WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational betting preview

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The PGA Tour has had a nice run of full-field events over the past month and a half, with some lower tier and Invitational events spread over the schedule. It now gets ready for a big two week run through which begins this week with the WGC FedEx St.Jude Invitational at TPC Southwind, and will end next week with the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park. 

This year will mark the second year in a row the newly formatted FedEx St. Jude will host a limited field WGC event as it existed in another life as a regular, full-field event on Tour that took its place right before the US Open. Regardless of format though, the venue here has produced some big winners here over the last four seasons with the likes of Daniel Berger (x2), Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka all grabbing wins in that timeframe. 

Prior to this event changing venues, the Fedex St Jude Invitational, often used to be the final warmup for the players prior to the PGA Championship so results here should be significant for next week as well. As for the field, all of the big names are here except one, Tiger Woods, who opted out for extra rest prior to the PGA Championship. Of note is the fact that Jon Rahm has now ascended to number one in the OWGR for the first time in his career, unseating Rory McIlroy from that mantle who now sits at number two. The two players could switch again based on results this week. 

3M Open roundup

This event featured a weaker field and a pretty big longshot as winner so I’ll be brief in my recap. Michael Thompson picked up his second win on the PGA Tour, gaining over +7 strokes with his irons (APP) and putter (PUTT). His win also secured him a place into the WGC event this week at a venue he’s performed well at in the past. 

From a more elite player perspective, Brooks Koepka, Paul Casey and Tommy Fleetwood all missed the cut here badly. The venue featured a ton of water and definitely took its toll on those who didn’t take this one serious enough. Still, I wouldn’t take these results too harshly. Fleetwood and Casey are still rounding into form and seem likely to start posting consistent results again sooner rather than later. 

The biggest name to make a splash last week was Tony Finau who posted his second top-10 in as many starts. He actually led the field in SG: Approach stats and was third in SG:Tee to Green for the week. He’ll be a popular source of discussion this week for betting and DFS purposes as he’s also gone through a caddie change of late

Jul 19, 2020; Dublin, Ohio, USA; Jon Rahm plays his shot from the fairway on the ninth hole during the final round of The Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational course details

TPC Southwind

  • Par: 70, 7,234–Memphis, TEN
  • Greens: Champion Bermuda 
  • Design: Ron Prichard (1988) with consultants Hubert Green and Fuzzy Zoeller
  • Defending Event Champion: Brooks Koepka (-16) 

This will be the second year that TPC Southwind has hosted the WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational, but the course has been seen on Tour for much longer than that. The Par 70 venue clocks in at a decent length and last year played as the 25th hardest venue on Tour. That number may not seem high but TPC Southwind is a tricky course that can be made into a bit of a brute if the wind does get up. 

The course holds both hard to hit fairways and smaller greens which often lead to poor accuracy and GIR ratings for the week. The field averaged under 60% of fairways hit here last season and was also about 2-4% lower in greens in regulation hit than the Tour average. Water exists on 11 holes and there are multiple Par 3’s which feature island type greens. 

The venue may exist in Memphis but it holds a lot of similarities to the Tour’s Florida venues which also feature lots of water and smaller Bermuda greens. The courses we see there, like PGA National and Copperhead, are good comparisons for this week. Players who have had success in that state have often thrived here too, with Daniel Berger being the most obvious example. Berger has multiple top-5 finishes at the Honda Classic, a top-10 at the PLAYERS and is a two-time winner at TPC Southwind. Webb Simpson is someone else who’s done well in both locations. He landed a PLAYERS Championship win in 2018 and also finished runner-up at TPC Southwind in 2019. 

From a setup perspective, TPC Southwind plays as a classic Par 70. The two Par 5’s on the course are the two easiest holes, with the par 5-16th acting as a near must birdie. The longer Par 4’s here are the real teeth of the course as many feature tough doglegs or second shots that must carry some kind of water. Like Muirfield, the finishing stretch here is tough too, as both the Par 4-17th and Par 4-18th generally rank within the top-6 toughest holes on the course. 

As with many tougher venues, ball-striking here is key and it’s worth noting that of the top-11 players in finishing position last year, only two gained less than +1.2 strokes on their Approaches against the entire field. 

WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational betting discussion and picks

As with many WGC events, this event put forth a classy winner last year as Brooks Koepka capped his great 2020 campaign with a win here. Koepka was one of the favorites in the betting odds here last season at around +1200. Dustin Johnson was an even bigger favorite here in 2018 for the non-WGC version of this event around +800, while Daniel Berger went off around +3000 to +3500 for both of his wins in 2016 and 2017. 

Still, while big time Tee to Green specialists have dominated here the past couple of seasons, it doesn’t mean we can’t see big odds in the outright win department. Fabian Gomez came out of nowhere here in 2015 at +30000 or more to grab a win. Even if this is a WGC now, the venue doesn’t necessarily preclude all the short hitters as solid long iron play and a hot enough putter can overcome a disadvantage of the tee. Players with a lack of distance off the tee such as Webb Simpson, Michael Thompson and Andrew Putnam have all challenged here at one point or another and often come with great outright odds when they’ve done so.

Top of the market

The world number one, Jon Rahm, is the deserved favorite this week, coming in around +1000 at most sportsbooks. He led here briefly in 2019 after shooting a 62 in round one but has generally not paid off for bettors when he’s been priced around this number. The new world number one could certainly make it two wins in a row this week at a tough venue and when you put him beside Rory McIlroy and Bryson DeChambeau, two players who played poorly their last time out, his number does look a bit better. Both Rory and Bryson are priced a touch higher around +1200 but are hard to bet when they were outplayed so handily by Rahm at Muirfield. 

The player who stacks up better to Rahm is Justin Thomas. Coming off a rollercoaster two weeks at Muirfield, where he snatched defeat from the jaws of victory at the Workday Charity open, Thomas’ Tee to Green play has been almost unmatched of late and he leads the field in SG:TTG stats over the last 50 rounds. Of the four, Thomas would likely be my preferred target at around +1200 but with such a deep field, I’d rather take advantage of the quality players with far greater odds further down the list this week. 

One player who is already garnering a lot of attention this week is Xander Schauffele. Schauffele has gained some notoriety for winning these types of tight, limited field events, as he already has wins at the Tour Championship, WGC HSBC Champions and the season opening Tournament of Champions event in Hawaii on his resume. He showed great resilience at the Memorial, battling back after an opening round 78 to finish T13 there so +2200 seems like a fair price. 

As people may or may not know I’m quite high on Patrick Cantlay at the moment and already hit him up at +2800 for a PGA Championship future bet. That being said, there’s no reason why he can’t go well this week too and a T12 here last year saw him open with a 65 in round one. His price here is actually a little bigger too than when we saw him last at the Memorial. Webb Simpson’s another player who could easily pop off again in one of the next two stops. He finished 2nd here last season and ranks top-15 in both SG: APP and PUTT stats over the last 50 rounds. 

The bash brothers round out the top of the market here. Dustin Johnson won this event back in dominant fashion back in 2018, winning by six shots and even being so coy as to end the event with a hole out from the fairway. He’s basically un-betable this week for me though after he withdrew last week with a back injury. Brooks Koepka though is much more intriguing. He’s missed two of his last three cuts but did showcase decent ball-striking last week, gaining 5.3 strokes Tee to Green in just two rounds. Koepka has really taken well to Memphis professing his liking for the course on multiple occasions, it’s also shone through in his play here with a win and a runner-up finish to his credit here already. Regardless of where you fall on these two, both big hitters are available now at +3000 or better for the week. 

Favorite bets (each-ways and outrights)

For more info on types of golf bets available each week, be sure to check out more info here. Each way bets refer to bets that include a bet to win and a bet to place (usually to at least top-5 but sometimes are available up to top-8 or more). 

Patrick Cantlay +2000 outright

Given the extra time off he took, it was always going to be asking a little too much of Cantlay to win against elite fields at the tough Muirfield Village. Despite having less competitive edge than most of the elite field though, he held up extremely well there and would have likely posted two top-10 finishes in a row if not for one disastrous final Sunday at the Memorial.

Fatigue no doubt set in a bit for the undercooked American, as it did for many others. However, after a week of rest and the opportunity to take in his performances there, you have to think he’ll like what he sees. Cantlay put himself near the top of two elite leaderboards, on arguably the hardest venue on Tour this year, and all without much competitive practice to fall back on. That should boost his confidence significantly for what awaits this week at TPC Southwind, a venue that should really play well to his all-around strengths. 

Cantlay used to be a bit of a one-trick pony but has developed new weapons in his arsenal of late, including a putter that has allowed him to gain over a stroke on the greens in each of his three events since the restart. T12 at TPC Southwind last season, he’s also posted great finishes at other venues like Harbour Town (T3-2019, 2017) and Copperhead (2nd-2017); which also feature smaller, bermuda greens and plenty of water. Cantlay’s now finished T21 or better in 13 of his last 16 starts on Tour and looks ready to challenge for a career-defining win soon. Whether it comes here or next week is the only question right now in my mind, but at +2000 or better, I don’t mind starting the betting here and reevaluating for next week when we get fresh odds and more data to process. 

Gary Woodland +4500 or better (each-way)

I’m always one for synergy and perhaps we have a little bit of that here with Gary Woodland this week. The 2019 US Open champion is still looking for that first win to back up his major championship title from last season and there may be no better place to accomplish that feat than TPC Southwind, a venue where two recent US Open Championship winners have taken the title here the past two seasons. Woodland’s synergy with Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka goes beyond just winning the same major though. Like DJ in 2018 and Brooks in 2019, Woodland comes into the event this year in increasingly good form. He’s now ranked 7th in SG: Approach stats over the last 50 rounds and also, surprisingly, is ranked 19th in SG: Putting stats as well. 

It’s on the greens that Woodland’s transformation has been the most significant. The four-time PGA Tour winner has now gained strokes in eight straight events, an occurrence that seemed almost impossible just a couple of years ago. Considering the kind of putting stats needed to win here the last two years–Dustin Johnson gained +3.9 strokes here when he won, while Koepka gained an incredible +9.3–having that kind of weapon in his arsenal now seems significant for this week’s test. 

While his off the tee game has been a tad inconsistent, his approach game has measured up against the best in the world of late, as he’s gained +2.7 strokes or more on APP in four of his last six starts. Despite all this, he remains available at nearly double the odds of many of his contemporaries who have posted similar stats and finishes to his own, since the restart. Flying a little under the radar, he’s a great middle tier target to start your each-way bets with. 

Jul 23, 2020; Blaine, Minnesota, USA; Paul Casey looks on during the first round of the 3M Open golf tournament at TPC Twin Cities. Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

Paul Casey +9000 or better (each-way)

I wouldn’t fault anyone for simply throwing in the towel on Paul Casey at the moment. A decent week at the Memorial was turned into dust quickly when he took a quintuple bogey after laying two in a greenside trap, and he promptly lost over 6 strokes putting last week to miss the cut badly in Minnesota. That said, with Casey we often know that this kind of stuff comes with the territory. 

The Englishman has never been someone to push towards the top of the SG: Putting stats and never will, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of bouncing back quickly in this area either. In fact, Casey has become a bit of a master in bouncing back quickly from bad outings. In 2019 he opened with a hilariously bad 78 at the PLAYERS Championship, missing the cut by a mile there. He promptly made the cut and won in his next start at the Valspar, an event hosted by a venue, in Copperhead, that compares extremely favourably to this weeks. 

While the Englishman will certainly have to catch at least some heat with the putter this week to contend, his tee to green game has been in good enough form to make a run on a venue like TPC Southwind, where he led the field in Greens in Regulation last season. Now presenting to us at huge odds, he makes a lot of sense as a value target here for the placing spots alone on an each-way. 

Louis Oosthuzien +12500 or better (each-way)

There are a lot of interesting longshot targets out there this week given the international flavour of the field, and I’ll side with one of them in Oosthuizen, a player who has made a habit of challenging at big events throughout his career. Oosthy has been all over the place since the restart but, despite the inconsistency, he’s managed to put in a few eye-opening rounds. In his eight rounds at Muirfield Village, he twice gained over +3 strokes on his approaches and also shot an opening round of 64 at the Travelers four weeks ago. 

Enigmatic, even at his best, his odds here are super inflated due to a couple horrid finishing Sundays in a row, which pushed him back from decent finishing positions. It does feel like something better is coming for him soon though and the fact he placed T20 at TPC Southwind last year, on the back of weekend rounds of 66-67 is enough for me to like him for an each-way this week. 

Matchups (72-holes)

Brooks Koepka over Dustin Johnson -110

This one feels fairly straight forward. Dustin Johnson is coming off a WD he claimed was due to back issues. Even if that’s somehow not the case he’s still looked extremely out of sorts of late. Koepka has his own issues to work through right now but, as pointed out earlier, his ball-striking was on point last week he simply could not buy a putt in Minnesota. I’m much more confident in a Brooks bounce-back here which makes him a fine target at these odds. 

Patrick Cantlay over Webb Simpson -120

Much like I did at the Memorial, I’ll keep targeting Webb Simpson in these more elite match-ups as his stock feels a touch overinflated right now. Webb’s been beating up some easier venues since the restart but didn’t handle the tougher Muirfield Village nearly as well. While the conditions aren’t likely to be as tough this week this one isn’t likely to delve into birdie-fest territory either, which should benefit Cantlay, who showed plenty to like in his two outings at Muirfield. 


Tom Lewis +500 or better

Lewis is a talented player who has already racked up four professional wins across the globe, including a dominant win in the states late last year on the KF Tour. He’s also looked quite good when stacked up against solid competition, landing a T11 at last year’s Open Championship and a T6 at the year ending DP World Championship event on the Euro Tour. He’s now finished T32-T12 in his last two PGA starts and was T5 in Greens in Regulation last week. I like taking a shot at this price with a bit of an underrated player in this smaller, 78-man field. 

Update for Wednesday 7/29/2020

First-round leader bets

Update for Wednesday 7/29/2020

Louis Oosthuizen +8000 or better (each-way)

I don’t mind doubling down on Louis at this week’s event as his odds for every betting market are bigger than we usually see. As mentioned previously, he’s been inconsistent, but also has gotten off to some very fast starts of late. He opened with a 64 at the Travelers, and also shot a 68 the following week at the Workday. In fact, in his last three opening rounds, he’s gained over +7 strokes on his approaches alone, suggesting that his issues may be stemming from fatigue later in the week. The South African had a great weekend here last year shooting 66-67 and at big odds, seeing if he can use that knowledge to turn in one big opening round performance is certainly worth it at these prices. 

Tom Lewis +10000 or better (each-way)

Lewis gets off the hop early this week, going off in the first group for round one. He hasn’t played in a ton of these events, but as mentioned above he’s unlikely to be nervous either having held his own in majors and big Euro Tour events already. Lewis gained over five strokes putting in his second to last start and definitely has the ability to go low for a round as evidenced by his 23-under par winning score on the Korn Ferry Tour last year. He’s opened at four-under now in three of his last four starts and at big odds this week seems more than worth an each-way shout for the first-round leader market in round one. 

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