Damien Kayat previews the 2022 edition of the PGA Tour’s FedEx St Jude Championship taking place at TPC Southwind.
2021/2022 US PGA Tour
FedEx Cup Playoffs
FedEx St Jude Championship
TPC Southwind, Memphis Tennessee
PGA Tour season enters final stretch
It’s hard to believe that we are already in the closing stages of the PGA Tour season (time has just flown by this year). LIV golfers aside, most of the world’s elite players will descend on TPC Southwind this week for the opening leg of the PGA Tour playoffs.
Originally known as the Memphis Open, the status of this event was upped considerably when it was converted into a WGC event in 2018. This year it has been elevated further as it replaces the Northern Trust as the opening leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs.
The top 125 players in the FedEx Cup rankings will get whittled down to 70 for next week’s BMW Championship at Wilmington. The final 30 will then head to East Lake for the traditional climax of the PGA Tour season.
Victory this week essentially guarantees a strong position in the season-ending Tour Championship.
Designed by Ron Pritchard, in consultation with Fuzzy Zoeller and Hubert Green, TPC Sedgefield was opened in 1988 and it is a true ball-strikers paradise.
A stern test was made all the harder in 2004, as renovations saw the addition of a further 125 trees and 15 bunkers. Furthermore, the par 5 5th was converted to a par 4, reducing the par to 70.
200 yards were added to the length and the Zoyisa fairways were significantly narrowed. This is a course that invites all manner of winners.
Abraham Ancer won last year, highlighting the fact that bombing isn’t essential around TPC Southwind. The juicy rough means that it’s better to be short and accurate as opposed to long and wayward.
These smaller-than-average Bermuda greens put a real emphasis on strong iron play. Over the last 12 years, Ben Crane is the only winner to rank outside the top 10 in GIR.
Look for solid ball strikers who don’t spray it too erratically. Par 4 scoring is also crucial around TPC Southwind (there are some formidable ones out there).
Rory McIlroy returns to action this week following his heartbreak at St Andrews. The Northern Irishman has been amazingly consistent this year and he will be looking to apply some pressure on current World Number One Scottie Scheffler.
Scheffler’s virtuosic season has gone slightly flat in recent weeks. McIlroy will be looking to supplant the American as the world’s leading player in the upcoming weeks.
Open champion Cameron Smith also returns to action following a protracted post-Major celebration. He contended here last year but I would hesitate to play the Aussie in his first event since being crowned a Major champion.
Reigning FedEx Cup champ Patrick Cantlay tends to run hot at this time of year and he does have some good form after finishing T2 at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. Having said that, he doesn’t have a great record at TPC Southwind. E
lsewhere, the likes of Xander Schauffele and Matthew Fitzpatrick have to be considered due to their phenomenal tee-to-green games.
Past Course winners
2021: Abraham Ancer (-16) * playoff
2020: Justin Thomas (-13)
2019: Brooks Koepka (-16)
2018: Dustin Johnson (-19)
2017: Daniel Berger (-10)
2016: Daniel Berger (-13)
To Win Outright:
Rory McIlroy 10/1 | Scottie Scheffler 16/1 | Cameron Smith 18/1 | Justin Thomas 18/1 | Patrick Cantlay 18/1
Will Zalatoris- To Win 28/1 | To Place 6/1
Zalatoris’ season has simmered down somewhat following back-to-back runner-up finishes at Major Championships. Since the US Open, he has played four times, missing the cut at the Scottish open before three solid- if unremarkable- top 25 finishes. His putting has been erratic in recent weeks but there is much less of an emphasis on short-game heroics around TPC Southwind. This is one for the pure ball strikers and Will Zalatoris is quite possibly the purest striker out there. He currently ranks 1st in Strokes Gained: Approach and I think he screams value at 28/1. He loves performing in elite fields and I expect him to be in the mix this week.
Taylor Pendrith- To Win 100/1 | To Place 22/1
This one is based on a combination of strong form and ridiculous value. Pendrith has been excellent since returning from a four-month injury layoff. He has finished inside the top 15 in all three of his recent starts. He was T13 at the Barbasol before a T2 at the Rocket Mortgage. He flopped massively in the final round at Detroit Golf Club and he will have learned a lot from that experience. He tied for 13th last week and he just has to be played in the place market at 22/1.
The Man to Beat- Matthew Fitzpatrick- To Win 20/1 | To Place 44/10
Matthew Fitzpatrick just ticks all the boxes for me. The US Open champ tops the current SG: Tee-to-Green stats and I fully expect him to be in contention this week. He has added some sneaky length this year but it hasn’t diminished his ability to find the fairway. He also has some solid course form to consider. He led by two strokes here at the halfway point in 2019 (he ultimately had to settle for fourth). He then followed that up with a sixth-place finish in 2020. I feel like his game is continuously evolving and I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t contend this week.