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St Jude Invitational Preview

Jul 30, 2020

This week there’s two golf tournaments in the States and one is a perfect curtain-raiser to next week's USPGA Championship. It's the WGC-FEDEX ST. JUDE INVITATIONAL from "down South" in the state of Tennessee.
And being a WGC event there's a fine field assembled, with the best players in world golf aiming to get some extra invaluable course-time ahead of next week's Major tournament.
So without further ado, here's a preview of the action in the "Volunteer State"...

The Tournament
This week's event carries the "WGC" (World Golf Championships) prefix, which means it's one of the four events held each year under the umbrella of the International Federation of PGA Tours. In other words, the world's separate golf associations - European, PGA, Asian, JPGA (Japan), Sunshine (South Africa) and Australia - combine to stage a select number of top quality tournaments. Tournaments viewed as being just below the Majors in terms of quality. In a usual year the quartet of WGC events are the WGC-Mexico, WGC-Match Play, WGC-Fedex St.Jude Invitational and the WGC-HSBC Champions. What does this all mean? A smaller field than usual, but a stellar one in terms of quality. Slightly less well-attended this week, for obvious reasons, but still a very strong line-up.

The Course
A familiar destination for the PGA Tour, it's TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee. This is a par 70 laid out over 7,244 yards, designed by Ron Prichard. Originally opened in 1988 it should prove a good test for the players [a few years ago it was ranked the 9th toughest track on the PGA Tour] and has been further upgraded in recent years with the addition of more trees, a host of extra bunkers and even less shots on the scorecard (the par five 5th hole being reduced to a par 4 - making Southwind a par 70 from a 71). So don't expect too many fireworks in terms of scoring!

72-Hole Record - 263, Adam Scott (2011)
18-Hole Record - 61, Bob Estes (2001)

Past Winners
Brooks Koepka (2019)
Justin Thomas (2018)
Hideki Matsuyama (2017)
Dustin Johnson (2016)
Shane Lowry (2015).

The Field
An invitational field of 75 players this week. Jon Rahm is the 11/1 favourite.

The Weather
Not good! The chance of rain is 80%-80%-60%-40% across the four days, all with some thunderstorms thrown in. Temperatures in the high 80s make for a humid, damp week. Wind speeds are low... but that's about as good as it gets!!

Here are four chances at the event as provided by the Golf Insider

Niemann is another one of these golfers who are supreme ball-strikers, but often fail on and around the greens, and this has certainly been the case since golf returned a month or so ago. Niemann's finishing positions have been steady, but he did play superbly at the Heritage, where he finished 5th, and ranked as the 3rd best player from tee-to-green. His last event was The Memorial where he missed the cut, but he did gain 4.7 strokes from tee-to-green for two days, and lost a whopping 5.7 strokes putting. Niemann has played five events since lockdown and has gained a massive 25 strokes from tee-to-green on the field during those events, which is an average of 5 per event. These figures are insanely good... but on the flipside he's lost 10 strokes putting for these same events - which has seriously hurt his chances of winning most weeks. As you probably know by now, We’re a huge believer in players who are hitting the ball great off the tee, and on approach shots, as it only takes one week for the putter to warm-up and these players will compete or win when this happens.

Casey is almost replicating Niemann in every way. He's played as you'd expect Casey to play, which is great from tee-to-green, but he's been awful on the greens. Casey has played three events since lockdown, with a best finish of 32nd at the Travelers Championship, which is insane considering he's gained a combined 9 strokes from tee-to-green on the field for those events. These two players really have putted about as badly as I've ever seen, which of course is a concern, but I'm hoping for just a small improvement and we could be in business at massive prices. Casey is world class and three bad putting performances for players like him can happen, but one thing that stays constant is his superb tee-to-green play which will set up plenty of chances. One for the reasons he missed the cut at The Memorial was because he took a 9! at a Par 3 on Friday, and if he'd made par then he would have comfortably made the cut, and likely would have finished in the Top 20 or so. If Casey holes a few putts this week, he's a big chance.

I'm sticking with Bubba again this week because he really is doing nothing wrong from tee-to-green, but seems to have a mental block on the putting surfaces. Last week he was playing great and posted 4-under-par in Round 1, but after missing birdie chances on his first six holes on Friday, he lost his head on the par 5 and made 8, which scrambled his head and led to another MC. There's not much more to add other than he finished 9th here last year, which is great news as it means Bubba likes the venue, and he's golfing his ball great off the tee, and on approach shots, we just need him to find some magic with the flat stick.

Homa completes the quartet of ball-striking machines who seem to go blind on the greens. Last week at the 3M Open was Homa's 5th Top 10 from his last 14 starts. He finished 3rd and ranked 4th in Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green, but only gained 1.5 strokes putting, which was the difference between winning and finishing 3rd. Homa is a classy player who has come into his own in the last two years. He made his breakthrough when winning the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow, which is a great tournament to win. Homa has become a super-consistent performer over the last 12 months, and last week he was back to his best.