PGA Tour Picks: FedEx St. Jude Championship

By TOM LaMARRE

The PGA Tour opens the FedEx Cup Playoffs this week with a new tournament on a familiar golf course, with the FedEx St. Jude Championship being contested at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tenn.

The FedEx St. Jude replaces the Northern Trust, which was rotated among courses in the New York, New Jersey and Boston areas for the last several seasons.

“Since the inception of the FedEx Cup in 2007, we have made a number of changes to enhance the quality of the FedEx Cup Playoffs for our players, fans and partners,” PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said. “This move to TPC Southwind and the support of FedEx further demonstrates the commitment of our umbrella partner to elevating the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

“TPC Southwind is a favorite among our players, and we anticipate tremendous support from a community in Memphis, which has steadfastly supported the PGA Tour since 1958 and of course, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital will be front and center once again as the tournament’s beneficiary.”

The PGA Tour has held a tournament in Memphis every year since 1958, with Colonial Country Club playing host until the event moved permanently to TPC Southwind in 1989. FedEx first became the title sponsor in 1986 of what eventually became the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Classic.

Since 1970, Memphis’ PGA Tour event has raised more than $50 million for the tournament’s primary charitable beneficiary, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Tony Finau, who has won his last two starts this season in the 3M Open and the Rocket Mortgage Classic, also captured The Northern Trust at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, N.J., last season to open the FedEx Cup Playoffs and will be one of the favorites.

Also among the top players in the field are seventh-ranked Justin Thomas, who won the WGC-Fed Ex St. Jude Invitational at TPC Southwind in 2019, second-ranked Cameron Smith of Australia, coming off his victory in the 150th Open Championship at St. Andrews; top-ranked Scottie Scheffler, who has won four times this season; third-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland (pictured), a two-time FedEx Cup champion; fourth-ranked Patrick Cantlay, the defending FedEx Cup champion; sixth-ranked Xander Schauffele, the 2021 Olympic Gold Medalist; sixth-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain, who won the 2020 BMW Championship during the playoffs, and 10th-ranked Matt Fitzpatrick of England, who captured the 122nd U.S. Open in June.

The second event of the FedEx Cup Playoffs will be played next week in the BMW Championship at Wilmington Country Club in Wilmington, Del., followed a week later by the finale in the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, where the winner of the 2021-22 FedEx Cup will be determined.

BEST BETS

1. Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland – The 2016 and 2019 FedEx Cup champion is sixth in the points standings entering the Playoffs after winning RBC Canadian Open and the CJ Cup at the Summit among his eight finishes in the top 10 this season. McIlroy is playing the playoff opener for the 10th time and his best finishes were a tie for sixth in 2019 and a tie for 19th in 2013.

2. Patrick Cantlay, United States – The defending FedEx Cup champ after winning the BMW Championship and the Tour Championship a year ago, Cantlay is fifth in the point standings with a victory in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and three runner-up results this season. He has four finishes in the top 12 in five starts in the playoff opener, the best a tie for eighth in 2018.

3. Cameron Smith, Australia – Hasn’t played since winning the 150th Open Championship at St. Andrews last month for his third victory of the season among seven finishes in the top-10 and is second in the point standings entering the Playoffs. Smith has played in the playoff opener five times and last year he finished second behind Tony Finau, in addition to a tie for third in 2018.

4. Justin Thomas, United States – JT captured the FedEx Cup in 2017, when he claimed five victories, including the Dell Technologies Championship during the Playoffs and finished second in the Tour Championship. Thomas won the PGA Championship this season in addition to finishing third twice among nine top-10 results and enters the Playoffs eighth in the standings.

5. Scottie Scheffler, United States – The top-ranked Scheffler is the leading candidate for PGA Tour Player of the Year with four victories this season, including the Masters, among his nine results in the top 10, which also puts him on top of the FedEx Cup standings. He is making only his third start in the playoff opener and tied for fourth in 2020 before tying for 43rd last season.

6. Tony Finau, United States – Enters the Playoffs as the hottest player in golf with victories in the 3M Open and the Rocket Mortgage Classic in his last two starts, and also has two runner-up finishes among five top-10 results this season to rank seventh in the standings. Finau claimed another of his four PGA Tour victories in the playoff opener last year and was second in 2018.

7. Matt Fitzpatrick, England – Claimed his first PGA Tour victory and first major title in the 122nd U.S. Open at the Country Club in Brookline, Mass., where he also won the 2013 U.S. Amateur, and his nine top-10 results this season put him 14th in the point standings. Fitzpatrick shot 73-70—143 to miss the cut by one stroke in his on start in the playoff opener last season.

8. Xander Schauffele, United States – The 2021 Olympic Gold Medalist has won the Genesis Scottish Open, the Travelers Championship and the Zurich Classic of New Orleans among five top-10 finishes this season and sits fourth in the point standings. Schauffele’s best result in the playoff opener was a tie for 16th last year. He tied for 17th in 2017 and tied for 25th in 2020.

9. Jon Rahm, Spain – The former world No. 1 captured the Mexico Open at Vidanta, was second in Sentry Tournament of Champions and tied for third in the Farmers Insurance Open this season to rank 16th in the FedEx Cup point standings entering the Playoffs. Rahm has four top-10 results in five starts in the opener, including thirds in 2017, 2019 and also last season.

10. Sungjae Im, South Korea – After claiming his second PGA Tour title early this season in the Shriners Children’s Open, Im has tied for second in his last two starts in the 3M Open and the Wyndham Championship, and with eight top-10 finishes is 10th in the FedEx Cup point standings. His best result in three starts in the playoff opener with a tie for 16th last year.

OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Will Zalatoris, United States; Hideki Matsuyama, Japan; Jordan Spieth, United States; Collin Morikawa, United States; Shane Lowry, Ireland; Sam Burns, United States; Cameron Young, United States; Viktor Hovland, Norway; Tyrrell Hatton, England; Joohyung Kim, South Korea.

SLEEPERS

1. Matthias Schwab, Austria – Rookie has T-7s in Puerto Rico Open and Honda Classic, and a T-8 in Valero Texas Open. Earned his card with two top-10s late last year on Korn Ferry Tour.

2. Doug Ghim, United States – Recorded a T-6 in the Players Championship and has 13 top-25 finishes in the last two seasons on PGA Tour. T-31 last season in only start at TPC Southwind.

3. Stephan Jaeger, Germany – Six time winner on Korn Ferry Tour is coming off a T-13 in the Wyndham, closing with 62, and also was solo fifth in Rocket Mortgage, T-6 in Wells Fargo.

4. Max McGreevy, United States – Two-time winner as a pro was solo second in Puerto Rico Open, T-5 in Wyndham Championship last week and T-13 in Barbasol Championship this year.

5. John Huh, United States – Has won twice as a pro and is coming off a T-2 in the Wyndham last week in addition to T-9 in the Honda Classic among seven T-25s on PGA Tour this season.

For First-Round Tee Times, Visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html

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