FedEx St. Jude Championship Preview



TPC Southwind will lift the lid on the 2023 FedExCup Playoffs.

The top 70 golfers in the season-long standings will take their talents to Memphis this week for event number one of a three-legged playoff race.

FedExCup Points are amplified at the St. Jude Championship with the winner banking 2,000 FEC Points instead of the traditional 500 handed out for regular events (300 for alternate-field events, 550 for elevated events, 600 for majors). Those boosted point totals do allow for golfers to play their way into next week’s event as only the top 50 will advance on to play at Olympia Fields next week.

The Course

TPC Southwind is the star of the show this week.
Laid out by Ron Prichard in the late 1980s, this TPC track has hosted more than 30 PGA Tour events. It hosted the FedEx St. Jude Classic from 1989 to 2018, got bumped to WGC status for three years, and shifted to a playoff event starting last year where Will Zalatoris broke his maiden, beating Sepp Straka in a playoff.

With plenty of history to lean on, we know what this course is all about.

As Justin Thomas put it last year, “It’s very similar to East Lake to me where it’s very right in front of you, it’s super old school. You’ve just got to put the ball in the fairway and then if you do, you have some scorable clubs into some greens where you can take advantage and make a lot of birdies.”

Thomas, who missed the top-70 bubble by one spot this time around, mentioned the importance of keeping it in the fairways. That sentiment is echoed by most golfers who enter the press room at TPC Southwind. The tricky, bermudagrass rough is not fun to play from, especially when you have water in play on 11 holes. Combine that with tiny green complexes and finding the fairways becomes a top priority. That is why we see a lot of golfers club down and keep driver in their bag on a lot of the par 4s. The exception to that is when the course softens up so keep an eye on the interviews in the lead-up for potential pointers on how the fairways are rolling out.

Finding the greens is an easy task from the zoysia fairways. Even with tiny targets, the field finds the green in regulation about 73 percent when attacking from the fairway. Golfers that miss the fairway at TPC Southwind find the putting surface in regulation just 41 percent of the time, one of the harshest penalties for missing a fairway that we see all year.

The small, bermudagrass greens run very pure with golfers one-putting 44.6 percent of the time last year. That number generally sits just under 40 percent for the week-to-week Tour stop.

Thomas pointed out the correlation with East Lake with some other comp courses being Harbour Town Golf Links, TPC River Highlands, Muirfield Village, and TPC Sawgrass. Some common themes include performance on bermudagrass tracks, courses with a lot of water hazards to navigate around, courses with a big penalty for missing the fairway, and courses that allow you or force you to club down on the tee boxes.

Golfers to Watch

Rory McIlroy

The Ulsterman has one top-5 finish in six tries at TPC Southwind. He missed the cut last year when it was a 125-man field. Perhaps it’s not the ideal course setup for him but he arrives with finishes of T-9 or better in seven straight starts so there aren’t many in the field playing a more consistent brand of golf right now.

Sepp Straka

He played his way into a playoff last year in his TPC Southwind debut. Straka missed the cut in his most recent start (3M Open) but twirled a runner-up finish at The Open with a win in his lead-in start before that (John Deere Classic). Add it all up and you have good recent play, a strong showing at the course, and Ryder Cup motiviation as he currently sits in seventh on the World Points standings for the European squad.

Collin Morikawa

It’s hard to imagine that a season that includes three podium finishes could be considered a disappointment but that is the case for Morikawa who is so hungry to return to the winner’s circle. TPC Southwind presents a good chance to get back into contention. Morikawa has played here three times and gained strokes off-the-tee in 83 percent of his rounds which co-leads the field alongside Sungjae Im as best ratio in the field among those who have played the event more than once.

Harris English

The Georgia Bulldog has three top-10 finishes in six tries at TPC Southwind. That includes his breakout win at the 2013 FedEx St. Jude Classic. He’s flashed some big-finish upside in recent months, a good indicator that his health is good again. Also, nobody has gained more strokes putting at TPC Southwind over the years, at least among those in the field this week. English has gained 21 strokes putting in 24 rounds played at the course. “I grew up on greens like this down in South Georgia, fast bermuda greens. I’m very comfortable on these type of greens.”

Scottie Scheffler

He “settled” for a T-23 finish at The Open. It was his first finish outside of the top 12 since the fall. Scheffler has pieced together one of the most consistent seasons in recent decades and gamers should expect him to jump right back into contention this week on a course he really likes, “I think you’ve got to hit a lot of fairways, which is something I feel like I do well. You can attack some of these pins from the fairway, which you definitely cannot do from the rough on this golf course and I think that suits me well.” Scheffler has opened as the pre-tournament betting favorite (+700).

Ranking the Field

1. Scottie Scheffler

2. Jon Rahm
3. Rory Mcilroy
4. Patrick Cantlay
5. Xander Schauffele
6. Viktor Hovland
7. Tyrrell Hatton
8. Collin Morikawa
9. Rickie Fowler
10. Tommy Fleetwood
11. Wyndham Clark
12. Jordan Spieth
13. Tony Finau
14. Jason Day
15. Matt Fitzpatrick
16. Sam Burns
17. Sungjae Im
18. Russell Henley
19. Hideki Matsuyama
20. Max Homa

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