Dan Box
By Dan Box

The four men's major championships may be complete, but the PGA Tour is approaching the business end of its season. With the year's third WGC event, FedEx Cup playoffs and the small matter of the Ryder Cup all due to take place in the next two months, there's plenty still to play for.

2021 WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational Preview

Image Credit: TPC Southwind

Just one week after Xander Schauffele recorded the biggest win of his career at The Olympics in Tokyo, an event which clearly won over the likes of Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy, another high-quality field will assemble this week in Memphis.

Last Year

Justin Thomas found two late birdies to seal the deal and close out a three-shot victory in last year's event, seeing off the challenge of Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Daniel Berger and Tom Lewis.

Lewis' round of 61 on Saturday matched the course record at TPC Southwind, whilst Thomas' closing 65 gave him his third win of the season and he became the third person to win 13 PGA Tour titles before the age of 27 (behind Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods).

The Course

This is the third time that the course will host the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational, although it had previously hosted the St Jude Classic each year from 1989 to 2018 until the WGC event relocated.

2021 WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational Preview

Image Credit: WGC-FedEx

The 7,233 yard par 70 was designed in consultation with former PGA Tour pros Fuzzy Zoeller and Hubert Green, and features over 100 bunkers and 10 water hazards which should keep the players on their toes this week.

In terms of featured holes the par-3 11th, measuring 165 yards, is Memphis' version of the Island Green at TPC Sawgrass, whilst the 230 yard 14th will require an accurate long iron to a narrow green.

2021 WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational Preview

Image Credit: WGC-FedEx

Winning scores so far at the event have been 13 under and 16 under par, suggesting that there are plenty of birdies out there without being a pushover.

The Field

WGC events typically boast the strongest fields of the year and this week's tournament is no different, despite the fact that it comes in the middle of a packed schedule that has seen The Open and The Olympics contested in recent weeks.

You only have to look at Justin Thomas' recent air miles to get an idea of just how much travelling the modern-day player has to do. Of course it's much easier if you're in first class or able to charter a plane though...

48 of the Top 50 in the world rankings will be teeing it up in Memphis this week, with Christiaan Bezuidenhout having run out of non-member starts on the PGA Tour and Jon Rahm forced to miss out after another positive COVID test, which denied him the opportunity to take part at The Olympics too.

Brooks Koepka heads into the event as favourite, which shouldn't be a surprise for a four-time major champion but the American does admit himself that he struggles to get motivated for the non-major weeks.

Having said that, Koepka won this event in 2019 and then finished in a tie for second place last year, so it's easy to see why plenty of people will fancy his chances, particularly as he has four top 6 finishes in his last five starts this season.

American trio Schauffele, Morikawa and Thomas all played in Tokyo last week so should be match-fit if not a little tired after lots of travelling, whilst it will be interesting to see whether Rory McIlroy sticks with his new (old) Scotty Cameron putter after encouraging signs last week.

Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth weren't part of the American party in Tokyo, with Spieth opting to rest since The Open, and as previous FedEx Cup winners both players will be looking to keep themselves firmly in the running for the $15 million bonus once again.

Time is also running out for those seeking to achieve Ryder Cup qualification, with the European team to be decided following the conclusion of the BMW PGA Championship next month. As a star-studded event with plenty of points on offer, a good performance this week could go a long way towards securing qualification or pushing into the automatic spots.

Golfalot Betting Tips

Dustin Johnson @ 20/1

The missed cut at the 3M Open was a bit of a surprise but Johnson certainly knows what he's doing when it comes to WGC events with six victories. He's also pretty good at this time of year and has a decent record at this event too, finishing in the top 20 in both of his appearances. He hasn't won since February when he came out on top in Saudi Arabia - now would be a good time to change that.

Joaquin Niemann @ 55/1

After finishing with rounds of 68-67 over the weekend at last year's event, Niemann may be heading back to Memphis with more confidence than the T52 finish would suggest. The Chilean has been unlucky not to add to his PGA Tour victory tally this season after finishing runner-up on three occasions. Just one missed cut since last year's playoff and finished T10 at The Olympics last week.

Jason Kokrak @ 60/1

Kokrak is enjoying the best 12 months of his career after picking up his first two PGA Tour wins, along with a whole host of other solid results. The big hitting American was solid in finishing T26 at The Open and had a steady week to finish T44 at this event last year.


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