The inaugural World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational takes place this week on the heels of The Open Championship‘s return to Northern Ireland. TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tenn. serves as the host. The event replaces the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the FedEx St. Jude Classic. Here, we highlight the top WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational betting picks.
A condensed field of 64, including 2019’s Champion Golfer of the Year – Shane Lowry – and reigning FedEx St. Jude victor – Dustin Johnson – are among the many stars in attendance. Tiger Woods (No. 5) and Francesco Molinari (No. 6) are the only golfers from the top 10 of the Official World Golf Ranking not in attendance. Rickie Fowler (No. 14) and Bernd Wiesberger (No. 41) are the only others from the top 50 in the OWGR skipping the event. Two-time TPC Southwind champion – Daniel Berger – highlights a watered-down field participating in the Barracuda Championship in Reno.
The WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational (and Barracuda Championship) will be the second-to-last tournament before the beginning of the 2019 FedExCup Playoffs on Aug. 8, when the top 125 players in the season-long standings will descend on Liberty National Golf Club for The Northern Trust. The playoffs will conclude the week of Aug. 22 with the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta with a $15-million prize awaiting the top point-getter.
The no-cut nature of the event and the top-heavy field mean higher odds than normal exist for several world-class golfers. This week’s tournament is the fourth and final WGC event of the 2018-19 season.
The course: TPC Southwind
TPC Southwind, established in 1988 and the host of an annual PGA Tour event since 1989, plays as a par-70 and measures 7,244 yards. A tournament has been held in Memphis since 1958, previous playing at Colonial Country Club and Cordova. The newer TPC Southwind was designed by Ron Prichard with consultation from professionals Hubert Green and Fuzzy Zoeller.
The course is rather different from the WGC-Bridgestone’s stop at Firestone Golf Club in Akron, Ohio, where Justin Thomas claimed victory a year ago. Dustin Johnson, a two-time winner of the FedEx St. Jude Classic, is the only player in the field to win in both Memphis and Akron.
The signature hole at TPC Southwind is the par-3 11th. Measuring 162 yards, the hole is oft-likened to No. 17 at TPC Sawgrass and features an island green. It’s by far the shortest of the four par 3s on the course, with the longest topping out at 239 yards. The 12 par 4s range from 395 to 490 yards. Two par 5s come in at 554 and 530 yards. Water is the main hazard on the course, with lakes, ponds and streams scattered throughout, hugging fairways and defending the Bermuda grass greens.
The winning score has ranged from minus-9 to Johnson’s 2018 finishing mark of 19-under par over the last eight years.
Key stats to consider for the 2019 WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational
Based on the design of TPC Southwind and the previous winning scores at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, we’re looking at the key stats of Strokes Gained: Approach, Strokes Gained: Par 4s, Opportunities Gained and Fairways Gained.
My model at Fantasy National looks at the performance of the golfers in the field over their last 24 rounds on courses with Bermuda greens. Previous experience and success in WGC events is important. Success at TPC Southwind is notable, but the significantly lower competition level must be kept in mind for golfers other than Johnson.
2019 WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational betting picks: Sleepers and value bets
Kevin Kisner +8000 (FanDuel Sportsbook)
Kisner leads the field in average DraftKings points (strongly correlated with finishing position) in WGC events played on Bermuda greens, according to FanShare Sports. He has averaged 15 birdies, one eagle, and 11 bogeys in such events. He ranks 12th in the stat model with a top showing of third in Fairways Gained but the No. 28 player in the world ranks no lower than 25th in the field in any key stat. The 35-year-old has already moved up 10 spots in the OWGR this year and has made five straight cuts coming into this week. His T30 finish at The Open was his best Major finish since a T21 at April’s Masters. He beat Matt Kuchar in the final of the WGC Match Play event earlier this season.
Rafa Cabrera Bello +6000 (FanDuel Sportsbook)
Cabrera Bello finished T4 and two strokes off the lead at TPC Southwind in 2017. He carded 19 birdies. The 35-year-old Spaniard missed the cut at The Open following a strong build-up on the European Tour which included a T9 at the Scottish Open, T4 at the Irish Open and T3 at the BMW International Open. His disappointing finish last week dropped him one spot to 35th in the OWGR, but his heightened odds show too much bias for one poor result in his past four events. He finished fifth and third in the WGC-HSBC Champions and WGC-Mexico Championship, respectively.
Hideki Matsuyama +3300 (DraftKings Sportsbook)
Matsuyama is a two-time World Golf Championships winner, including the Bridgestone Invitational in 2017. His two victories came by seven and five strokes, as he scored in the 60s in all four rounds at each event. He ranks seventh in this week’s stat model and is tied for seventh in the field in Opportunities Gained over everyone’s last 24 rounds. He’s fifth on Tour this season in Strokes Gained: Total, sixth in Birdie Average and 12th in Scoring Average. He missed the cut at The Open for his first missed cut in 19 events this season. Ranked No. 32 in the world, he has five top 10s this season and finished no lower than 32nd in the year’s other three Majors.
2019 WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational betting picks: The winner
Tony Finau +3300 (DraftKings Sportsbook)
Finau has carded 48 birdies and 16 bogeys in two WGC events played on Bermuda greens. He was one of few to survive the difficult Sunday scoring conditions in Northern Ireland, finishing third in the tournament with a final-round of 71 for his best-career Major finish. While he hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since the 2016 Puerto Rico Open, he was the runner-up to Xander Schauffele in October’s WGC HSBC Champions, and he finished T10 at last year’s WGC Bridgestone.