Fedex St. Jude Invitational ⏤ Picks & Analysis

Fantasy Golf


The first World Golf Championship in the post-COVID environment begins this week with the WGC Fedex St. Jude Invitational at TPC Southwind in Memphis, TN. This event marks the beginning of an action-packed second half to the summer as the strong field competing this week is just a sneak preview of what we are in for at next week's PGA Championship at Harding Park. The Fedex Cup playoff events come quickly thereafter and it won't be long before the fall edition of the U.S. Open and the Masters Tournament round out the marquee part of the 2020 post-COVID PGA TOUR schedule.

As weak as the field was for last week's 3M Open is as strong as the field is for this week's WGC event. Where last week saw just ten of the top sixty players in the world in the field, this week will put all but five of the world's top fifty players on display. The biggest missing name is Tiger Woods--who opted to sit this week and rest his back in anticipation of next week's major championship. Adam Scott is the only player in the top ten in the world who elected to sit out this week as the rest of the world's best will take on the challenge at TPC Southwind.

Jon Rahm enters the field as the favorite after winning the Memorial Tournament a few weeks ago at Muirfield Village in Dublin, OH. The victory propelled him to his first week ever as the number one player in the world and he joined the late, great Seve Ballesteros as one of just two Spaniards to occupy the top spot in the rankings. Rahm has been steadily climbing the world ranking and been a consistent presence in the top-five for a few years now, but the win combined with the simultaneous run of mediocre play from other top-ranked players Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy has vaulted Rahm to the top.

Group A

Group A is filled with the usual heavy hitters again but there are some real questions with some of the biggest names among this cohort. Brooks Koepka hasn't cracked the top-50 in any of his last three events and is looking far from the player who ripped off four major championships over a span of just over two years. Dustin Johnson withdrew from the 3M Open last week after a round of 78 citing back pain. That would be cause enough for concern, but put together with the consecutive rounds of 80 he put up at the Memorial the week prior and he is an easy fade this week. Rory McIlroy pre-COVID was an unstoppable force and in contention seemingly every week (he had yet to finish outside the top 5 this season prior to the pause) but hasn't cracked a top-ten since the TOUR came back roughly six weeks ago.

While Justin Thomas and Bryson Dechambeau deserve some consideration, our pick is going to be the new world number one Jon Rahm. Thomas has had three top-twenty finishes in his last four weeks and played eight solid rounds at Muirfield Village a few weeks ago including a playoff loss to Collin Morikawa at the Workday Charity Open, but his putter still shows a little rust. If his ball-striking isn't up to snuff then he could be in for a struggle. While Dechambeau's newfound distance is impressive, his missed cut at the Memorial leaves us worried that his new style isn't a great fit for courses with thick rough like TPC Southwind. By process of elimination, the guy we're left with happens to be the highest ranked player in the world.

Group B

Group B is a really tough one to pick this week as each of the players seems to have a decent reason to believe that they will have some success this week. Tommy Fleetwood missed the cut at last week's low scoring 3M Open, but he had success at this golf course last year and his accuracy should serve him in good stead at a course that isn't quite the birdie fest that we've seen everywhere else post-COVID (save for Muirfield Village). Rickie Fowler had two good weeks at the Rocket Mortgage Classic and the Workday Charity Open, but then struggled on his way to a missed cut at the Memorial. Webb Simpson missed just his second cut of the season at the Memorial and otherwise has had a strong start to his post-COVID season (a win and a top-ten in four events).

We're going to go ahead and pick Southern California native Xander Schauffele. His game appears to be rounding into form just in time for the major championship season and with the exception of the RBC Heritage he's been knocking on the door since the COVID restart. He finished third at the Charles Schwab Challenge and in the range of 10th-20th over the last three weeks. He's had one round every week that seemingly kept him out of true contention, but he's got a high ceiling and a high floor and we can't imagine anyone drafting him being too upset about his performance at the end of the week.

Group C

This is another difficult group with compelling cases to make for a number of potential selections. Tony Finau has been playing some very solid golf of late (8th in the Memorial and 3rd at the 3M Open) and if you're of the mind to go with a hot hand he might be the player who has shown the most form in the immediate few weeks coming into this event. Hideki Matsuyama might be the best overall player in this group but his erratic play (two top-25s in his last four weeks alongside two missed cuts) makes him a big risk on a week-in and week-out basis. Matthew Fitzpatrick is a steady hand and played well both in his last appearance at the Memorial (where he was the only player to shoot in the 60s on Sunday) as well as his appearance last year in this event (T4).

Our choice here is going to be Viktor Hovland. He has played a ton post-COVID and his made cut (T48) finish at the Memorial represented his worst outing since the restart. Beyond that one event, he's collected two top-25s and two top-15s to go with a third-place finish at the Workday Charity Open the week prior to the Memorial. His consistent ball-striking makes him unlikely to miss the cut and if the putter gets hot he can definitely contend for a win.

Group D

There are definitely a lot of better resumes to run with from this group, but we're going to put form over resume and go with Collin Morikawa. Players with great Strokes Gained: Approach figures tend both to have a lot of success generally as well as a high level of consistency that makes them less risky players to select. Morikawa is gaining a reputation as the best iron player on the PGA TOUR and his lead in that statistical category certainly supports the anecdotal stories from those on the TOUR that few in the game strike it like Collin does. He's made all but one of his cuts post-COVID and has a win (the Workday Charity Open) and a runner-up finish (Charles Schwab Challenge) during that stretch. 

Group E

There are a lot of similarities between Group D and Group E and we're going to take a similar approach to both. Group E has a number of veteran players with strong resumes (none more so than Phil Mickelson) but none of those players have shown enough form lately to warrant a pick over our choice Daniel Berger. While Berger did miss the cut at the brutal Muirfield Village setup for the Memorial, he's only played two other events post-COVID and that includes a win at the Charles Schwab Challenge and a runner-up finish at the RBC Heritage. 

It's a bit of a risk as those events are now a few weeks in the rear view mirror, but Berger was one of the hottest players in the game prior to the pause as well and its easier to view the MC at the Memorial as an anomaly in the context of his overall play this year. He's only missed two cuts all season which is more than can be said for anyone else on this list and he obviously has plenty of upside having finished in the top-ten in five of his last six tournaments. He may even be a surprising low-ownership selection as he lacks the name power of the rest of this group.

Group F

This group features what may well be half of the European Ryder Cup team when the event finally gets underway at Whistling Straits. Four of these players are major champions (Garcia, Lowry, Stenson, McDowell) but none of those four players jump off the page as great ideas among this group. Stenson will be making his first post-COVID start on the PGA TOUR and Lowry has missed two cuts and hasn't cracked the top 35 since the restart. Garcia may merit some consideration as he has made three cuts in a row and bagged a top-5 finish at the RBC Heritage about a month ago. 

Nevertheless, to us, the obvious choice is Tyrrell Hatton. He seems to be coming into his own on the PGA TOUR and bagged his first career win the week prior to the COVID pause at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. If there was any concern that he may have lost his momentum through the break, he came right back out and finished 3rd at the RBC Heritage and 4th at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. He's played six PGA TOUR events across the pre-COVID and post-COVID 2019-2020 PGA TOUR season and his absolute worst finish has been 14th. All five of his other PGA TOUR starts he finished in the top-six and heading into a major championship as a PGA TOUR winner for the first time we expect his game to be extremely sharp.