A long regular season which began with Max Homa’s victory at the Fortinet Championship last September has finally come to a close. Now, we shift focus to the FedEx Cup Playoffs. First stop, the FedEx St Jude Championship at TPC Southwind in Memphis. Our weekly preview begins as always with a look at Southwind and the FedEx St Jude odds.
The FedEx Cup Playoffs received a bit of a facelift this year. The FedEx St Jude Championship has replaced THE NORTHERN TRUST as the first stop of the playoffs for the top 125 players in the FedEx Cup standings. TPC Southwind is no stranger to the PGA TOUR, however. It hosted events each year since 1989. Although this will be TPC Southwind’s inaugural year hosting a playoff event, we’ve gotten our fair share of high stakes events here, with the top 75 players in the world coming for the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational each of the last three seasons. TPC Southwind is known for extremely firm, fast Bermuda greens, penal Bermuda rough and persistent water hazards throughout. Those have given players a stern tee-to-green test and kept winning scores in a modest range.
Typically when we see a loaded field of all the game’s best players in one place, it comes on a rotating course set up, for majors or a playoff event. The unique combination of a jam packed field on familiar grounds should result in fewer surprises and a more predictable result from one of the presumptive favorites. That should therefore breed a tighter, more top-heavy betting card. I’ll look to hone in on the players who are best in terms of SG: APP, Total Driving and SG: P (Firm & Fast Bermuda) when building out my card.
Consider A Donation
I’d be remiss to kick off a preview of this event without encouraging anyone with some spare gambling winnings to consider a donation to St Jude Children’s Research Hospital. They also put together a fundraiser each year to auction off some great memorabilia signed by TOUR players. Last year’s auction can be found here, and I’ll tweet out an updated link for this year once that is up and running again. It is without a doubt one of the best charity organizations out there, and one I’m proud to help donate to each year.
Now let’s get into the key facts and info about TPC Southwind for the 2022 FedEx St Jude Championship.
FEDEX ST JUDE ODDS: THE FAVORITES
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FEDEX ST JUDE Odds: FIELD AT A GLANCE
The field is set with the top 125 players in the FedEx Cup standings ready to tee it up in Memphis. That 125 number comes with a few caveats, however. Talor Gooch, Abraham Ancer, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Jason Kokrak, Charles Howell III, Sergio Garcia, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Kevin Na, Ian Poulter, Matt Jones, Hudson Swafford and Patrick Reed would have qualified for the FedEx Cup Playoffs, but after defecting to LIV, they’ve been replaced by the next 14 players in the standings.
Tommy Fleetwood is the only qualified player in the top-125 who has elected to skip this event. Past winners at TPC Southwind in this field between the WGC-FedEx St Jude and St Jude Classic include Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger.
INTRODUCTION TO TPC SOUTHWIND
This tournament has endured many changes over the years, but despite the rotating events that have run through TPC Southwind, the course has remained a mainstay since 1989. TPC Southwind hosted the St Jude Classic and kept the event on the schedule here through 2018. In 2019, the WGC Bridgestone at Firestone CC became known as the WGC St Jude Invitational, attracting the top 75 players in the world to Memphis for increased prize money. In its three years as host to the WGC event, TPC Southwind produced winners of Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Abraham Ancer.
After the latest reshuffling of the schedule, this event will now replace THE NORTHERN TRUST as the first leg of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, which technically makes Tony Finau the reigning champion. Sorry Abraham Ancer, the PGA TOUR has already forgotten you.
At 7,233 yards, TPC Southwind measures fairly average in terms of length by PGA TOUR standards, and the list of contenders over the years would suggest that distance is not a prerequisite for success. The top-10 players in SG: TOT at TPC Southwind are Dustin Johnson, Daniel Berger, Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Seung-yul Noh, Chez Reavie, Austin Cook, Webb Simpson, Harris English and Billy Horschel. Generally speaking, that suggests an emphasis on players who can consistently position themselves well off the tee and are predominantly comfortable putting on pure Bermuda greens. Since the St Jude Classic evolved into the WGC FedEx St Jude, we’ve seen a progression of the cream rising to the top. Skilled players from tee-to-green should naturally be best suited to navigate this course.
How It Breaks Down
As another par 70, TPC Southwind deprioritizes the emphasis on Par-5 Scoring. Just two exist on the property, which in turn mitigates the volume of birdie-or-better opportunities. The two par 5s, each reachable in two, are the only holes at TPC Southwind with a scoring average better than 0.1 under par. By contrast, 12 holes have a scoring average above par, with half averaging at least 0.1 strokes over. That sets us up a complete tee-to-green test. It will reward well-rounded players who can keep their tee shots in the fairway and scramble often to save par.
Unlike Sedgefield CC, TPC Southwind features a balanced distribution of hole ranges, which should again suit the most skilled players in the field who possess a diverse arsenal of shots. With that said, a concentration of nearly one in every three approach shots came from 150-175 yards in last year’s WGC FedEx St Jude. So, players with strong mid-irons should capitalize most on the scoring opportunities. Ten holes fall between 400-500 yards, so as tends to be the case on any given PGA TOUR event, the players who can capitalize on these holes should find themselves in contention by week’s end.
Traits And Recent Notable Facts
The fairways are not as claustrophobic at TPC Southwind as we just saw at Sedgefield CC. But, the combination of below-average fairway width, similarly penal Bermuda rough, and the additional presence of 11 water hazards will place a premium on driving accuracy. Any time we see a combination of below-average fairways and greens in regulation, we can expect a stern test that will reward the best tee-to-green players in the field.
Compared to the other courses on the PGA TOUR rotation, TPC Southwind stands out as one of the easiest in putting difficulty and shortest in average par-3 length. The Champion Bermuda greens roll firm, fast, and true, with little surprises in the reads. Pure greens like these tend to produce a bell curve of putting results. The weaker putters can come back to field average when tasked with more straightforward reads, while elite putters have been able to explode with well-struck putts holding true to their line. That helps in part explain how players like Chez Reavie and Webb Simpson have displayed top-10 course history here despite having opposite long-term putting pedigree.
TPC Southwind begins to show its teeth when played from outside the fairway. It ranks top six in Penalty From Missed Fairways and Approach Difficulty From The Rough. Featuring top-10 most-narrow fairways on TOUR, players will need to play some shots from the rough. And with these greens rolling firm and fast, that will inevitably lead to an emphasis on scrambling as well.
TPC SOUTHWIND COURSE SPECS
- Yards: 7,233
- Par: 70 (4x 3s / 12x 4s / 2x 5s)
- Greens: Bermuda
- Architect: Ron Prichard
- Historical Cut Line: -2
- Median Four-Round Score: -4 (’21), -3 (’20), -3 (’19), -3 (’18), -1 (’17),
- Comp Courses: Pebble Beach, East Lake, Innisbrook Resort, Waialae CC, Harbour Town, TPC Sawgrass, TPC Scottsdale, PGA National
- Past Winners: Abraham Ancer -16 (’21), Justin Thomas -13 (’20), Brooks Koepka -16 (’19), Dustin Johnson -19 (’18), Daniel Berger -10 (’17)
- Hole-by-hole Breakdown:
COURSE HISTORY AND COURSE COMPS
Of the players with top-10 career course history at TPC Southwind, only four qualified in this week’s field after accounting for the suspended LIV players. Remaining to tee it up this week are Daniel Berger, Chez Reavie, Webb Simpson and Billy Horschel. The next best players at TPC Southwind to round out the Course History top-10 are Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Scott Stallings, Seamus Power, Hideki Matsuyama and Ryan Palmer.
Daniel Berger’s course history is most notable in this field. He secured back-to-back victories at the St. Jude Classic in 2016 and 2017. He hasn’t skipped a beat since this event was converted to a WGC event either, finishing top five in each of his last two events here. Health remains a question. But considering he’s had about two months to recuperate since his last start at the U.S. Open, he’ll be an interesting name to track for this week.
Looking at results over the last three years since hosting as a WGC event, Webb Simpson is the only player to finish top 20 each year. Nine players in this week’s field have recorded multiple top-20 finishes over the last three years here: Simpson, Berger, Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy, Matt Fitzpatrick, Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama, Cameron Smith and Billy Horschel.
The emphasis of driving accuracy over distance (particularly to avoid water hazards and gnarly Bermuda rough), and putting on smooth Bermuda greens, are staples of Florida golf that that should translate well to TPC Southwind. As evidence, the success seen in recent years by Florida residents Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, and Daniel Berger.
The course that jumps out as the closest embodiment to these conditions is East Lake. East Lake features the same agronomy of Zoysia fairways and pure Champion Bermuda greens, moderate scoring conditions with severe penalty for missed fairways, and consistent names atop the leaderboard like Billy Horschel, Thomas and Rory McIlroy.
In addition to East Lake, TPC Sawgrass comes to mind next as a more challenging TPC layout with a similar emphasis on positional tee shots and the option to get more aggressive with driver from hole to hole. TPC Scottsdale, PGA National, Harbour Town, Waialae CC and Innisbrook Resort each also feature similar Bermuda grass layouts with overlapping results from players with comparable profiles.
On a secondary level, it’s hard to deny the overlap of success between Pebble Beach and TPC Southwind. Both tracks have exposure to wind with water in play throughout and have rewarded players with a combination of accuracy off the tee and precision with mid-irons. Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Berger, and even Chez Reavie highlight the top 1o of course history at both courses.
Combine performance across this list and the top-10 players in Comp Course History here are Shane Lowry, Thomas, Berger, Alex Noren, Russell Henley, Keegan Bradley, Matt Fitzpatrick, Jon Rahm, Corey Conners, and Sam Burns.
KEY STATS TO CONSIDER
- SG: T2G
- SG: APP / SG: Ball Striking
- Fairways Gained
- Opportunities Gained
- Scrambling Gained
- Prox 125-200
- SG: P (Bermuda) / SG: P (Firm & Fast greens)
- Par-4 Scoring: 450-500 Yards
- Course & Comp Course History
Rather than overcomplicate the model here, I prefer to hone in on the players who enter in the best overall form. Going into this week, the top-10 players in SG: T2G are Tony Finau, Rory McIlroy, Cameron Young, Xander Schauffele, Sungjae Im, Mito Pereira, Brendan Steele, Justin Thomas, Russell Henley and Will Zalatoris. Just eight players rank top 30 in SG: T2G and above-average to the field in SG: P on Bermuda greens: Schauffele, Thomas, Matt Fitzpatrick, Scottie Scheffler, Sam Burns, Shane Lowry, Scott Stallings and Max Homa.
Approach will remain a crucial stat this week on a golf course which has consistently rewarded trending ball strikers. The top 10 in SG: APP entering this week are Russell Henley, Schauffele, Finau, McIlroy, Brendan Steele, Burns, Lowry, Cameron Smith, Harold Varner III and Pereira.
The firm and fast greens are a significant piece of TPC Southwind’s identity. We’ve seen players who excel in these particular conditions go on to find more repeated success at this course. The top-10 players in SG: P (Firm & Fast Greens) are Maverick McNealy, Burns, Brendon Todd, Wyndham Clark, Denny McCarthy, Billy Horschel, Sepp Straka, Beau Hossler, Marc Leishman and Lucas Herbert. The top-10 Bermuda putters in this field are Smith, Todd, Kevin Kisner, Burns, Alex Noren, Chesson Hadley, Herbert, Tyrrell Hatton, Adam Long and Horschel.
The ideal player for this week should rank above-average across the weighted putting categories, SG: T2G, Fairways Gained, Scrambling Gained, SG: APP and Course & Comp Course History. Only five players meet that criteria in this week’s field: Smith, JT Poston, Thomas, Fitzpatrick and Burns.
Looking at the correlation charts this week for TPC Southwind, Double Bogey Avoidance noticeably jumps into the top-10 most important stats. More than 5% of the field makes double-or-worse on three different holes, a side effect of the 11 holes where water hazards come into play.
We also see a larger than usual jump in the importance of SG: APP and SG: Short Game this week compared to TOUR average. Each of these categories enters the top 10. On the flip side, Par-5 Scoring, Par-3 Scoring and SG: OTT will be stats to deprioritize this week. They have proven far less consequential here than on TOUR average.
Only seven players in the field rank above average in each of the above 10 key stat categories: Tony Finau, Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele, Scottie Scheffler, Matt Fitzpatrick, Justin Thomas and JT Poston.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: BILLY HORSCHEL
I never go out of my way to back Billy Horschel. So, an endorsement this week comes despite my initial inclination to fade him. The more I dug into the key stats for TPC Southwind, however, the more Horschel’s name continued to pop.
No player on the PGA TOUR is more “Florida” than Horschel. Although this event plays in Memphis, the course characteristics will embody everything we see around the Florida swing. Horschel is not exactly the approach marksmen you’d first think of targeting at TPC Southwind. But his proficiency on and around Bermuda greens should set him up for a fairly high floor. Looking at his Course History, Horschel has gained strokes putting in each of his last eight trips, with five top-10 finishes. He’s finished inside the top-25 in each of the first three WGC events contested here and was a perfect six-for-six in made cuts at the St. Jude Classic.
Looking at the form more recently, the Memorial champion has been solid. He enters off of back to back top-30 finishes. Beyond his comfort on Bermuda greens, his driver appears most encouraging. He gained strokes off the tee in six consecutive events and gained on the field in driving accuracy in all but one event this season.
A past TOUR champion at a comp course in East Lake, Horschel has been outspoken about getting himself ready to compete for playoff season. So, while he’s consistently demonstrated strong performance at this event, upgrading the St. Jude to an official playoff event might be the final push he needs to pick up his first win there while sitting on the President’s Cup bubble. In such a loaded field, we should expect to see appealing odds on Horschel on Monday, in spite of his recent win and top-notch course history.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR AT THE 2022 FEDEX ST JUDE CHAMPIONSHIP
Part of me holds resentment towards this event for replacing THE NORTHERN TRUST, which used to be my best opportunity to attend a golf tournament in the Northeast each year. I remain puzzled that the PGA TOUR has continued to not host events in the New York/New Jersey area. But personal gripes aside, this shapes up well as an action-packed tournament. It’s a reminder of the depth of talent still (for now) on the PGA TOUR’s roster.
With all the course-fit profiles in mind, I’m leaning early towards the below player pool. Naturally, I’m looking their way in the 2022 FedEx St Jude odds as well. I’ve broken the list down by projected pricing/odds tier for DraftKings.
In my model, I’m emphasizing SG: T2G, SG: APP, Comp Course History, Weighted Putting (L36, Bermuda, and Firm & Fast Conditions), followed by a more balanced mix of Fairways Gained, Prox 125-200 and Scrambling Gained.
Sam Burns takes No. 1 overall honors for this week’s model. He proved a strong fit for this course last year, falling just short to Abraham Ancer in a playoff. He’s earned the “Bermuda Burns” moniker at this stage of his career with three of his first four wins coming on Bermuda greens. That translates to No. 1 in this field in SG: P on comp Bermuda courses and top-five ranking in weighted overall putting over the last 36 rounds.
After Burns, the rest of my model’s top 10 features Matt Fitzpatrick, Xander Schauffele, Justin Thomas, Shane Lowry, Billy Horschel, Sungjae Im, Max Homa, Daniel Berger and Scottie Scheffler.
When FedEx St Jude odds open on Monday, I’ll look to build out a tight, top-heavy card after seeing which elite names have the most drift. As of now, I’m eying Burns, Horschel and Lowry. Check back in later this week for more updates, and best of luck navigating the 2022 FedEx St Jude odds!
2022 FEDEX ST JUDE CHAMPIONSHIP ODDS BOARD
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