The FedExCup playoffs get underway this week which means that there are just three tournaments left in the PGA Tour season, the first of which is the St Jude Championship where the leading 70 players of the campaign have qualified.
Will Zalatoris was the man who came out on top at TPC Southwind last year but injuries have denied him a spot in the top 70 this season so he won’t be making a defence of the title. Only the top 50 get into next week so everyone will be out to win this title.
2022 – Will Zalatoris
2021 – Abraham Ancer
2020 – Justin Thomas
2019 – Brooks Koepka
2018 – Dustin Johnson
2017 – Daniel Berger
2016 – Daniel Berger
2015 – Fabian Gomez
2014 – Ben Crane
2013 – Harris English
TPC Southwind is once again the venue for the tournament this week. The par 70 now measures 7,243 yards. Golfers are used to courses getting longer these days but a growing trend appears to be the moving of bunkers to correspond with the likely landing spots to make them true hazards. That happened here four years ago and dramatically altered the scoring since then. There is rain in the initial part of the week so the course may play long.
The fairways here are generally on the tight side and there is usually some scraggly rough around the greens so this is a course that needs to be played from the short grass. When you look at the list of past winners it is generally players who strike the golf ball purely. It might pay to have a bit of length this week as we are deep into summer so storms are never going to be far away. This is a decent test of golf which should make for a good watch.
As we saw throughout last week, only the top 70 in the FedExCup rankings have made it to TPC Southwind for this tournament and only the top 50 will remain alive for next week so once again we have a bit of a two events in one thing forming. With the handicap system still in use when we get to East Lake for the Tour Championship, all of the leading lights who have qualified will tee it up looking to better their position for that event.
Scottie Scheffler is the world number one and he is in the field this week, as is Jon Rahm and the man who hopes to make a successful defence of the FedExCup title at the end of the season in Rory McIlroy. The recent winner of The Open, Brian Harman, tees it up here, as does fellow major winner in 2023 Wyndham Clark. Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Viktor Hovland, Collin Morikawa and Rickie Fowler are some of plenty of leading names eyeing up a big prize this week.
Scottie Scheffler is the 13/2 favourite to win the tournament this week. He is the best ball striker in the game right now but the talk about his putter is getting louder and the more he tries to quieten it, the worse he looks on the greens. I think ball striking is a big thing this week but you are looking at a winning score in the middle of the teens if not slightly higher and so his stone cold putter is a real concern. He didn’t win when in much better shape with the putter last year so that price is too short for me.
Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are the 9/1 second favourites to win the tournament this week. McIlroy won the Scottish Open last month but once again couldn’t push on in contention at The Open and that has been a theme with him this season. Rahm hasn’t played since he produced that excellent weekend at The Open but does look ideally suited to the challenge that is in front of him this week. He also heads up the FedExCup rankings coming into the week so he is in control of his own destiny. I’d fancy him of the two but they are both plenty short enough.
Patrick Cantlay is yet to win on the PGA Tour in 2023 but he is 16/1 to put that record to bed this week. This is a player who has a good record in the postseason having won three of the last five playoff events that he has teed it up in. He is a very strong ball striker and ticks a lot of boxes and you wouldn’t think he will be far away if the putter heats up but at the same time there is no disputing his form isn’t as good coming in this year as in previous ones.
Xander Schauffele is the only other player in the field who is shorter than 20/1 this week. He can be backed at 18/1 to get the job done at TPC Southwind. Much like his friend Cantlay he arrives into the playoffs without a win this season but he is high up in the all-around ranking which is often the one to keep an eye on when a tough test is presented. Schauffele is capable of hanging tough which is why he often comes to the fore in the playoff series but his form is a bit of a concern.
A couple of months ago I took Sam Burns to win the US Open thinking that he was coming to the boil on a test which should have suited him well. That didn’t work out well but I still think there is a big week in him and it might come here where he was the runner up to Abraham Ancer a couple of years ago. I don’t think it is too much of a secret that the best results of Burns in recent times has come on Bermuda grass and that is what he’ll encounter at TPC Southwind. Burns saw off the best in the world at the WGC Match Play earlier in the season and while things have gone quiet for him since he won that tournament he does still have six top 20 finishes in his locker, including last week where he would have had some rust to shake off. Putting has been his key attribute this season but Burns’ long game is never in bad shape so with that putter showing signs of heating up again at the Wyndham, the man who has gone T2-T20 in the last two years here is my first main bet.
Speaking of Wyndham, Wyndham Clark has won at Quail Hollow and at the US Open and I expect him to be a feature here too with the quality of his long game. History tells us that strokes gained tee to green is a big thing around here and the fact Clark ranks 17 for that is very much a positive. He has gone a little quiet since he won the US Open but you wouldn’t really expect him to be a feature in Scotland or at The Open and the only other event he has played was at the Travelers which was the week after he won the US Open and you wouldn’t expect anyone to be at their best after scaling that sort of height. Clark has shown he can play tough layouts and has a game suited to Southwind. He was a solid T28 on debut last year and I expect a significant improvement on that this week.
Harris English is another player who plays tough courses well and on his last start in this tournament he finished in fourth place so he feels like a potentially leading light here. The highlights of his second was a second placed finish at Bay Hill, third at Quail Hollow and eighth in the US Open, all of which were played on tough tracks and harder layouts so he should be suited to the test here. He showed signs that he was beginning to hit the ball well again last week when he carded a second round 65 and closed with a 66 and but for a poor first round would have been a lot more competitive. English is right up there in the putting stats and if his course management comes to the fore I expect him to go well here.
Andrew Putnam might go under the radar in this company and that is fair enough but it is hard to ignore his form around this golf course. His last three starts have yielded finishes of 2-T24-T5 so even though he isn’t the longest hitter on the PGA Tour, his straight ball striking gets him into good positions for his putting to come good and deliver strong results. Putnam has four top 10s on the year with the appealing ones coming at The Memorial and the Zozo Championship where the fields were strong and the test was from tee to green. He showed he can mix it with the best in the world when he made the knockout stages of the WGC Match Play and sitting 28 in strokes gained on approach and at 10 on strokes gained putting if he can keep it in play off the tee he should be a strong contender again this week.
Back S.Burns to win St Jude Championship (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 34.00 with Sky Bet (1/5 1-7)
Back A.Putnam to win St Jude Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 126.00 with Sky Bet (1/5 1-7)
Back W.Clark to win St Jude Championship (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 34.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-7)
Back him here:
Back H.English to win St Jude Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 81.00 with Coral (1/5 1-7)
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