The PGA Tour is back and what a way to return. This week it’s the FedEx St Jude Invitational, which sees the absolute cream of the crop go head-to-head at TPC Southwind. Only Jon Rahm, who misses out after a positive COVID-19 test, and Christian Bezuidenhout, miss out from the top 50 players in the world rankings, so there will be no shortage of top-end talent in Shelby County, Tennessee.
Justin Thomas, who added to his trophy cabinet earlier in the season when winning the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, scooped this prestigious event last year and the serial winner, who at the age of 28 already has no fewer than 14 PGA Tour wins under his belt, will undoubtedly be hungry for more. He’ll be joined in the hunt by some big names who’ve also won this event, such as Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, and Lee Westwood.
What does it take to thrive at TPC Southwind?
Since being updated in 2004, TPC Southwind offers golfers a stern test, and it’s very much a test of accuracy. No shortage of hazards means that players need to strategically position their shots, while a big emphasis on an accurate approach means that finding the optimum position from the tee is important. The greens are smaller than the PGA Tour average, so those adept at scrambling can gain an advantage here.
Scrambling proved to be important in both last year’s renewal and in 2019, while approach play was huge too. When emerging victorious here last year, Justin Thomas ranked 2nd at the end of the week for strokes gained: approach. Brooks Koepka ranked 11th in that area when winning in 2019, while Dustin Johnson gained the second-most strokes on approach when he lifted the trophy in 2018. Two of those three winners also ranked first at the end of the week for strokes gained: tee-to-green, as did 2017 winner Daniel Berger.
Who looks like a good pick this week? Time to dig deep and find some viable sportsbook bets. Below are a handful of players who, for numerous reasons, warrant betting support.
Dustin Johnson – 1 Unit @ +1800
Much of the attention will be on Xander Schauffele following his win at the Olympics in Tokyo, while Justin Thomas, having thrived here last season will be popular too. Much of the same can be said about Collin Morikawa, who is just about everything right now. Brooks Koepka, who seems to challenge in every single big event that he enters is unsurprisingly short at the head of the market too.
The above means that Dustin Johnson, as much as the world number two can be, enters here as something of a forgotten man. He’s big no means a longshot at +1800, but he does have five players in front of him in the outright market, which for an event like this, isn’t something that we’re used to seeing.
Discount DJ at your peril this week. He remains one of the most elite players in the world, while this is a track that he gets on very well with. There are only two multiple winners of this event in the field and he’s one of them having been victorious here in both 2012 and 2018. What’s more, the gunslinger ranks as the number one player in the line-up when it comes to strokes gained: total at this venue in the last five seasons. That’s big. He’s also rank one in terms of strokes gained: tee-to-green, which we know is very important at TPC Southwind. He knows how to get the ball in prime position off the tee here, which is why he’s ranked as the second-best in the field when it comes to strokes gained: off-the-tee, and he’s show time and time again that he can pick up strokes better than almost anyone around TPC Southwind’s tricky putting surfaces.
There are simply lots to like about the man who has won this event not once but twice and at the current odds, he’s too good to resist in the outright market.
Top 20 Finish
Shane Lowry – 3 units @ +175
This will be Shane Lowry’s third attempt at the FedEx St Jude Invitational, so he doesn’t have anywhere near as many forms in the book as DJ or several others, but his two previous efforts have been promising. Finished 30th on debut in 2018, missed 2019, and then took a sizable leap forward when placing sixth in 2020. His effort on that occasion suggests that the Irishman has the game to do well this time around.
Ranks well in lots of areas, including seventh in the field for strokes gained: tee-to-green, plus ninth for strokes gained: total. Two huge plus points. However, where Lowry really stands out is in strokes gained: around-the-green. We know play around the greens is going to be crucial this week because we’re dealing with surfaces that aren’t overly easy to hit on approach, and Lowry is certainly a man for that job. He ranks first in this field when it comes to strokes gained: around-the-green on this track in the last five seasons. Such a stat makes the 34-year-old, who arrives here in decent shape having finished T12 at the Open Championship and T22 at the Olympics, an excellent bet to secure a place inside the top 20 at what appear to be slightly generous odds.