course management and water on the menu again this week. I think he’s smart enough to figure it out. Hasn’t had much success here in three trips.
  8. Patrick Reed: Only man in the field that can win his second WGC event of the year as he picked up the trophy in Mexico City. Figured it out last year as he played the final 54 holes 9-under (T12) after opening with 73. Ground it out for T10 on the weekend at Memorial as he prefers tougher rather than easier.
  9. Adam Scott: DNS
  10. Patrick Cantlay: Didn’t fire in the second of two events at Memorial after T7 at Workday. His only start this season outside T17 was T32 at Memorial so that suggests he’ll bounce back. California native might just have one eye on TPC Harding Park this week.
  11. Xander Schauffele: Should have won the first WGC this year and defended his title but was chased down and beaten in a playoff by McIlroy in Shanghai. Should have won Kapalua but lost in a playoff to Thomas (Patrick Reed T2). Big events and big fields are just a way of life for him now. Yep, yep.
  12. Collin Morikawa: First WGC event comes on the week he should be defending at Barracuda. The Barracuda event has moved and so has the needle on Morikawa’s career. Tough ask to win twice on the same course after Workday but I doubt he cares he cashed T48. Off week last week should refresh and TPC Southwind should highlight his class: tee-to-green game.
  13. Tommy Fleetwood: Could find any magic on the greens last week after tuning up at some of the best courses on the planet. Blitzed the field tee-to-green last year and got up-and-down from everywhere for T4. No momentum of solo second at The Open following him this time.
  14. Tyrrell Hatton: As we learned in Horses for Courses, premium players don’t need much acclimation time at sea level and not even 7,300 yards. The Englishman has been laughing all the way to the bank since the restart with T3 and T4. Stats are through the roof as well he won at Bay Hill and was T6 in Mexico City before the pandemic.
  15. Tiger Woods: DNS
  16. Tony Finau: Almost broke thru at Memorial but finished eighth and fired his long-time caddy. New caddy Boyd Summerhays almost died last week because he didn’t wear sunscreen. Finau couldn’t get it over the finish line again last week once he took the lead on Sunday before T3. Mark Urbanek, John Hahn’s former bag man, gets the nod this week. I mean shit, why not? Nothing else has literally “worked”.
  17. Justin Rose: DNS
  18. Gary Woodland: Watching him fade away on Sunday at Memorial with top 20 money on him was tough, especially after T5 the week before on the same track. Was second to McIlroy in Match Play at Harding Park in 2015 and won the US Open down the coast at Pebble Beach last year. I’ll let him tune up this week.
  19. Marc Leishman: 16-under in two starts a decade apart here includes 63 in Round 3 last year on his way to solo third. Nothing inside of T40 in four starts in the “new” season suggests getting out the saddle and riding the course horse, if anything.
  20. Matthew Fitzpatrick: I stand corrected! Fantastic 68 at Memorial to cash solo third with Bones McKay on the bag. Tough conditions made for a special one and now he has momentum heading to Memphis where he led after 36 holes last year before T4. That’s all that four rounds in the 60s, including a 64, gotcha last year!
  21. Matt Kuchar: I’m not sure if the sun is setting or the rhythm of the upside-down 2020 is the culprit here. If he’s not firing on courses where he’s done the business in the past, I’m not loading up on ones where his history is non-existent. I’d pretend that I’d love it’s only 7,277 and Bermuda. Like Rose, I’m not sure where we’re at so I’m out.
  22. Abraham Ancer: T18 on debut in 2016 is a point of reference and so is MC in 2018. The Mexican showed no fear in Mexico City in his first WGC event (T12) and was great everywhere before Memorial. Lovely outsider because he makes all of his money tee-to-green.
  23. Sungjae Im: Streak is going the wrong direction with five straight T53 or worse after T10 at Colonial. Strong off the tee, maybe a fresh track is just what the doctor ordered to snap the cold spell.
  24. Hideki Matsuyama: Something caught his eye with 65 to open last year but it faded quickly (T43). Not much has caught my eye recently and I’m not reaching here.
  25. Louis Oosthuizen: Cooled off when he returned to the States earlier this year and hasn’t produced a top 50 since. Yikes.
  26. Shane Lowry: Missed last year after winning The Open and who could blame him! T21 at Honda earlier this year suggests he doesn’t mind some water and fast greens but I’m reaching if that’s it.
  27. Paul Casey: Should be excited to be rewarded off the tee this week so that’s my angle. Closed 69-67 last year for T27 in his first appearance. Pounding the small greens should find him some confidence.
  28. Daniel Berger: Two-time winner on this track will feel right at home regardless of field or stature of the event. Stroke average 67.8 in three trips.
  29. Bernd Wiesberger: Struggled at Memorial (76-77, MC) and Round 1 at 3M before 66-66-68 weekend for T26. Made everything he looked at but can he do that on Bermuda after a week on Bent?
  30. Kevin Na: Rollin’ into town off solo 5th Travelers and solo ninth at Memorial with WD sandwiched in at Detroit. His super short game should be his advantage this week and he’s not afraid to mix it up with the big boys.
  31. Viktor Hovland: Like many, took a beating on the weekend at Memorial (77-79) but all the greats, or soon-to-be-greats can squash it and move on. His ball-striking has already been proven at Augusta and Pebble Beach in majors so I’m hardly worried. He’s also top 20 in Strokes Gained: Total.
  32. Rickie Fowler: Doesn’t play WGC events anymore, just five total since 2016. DNS last year and only played the TOUR stop twice (T13, 2014; MC, 2017). Last time we saw him it was 81-68 at one of his favorite stops, Memorial. Yeah, let me know when you get it figure out as well.
  33. Francesco Molinari: DNS. Haven’t seen him since Mexico and won’t see him this week. Moving the fam from London to LA so that will be, er, different!
  34. Henrik Stenson: Restart start for the Swede comes at a course where he’s 11-under in his last three visits. He’s played here the last two seasons and cashed T26 in 2018 and T27 last year. Knocking the rust off at a WGC event is bold but it’s four rounds guaranteed. Time to put down the podcast and get back to golf!
  35. Danny Willett: Was looking for back-to-back top fives before 82 on Sunday at Memorial derailed that plan. Gotta look here last year (T48) after T6 at The Open so he won’t have to learn a new venue.
  36. Lee Westwood: DNS. Thanks, no thanks as he believes he’ll be safe across the pond.
  37. Kevin Kisner: Doesn’t mind a bit of target golf as accurate as he is off the tee. Once the jet lag left him (77 Rd 1) last year, he motored home in 10-under! Two things will help him this week: A course that’s not 7,500 yards and Bermuda greens.
  38. Billy Horschel: Going in everywhere for me this week. Loves this track and T13 at Memorial after making the cut on the number.
  39. Sergio Garcia: 19-under (T5) last time on Bermuda with small greens at Harbour Town. Added 64 and 66 for T32 at Travelers and T32 Memorial. Second Tee to Green and third Off the Tee plus 10th Around the Green leaves just one club longing!
  40. Ryan Palmer: Gave Rahm a fight at Memorial to back up his T8 at Harbour Town. Made seven in a row on TOUR here from 2012 on which included a pair of top fours. First WGC event since 2015.
  41. Matt Wallace: Hits it a ton, has a great short game and that flies these days on TOUR. Sat 6-under here through 54 holes last year with a 65 before fading on Sunday (T27). Closing the deal for T4 LTO at Memorial on a tough track should have him fired up. Me too.
  42. Chez Reavie: Yep. Giddy up. Won’t have 220 in every hole this week. T27 or better in his last five trips to Memphis includes T4 and T6 in two of the last three years.
  43. Jason Day: He flushed all of his Columbus demons with T7 and T4 during the hometown doubleheader. You can chase him this week.
  44. Erik van Rooyen: Natural bounce back week as he’ll fade into the rank-and-file instead of the “hometown” spotlight he faced at 3M (MC). Amazing what a little pressure can do and that won’t be around this week. Tee to Green numbers jump out but he’ll have to convince his putter to show up.
  45. Kevin Streelman: Been on TOUR forever and has played Memphis twice, the last time being 2014. All the evidence I need. The man prefers Bent.
  46. Victor Perez: 0-3 since the restart. All yours.
  47. Christiaan Bezuidenhout: Hasn’t blinked too much in the WGC events before this one (T17, T29) and he’s 2 from 4 in the restart both going for top 30.
  48. Cameron Smith: Remember when he won the Sony Open in Hawaii in the first full field event of 2020? Yeah, me neither. T12 here last year followed T20 at Royal Portrush the week before.
  49. Jazz Janewattananond: Hopefully being trapped in the States hasn’t ruined his game. Nothing to show in his last three starts.
  50. Shugo Imahira: DNS

 

Others to Watch

Rafa Cabrera Bello – Course Horse

Matthew Wolff – Fearless, T24 on debut last year, great defense last week.

Ian Poulter – Two top 10s in his last three trips including solo eighth last year.

Jordan Spieth – Co-led the field with 22 birdies last year (T12) on his debut.

Scottie Scheffler – I shouldn’t be surprised that he played his best on the hardest track (Memorial). Lovely outsider this week on his third visit to TPC Southwind.

Corey Conners – Cashed in four of five and three are T22 or better. Fantastic ball-striking numbers beg for putts to go in. Won’t need a million birdies this week so that’s good.

JT Poston – Bermuda, check.

Max Homa – 4th SG: TTG last week. That travels.

Mackenzie Hughes – Hard to ignore a guy altogether who’s cashed in the top six in half of his last three starts on TOUR. Especially with two of them on difficult Jack Nicklaus tracks.

Robert MacIntyre – Bubba and Phil have posted top 10s here so another lefty should be encouraged! Cracking way to get back to playing competitive golf in a WGC event!

Matt Jones – cashed in his last four TOUR events here and three have gone for T26 or better.

Michael Thompson – shared T3 with Jones here in 2015 and proved his season wasn’t over with T8 on Bermuda at RBC Heritage earlier in the restart.

 

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out through Twitter or email me mikeglasscott@gmail.com.

 

 

 

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