Over the last two months, the PGA Tour’s restart has produced a star-studded cast of champions. A who’s who among the game’s elite. No. 1 Jon Rahm, No. 4 Webb Simpson, No. 5 Dustin Johnson and No. 7 Bryson DeChambeau have all been victorious. This week, they all come together in Memphis for the third World Golf Championship of the season, the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.
The event at TPC Southwind marks the eighth since the Tour’s restart and the final tournament before the first major championship of the year, next week’s PGA Championship in San Francisco. With a loaded field of all of the top eight players in the world, a purse of over $10 million and extra world rankings points on the line, things are expected to heat up in Memphis this week.
Despite the magnitude of the event and the opportunity to tune up prior to a major, Tiger Woods has decided to sit out the FedEx St. Jude. Woods has played just once since the season restart…a T-40 finish at the Memorial. He’ll now presumably head to the PGA Championship with just one full field event under his belt since February.
Here’s a look at what to keep an eye on this week at TPC Southwind.
Just over a month ago it appeared that Dustin Johnson had returned to the form we’d grown accustomed to over the last decade. DJ’s impressive performance at The Travelers Championship earned him the 21st victory of his career, but since then things have gone awry for the fifth ranked player in the world, and we now may know why.
Following back to back 80’s at the Memorial, Johnson teed it up at last week’s 3M Open in Minnesota and fired an opening round 78. He then promptly withdrew from the tournament after experiencing tightness in his back. Will the back issue derail the progress the former number one has made since the restart?
After speaking with Johnson’s agent last week, the back problem does not appear to be overly serious. The issue is being classified as tightness and not an injury and DJ is expected to undergo treatment leading up to the WGC-FedEx St. Jude.
DJ is a two-time winner in Memphis and his plan is to play this week, though his back situation does bear watching as we head into a jam-packed stretch of golf on the calendar.
Rory Readies for PGA Championship
While many of the top ranked players in the world have come out of the restart gates playing great golf, one player has been a bit slow to get going...Rory McIlroy. The now former world No. 1 has failed to crack the top ten since the Tour came back from the layoff, and McIlroy’s winless streak now dates back to November.
No player may have been affected by the Tour’s layoff more than McIlroy. Heading into The Players Championship back in March, Rory had begun the season with six consecutive top-five finishes, including at WGC win in China. He was primed for The Players and then an April trip to Augusta. Now McIlroy seems to be in search of that same form as he readies for golf’s major championship stretch run. Can he get his game in gear prior to next week’s PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park? If there are signs of life this week in Memphis, look out as McIlroy will head to San Francisco with a high level of confidence. He’s a former PGA Champion (2012) and won the WGC Match Play at TPC Harding Park back in 2015.
PGA Tour opens its gates…a little
While this week’s event in Memphis will be played without fans on site, TPC Southwind will look a bit more crowded than any of the previous seven tournaments since the restart. This week marks the first event that the Tour is opening up its gates to more people on property.
According to Golf Digest, tournament sponsors will be allowed to have up to 50 guests per day on site. The Tour is calling these “hosted experiences.” The guests will not be allowed to walk the golf course but will be able to watch the play from a distance. The Tour will also have 16 two-person groups called “honorary observers” that will follow groups outside the ropes. All of these along with the guests will go through the Tour’s COVID-19 testing procedures.
Players have also been informed that spouses and significant others will be allowed on site for the first time. The new policies are expected to be in place for the Wyndham Championship as well as the BMW Championship and Tour Championship.
So far, the PGA Tour has done an excellent job of combining testing with competition. With the Tour’s bubble now expanding it should be interesting to see the effect it has.
Win: Collin Morikawa
TPC Southwind traditionally rewards sharp approach play with the irons and they’re may be no one better at that right now than Collin Morikawa. The 23rd old is fresh off his second career victory at the Workday Charity Open and leads the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained Approach.
Value: Matthew Fitzpatrick
The 25-year-old Brit is one of those young players that’s very close to breaking through on tour. Committed to a PGA Tour schedule this season, Fitzpatrick is coming off an impressive third place finish at the Memorial and returns to Memphis where he finished T-4 a year ago. Ranks 16th in Strokes Gained Total.
Sleeper: Chez Reavie
Perfect fit for TPC Southwind where he’s generated been in the 60’s in 10 of his last 14 rounds generating three top-12 finishes over his last four starts. Reavie ranks 17th in proximity to the hole this season and is playing some steady golf heading in, finishing T-17, T-22 in his last two starts.