Daniel Box
By Daniel Box

How do you follow one of the most exciting, emotional and memorable Open Championships of recent years?

2019 WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational Image Credit - FedEx Twitter

Well, that's the job of the new WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational, taking place just four days after Shane Lowry tapped in that putt on the 18th green at Royal Portrush sending the Irish fans wild and giving The Open a fairytale ending.

2019 WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational Image Credit - PGA Tour Twitter

If this event had been any other week, then the excitement around it would have been huge. A new event on a great golf course, with a fantastic field. But things almost feel a little flat after the events at Portrush, and the fact that the major season has finished already, not to return until The Masters in April, does not help either.

However, with the FedEx Cup Playoffs just around the corner there is still plenty to play for, and the event itself will be under scrutiny as it needs to live up to the reputation of the preceding WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

2019 WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational Image Credit - PGA Tour Twitter

The PGA Tour has replaced this event and the FedEx St Jude Classic which was held at TPC Southwind, giving the venue WGC status so that it is able to attract the game's very best players and offer huge purses.

Last Year

If we're talking last year at this WGC event, then it was Justin Thomas who came out on top in the last playing of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club. He shot a final-round 69 to run out a comfortable winner when the rest of the chasing pack struggled to break par, completing his ninth PGA Tour victory.

2019 WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational Image Credit - PGA Tour Website

As for last year's event at TPC Southwind, Dustin Johnson was leading as he made it to the 18th hole. He then proceeded to do this...

That's one way to clinch victory.

The Course

TPC Southwind is a typical PGA Tour style course, a par 70 layout that measures 7,200 yards and features lush, green fairways, bermuda greens and enough water hazards to keep the players on their toes.

2019 WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational Image Credit - TPC Southwind Website

Whilst temperatures have been well into the 30s in Memphis recently, the forecast is suggesting that this week's weather will be a little cooler which will be a welcome relief to the players, and a stark contrast to the battering they took at Portrush.

2019 WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational Image Credit - WGC-Fed Ex St Jude Invitational Twitter

That's not to say it will be easy, however. Last year at the St Jude Classic the course played over its par all week, whilst there have been more balls in the water at Southwind than at any other course on the Tour over the past 15 years.

2019 WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational Image Credit - WGC-Fed Ex St Jude Invitational Twitter

It's essentially a second-shot golf course which means that not only the big hitters will be expected to compete, although having slightly shorter rough than usual will certainly help.

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.

2019 WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational Image Credit - TPC Southwind Website

The finishing hole is frought with danger, with deep bunkers guarding the fairway and green and water all the way down the left hand side, keeping the players concentrating until the final putt drops. Here's Justin Harding taking it on...

The Field

As you'd expect for a WGC event it's about as strong as it gets. Tiger Woods will not be there, clearly needing some recuperation time after a tough week in Northern Ireland, before the FedEx Cup playoffs get underway.

Other noteable absentees are Francesco Molinari, Rickie Fowler and Shane Lowry, who is probably still drunk in an Irish bar somewhere celebrating his Open victory!

Heading the bill this week is the usual trio of Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, and don't be surprised if the winner is one of those three.

2019 WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational Image Credit - WGC-Fed Ex St Jude Invitational Twitter

Johnson is a two-time winner at TPC Southwind, Koepka is the best player in the world at the moment and McIlroy will feel he has plenty to prove after his eventful two days at Royal Portrush.

Also look out for rising star Matt Wolff, who has already lived up to the substantial hype regarding the start of his PGA Tour career. Wolff completed victory in just his third professional start by holing an eagle putt on the 72nd green, and it is clear to see that he is going to have a lot of fans backing him every time he tees it up.

A unique swing, aggressive style of play and likeable personality means that Wolff could be the next hero for the kids to look up to, and try to emulate, for years to come.

Our Tips

The Favourite - Hideki Matsuyama @ 33/1

Matsuyama is one of the world's best ball-strikers, as reflected by his third place ranking in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green. He endured a tough week at The Open last time out where he got caught in the worst of the weather, but that was his first missed cut for 12 months, indicating just how consistent he has become.

The reason that Matsuyama hasn't added to his five career PGA Tour victories is largely due to the fact that his putting is not as strong as the rest of his game, but statistics show that this is comparatively less important at TPC Southwind than most PGA Tour venues, which may work in his favour.

He is a previous winner of this WGC event when it was the Bridgestone Invitational back in 2017, and he is more than due another win soon to move back towards the Top 10 in the World Rankings.

The Outsider - Paul Casey @ 40/1

One of the most consistent players in the world over the last few years, Casey is having another impressive season with a win to go with six top five finishes so far which sees him placed at Number Eight in the season-long FedEx Cup standings.

Despite never really being in contention at The Open he did complete four days at Portrush, so the game should be feeling sharp heading into the event and you get the sense that the golf course could really suit him as it is a narrow, second-shot test.

Having finished in the Top 20 during his last three WGC events, Casey should be a safe bet to put four good rounds together and is usually a handy each-way option.

The Longshot - Danny Willett @ 80/1

The Englishman is enjoying a decent run of form over the last 12 months and edging back towards the Top 50 in the World Ranking, despite the fact that he is still inconsistent. When he's good, he can compete against any field in golf. When he's bad, it invariably results in a missed cut.

2019 WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational Image Credit - Danny Willett Twitter

However recent weeks have shown that he may be on the brink of another big week, as he seems to be getting to grips with the permanent move to the US. Four cuts made in a row, including eighth at the Canadian Open and twelfth at the US Open, was backed up by an excellent sixth place finish at Portrush.

At 80/1 he is a good price, is in good form, will be feeling confident, and has a good track record at these WGC events over the years.


Facebook Comments