WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational: Fantasy picks, power rankings and analysis

Jon Rahm, Adam Hayes
Jon Rahm, here with caddie Adam Hayes, tees it up this week in Memphis for the first time as the world’s No. 1-ranked player. Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Looks like a stormy week ahead in Memphis.

The forecast calls for a 60 percent or higher chance of thunderstorms Thursday – Saturday as a star-packed field arrives at TPC Southwind for the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. On the bright side, the temperatures are quite mild for this time of year, with highs in the mid-to-upper 80s. That means no one is likely to melt in the 10th fairway this year.

I’m certain it’s happened before.

The purse is $10.5 million, with $1.787 million reserved for the champion and the par-70, 7,288-yard layout demands precision from tee-to-green. The thick rough is a problem throughout the round and pesky water hazards can ruin a man’s day on the back nine.

LISTEN: ‘Under the Strap’ podcast with Collin Morikawa’s caddie J.J. Jakovac

Finding the fairways and greens can be a challenge. Historically at TPC Southwind (which used to host a regular Tour event before it became the new home of this championship last year), pros have hit 54 percent of the fairways, compared to 61 percent in the average Tour event, and 59 percent of the greens, compared to 65 percent. The greens are small, so proximity to the hole is nearly four feet better than the Tour average of 28.7 feet and 3 putts are less frequent (.441 round vs. .556 on average).

Hopefully, all the Tour players and caddies carve time for a takeout plate from the Germantown Commissary – the pork shoulder and ribs combo platter is my recommendation – and a socially distanced evening stroll down Beale Street. The Duck March at the Peabody Hotel is also a hoot. Maybe spend an afternoon taking a tour through Sun Studio and, if they’re fortunate, get a glimpse of Carl Perkins’ Cadillac.

On Sunday, for one fortunate golfer and his caddie, the money will come in stacks.

Golfer power rankings

15. Chez Reavie – Posted a pair of top-25 finishes in the tournaments at Muirfield Village on the strength of solid all-around play. He gained strokes in every significant category from tee shots to approach shots, around and on the greens. Cracked top 12 in three starts at TPC Southwind from 2015-2018.

14. Marc Leishman – Struggled mightily off the tee at Memorial and hasn’t fared well in the summer heat, but gained strokes on approach for the third time in four starts since the Tour resumed. Also had his best putting week of late at Murifield Village and should anticipate a return to TPC Southwind, where he finished third last year. Due a good finish.

13. Jason Day – After posting a pair of top 10s at Muirfield Village, the former World No. 1 comes to demanding TPC Southwind and his favorite putting surface: Bermuda. After struggling with his iron game earlier this season, he’s gained strokes on approach the last three weeks.

12. Tony Finau – Tentative putting and ill-timed missed fairways denied Finau his second PGA Tour title last week in Minnesota, however, his ballstriking has been impressive the last two starts. He gained 9.7 strokes on approach shots last week and ranks 27th on Tour in greens in regulation. Doesn’t have a great track record putting on Bermuda greens, though.

11. Bryson DeChambeau – Horrific iron play led to a missed cut at Memorial, snapping a string of seven consecutive top 8s. Expect him to bounce back quickly. He’s eighth on the PGA Tour in greens in regulation. Tied for 48th at Southwind last year.

10. Billy Horschel – Posted top 20s in both tournaments at Muirfield Village and must be thrilled to see the steamy fairways of TPC Southwind. He’s posted five top 10s on the course in his career, including a T-9 in the WGC event last year. Game is solid tee-to-green lately.

9. Viktor Hovland – Despite atypical sloppy swinging at Memorial – which I attribute to Hovland playing six weeks in a row – over the last 24 rounds he leads this stacked field in SG: Approach and is second in SG: Ballstriking. (He’s also 61st in putting, but Bermuda has been his ‘least bad’ surface). Making his WGC debut.

8. Daniel Berger – Has played just once in the last month, missing the cut at Memorial, as he gears up for the most important tournaments of the season. Loves Memphis like Elvis loved Priscilla, winning at TPC Southwind in 2016 and 2017.

7. Xander Schauffele – Finished top-20 in four of five starts since the Tour resumed and he’s a popular pick to prevail at the PGA Championship next week at Harding Park. Believe he’ll start laying the foundation this week after gaining five shots on approach in his last two starts. He’s 10th on the PGA Tour in SG: Tee-to-Green.

6. Jon Rahm – The Memorial champion is another young superstar aiming to achieve his major dreams in the coming months and after his outstanding performance at Muirfield Village, his game is peaking at the proper time. Short game and putting have gradually improved since the restart and his iron game is among the game’s elite. Finished 7th here last year.

5. Webb Simpson – The 2019 WGC-FedEx Cup runner-up has had three disappointing results in his last 11 starts but also two victories and six other top 10s. He’s top 20 in SG: Approach-the-Green and SG: Putting in 2019-20. Putts great on Bermuda and he’s focused on a strong finish to his best season yet.

4. Tyrrell Hatton – Landed in the top 6 in all four PGA Tour starts in 2020, including a T-4 at Rocket Mortgage last time out. Ballstriking machine has gained strokes on approach in 10 of the last 11 starts, dating to last year’s PGA Championship. Finished T-43 at WGC-FedEx St. Jude last year.

3. Patrick Cantlay – His T-32 at Memorial was his worst tournament since the season-opening Safeway and could be attributed to an off week with the short game. Was 7 under after 36 holes at WGC-FedEx St Jude last year before sputtering on the weekend. His tee-to-green strength will be rewarded on this demanding layout.

2. Justin Thomas – Has finished in the top 12 in his last five WGC events, including a win in 2018 when this tournament was held at Firestone. Finished 6 under here last year (T-12). Has had some time to digest the disappointing result at the Workday and rest assured that near-miss is fueling his competitive fire as he aims to add more hardware to a certain Hall of Fame career.

1. Rory McIlroy – He’s played his best in the summer through the years and tied for fourth at TPC Southwind last season, continuing a string of excellent efforts in the WGC event formerly played at Firestone. Lackluster since the restart – best finish in four starts is T-11 at Travelers – because of a poor week in one area of the game. It all comes together for McIlroy in Memphis.

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