After a brief Olympic hiatus where Xander Schauffele took home the gold, the PGA Tour is back! Last week our tips didn’t fully fire with our picks Justin Thomas, Correy Connors, and Jhonattan Vegas not being able to make too much of an impression in the race for gold. However, we will be looking to continue our recent good form on the main PGA Tour with our selections for the upcoming 2021 St Jude Invitational.
As the world’s best golfers head to Memphis for the final WGC event of 2021, this week is a defining one for those players looking to strengthen or improve their FedExCup ranking – the race for the $10 million bonus truly starts here!
Previously the St Jude Classic, the event was upgraded to a WGC event back in 2019. This will be the third iteration of the St Jude Invitational held at TPC Southwind. The last two winners of the tournament have been Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas.
TPC Southwind will play as a par 70 this week and will measure 7,238 yards making it one of the longest courses on tour in relation to par. The course has been a mainstay on the tour since the 1980s but in 2004 the course went through a dramatic overhaul. The work included 11 new tees and 15 new bunkers. The fairways were made narrower and the grass changed from Bentgrass to Bermuda.
The course is littered with almost 100 bunkers, with water hazards found on more than half of the holes. Unbelievably since its redesign, more than 5,000 balls have been hit into the drink – that’s almost 1,500 more than second-place TPC Sawgrass.
In order to be successful this week, it is imperative that a player can drive it really well and hit plenty of greens in regulation. Being wayward off the tee will just lead to trouble.
As always we will be providing four selections, our main bet, outright winner, dark horse, and long-shot.
MAIN BET: COLLIN MORIKAWA +120
There seems to be no slowing down for the recently crowned Champion Golfer of the Year with Morikawa being one of the many who missed out in last week’s bronze medal playoff. Seemingly not fully firing after the first two rounds, Morikawa showed what he could do over the third and fourth rounds to fire himself into medal contention and was ultimately unlucky not to bring home a medal.
As iterated in our opening salvo, the course at TPC Southwind is one of the hardest on the PGA Tour, and for a player to emerge victoriously, they will need to be incredibly accurate off the tee and that is what Morikawa is.
Currently ranked 13th for driving accuracy he also sits in second for greens in regulation. He also sits 1st in birdie average and 4th in overall scoring. If Morikawa’s game is on song there will be no one more accurate in the field.
In 2020, he finished in a tie for 20th so he has fairly respectable form around TPC Southwind. Although it’s not a bet that will return a tonne of value, the stats are staring us in the face that Morikawa simply has to be backed. He is the most in-form golfer on the planet and if he can continue his recent brilliant game he will be a tough man to beat this week.
OUTRIGHT BET: RORY MCILROY +2200
The last couple of years haven’t been too kind to Rory McIlroy. Still chasing a first major win since 2014, his game in recent times has been dogged with inconsistencies. Where McIlroy has really struggled is his tendency to start really slowly, leaving him with too much to do over the weekends of tournaments. McIlroy, who only a few years ago would have been right at the top of the betting is currently the bookies’ 9th favorite. Although he has had some recent struggles, a price of +2200 does look on the big side for a player that can rediscover his form quickly.
With McIlroy judging himself on his major record, it’s hard to forget that he has had a good year on tour. A winner at the Wells Fargo, a 6th place finish at the WGC Congressional, T10 at The Arnold Palmer and T7 at the U.S. Open have left McIlroy in 25th place in the FedExCup rankings.
Despite needing to be accurate to win, McIlroy’s accuracy stats flatter to deceive. Currently ranked 117th in driving accuracy and 110th in greens in regulation, McIlroy will need to sharpen both his driving and iron play significantly if he is to stand any chance this week. He has teed it up four times at TPC Southwind and has two top 10 finishes to his name. McIlroy has made no secret that he wants to be judged on his big tournament record, and as we enter a crucial period of the season, McIlroy’s competitive juices should be flowing. We are backing him to start the revival this week.
DARK HORSE: MATTHEW FITZPATRICK +2800
Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick has had a solid year on Tour with a 5th place finish in the Genesis Invitational, an 11th place finish at the WGC Congressional, a 10th at The Arnold Palmer, 9th at The Players, and a 4th place finish at the RBC Heritage. Fitzpatrick has missed two cuts all season.
With a game centered around accuracy, Fitzpatrick ranks 17th in driving accuracy and 14th in strokes gained off the tee. Fitzpatrick lies in 22nd in strokes gained putting, 35th in strokes gained tee to green, and 19th in strokes gained in total.
Similar to our main bet Collin Morikawa, Fitzpatrick will be teeing it up this week as one of the most accurate players in the field and should give us a good run for our money. Fitzpatrick has good form around TPC Southwind with a 4th place finish in 2019 and a 6th place finish in 2020. Currently priced at +2800 for victory, +400 for a top 5, and +200 for a top 10, we are hoping that Fitzpatrick can produce yet another consistent week.
LONG-SHOT: LEE WESTWOOD +13000
Whilst we have had some strong performances with our main bets and dark horses, our long shots have yet to fully fire. In order to change this, we are opting on the side of experience, and placing our trust in European veteran Lee Westwood.
Westwood is enjoying a career renaissance and has enjoyed some stunning results this season, headlined by consecutive 2nd place finishes at The Arnold Palmer and Players Championship.
Westwood is a past winner at TPC Southwind with him winning the St Jude Classic back in 2010. Westwood was able to back this up with a T10 finish in 2011 before missing the cut in his last appearance back in 2014.
Due to the fact that Westwood combines his time on both the PGA Tour and European Tour, his stats don’t jump off the page, but on a course as difficult as TPC Southwind, we are relying on the popular Englishman’s experience and course know-how to make a decent run this week. Priced at 13,000 for victory, +2000 for a top 5, and +800 for a top 10, we are hoping Westwood’s strong course form is enough for him to maintain a challenge towards the top of this week’s leaderboard.