PGA DFS Primer: World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational (2021)
Xander Schauffele prevailed as the winner of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games this past weekend, establishing a dominant early lead with an -8-under-par second round that kept him atop the leaderboard for the remainder of the tournament. The 27-year old Californian has been great across the last three months and represented the United States proudly by winning the gold medal, while fellow American Collin Morikawa overcame a slow start to score -8-under-par in the final round at Japan’s Kasumigaseki Country Club East course. Morikawa was unable to win the seven-man playoff to stand at the bronze podium but did finish T4 (-15) to reward fantasy managers with quite a bit of production on the final day of the Olympic tournament.
Another player I liked a lot going into the Olympic Games was Japan native Hideki Matsuyama, who won at The Masters with an impressive closing round to solidify himself as the first Japanese player to win the prestigious tournament. Matsuyama performed well in the middle rounds at Kasumigaseki Country Club but opening and closing rounds of -2-under-par simply weren’t enough to land him on the bronze podium. Even more heartbreaking was his 12-foot putt for birdie on the 18th Hole on Sunday, which would’ve kept him out of the seven-man playoff and secured his bronze medal. Still, he managed to finish T4 (-15) alongside Morikawa, Mito Pereira, Sebastián Muñoz, Rory McIlroy, and Paul Casey. Cameron Smith (T10/-14), Abraham Ancer (T14/-12), Jhonattan Vegas (T16/-11) had a couple of decent rounds but underperformed based on my expectations, managing to finish within the top-20 but failing to reach their ceiling in terms of performance and skillset. Perhaps the biggest disappointment was South Korea’s Si Woo Kim, who finished T32 (-8) and will now be required to join his country’s military for a mandatory two-year term, something he could have avoided by medaling at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
The PGA Tour resumes action with the third annual World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee this weekend. It’s more similar to last weekend’s Olympic Games tournament because there is no cut to make and the players in its field are primarily winners of various tournaments throughout this season who are ranked within the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking. Previously, it was known as the WGC – Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club (South) but it has been replaced by TPC Southwind, which will host players for the third time. Let’s take a look at the course and a few players who are primed to launch themselves atop the leaderboard at TPC Southwind this weekend.
- 2020: Justin Thomas (-13)
- 2019: Brooks Koepka (-16)
TPC Southwind has noticeably smaller bermudagrass greens and much more narrow zoysia fairways than the wide-open fairways at Kasumigaseki Country Club in Japan last weekend. Bermudagrass is the primary surface at the tee, on the greens, and even comprises the taller rough grass flanking the fairways and greens. Bermudagrass rough is shorter and delivers a break from the thicker bentgrass typically seen at Open and Championship tournaments, allowing players to recover much more efficiently from a bad iron or driver swing off-the-tee.
The par-70, 7,244-yard course was designed by Ron Prichard and features bodies of water scattered throughout, including ponds, creeks, and lakes. Most of these hazards appear in the back-nine of the course, where Hole 11 forces players to strike an accurate iron across a lake onto the green on a 165-yard, par-3. Holes 14 and 18 feature water that flanks a side of the green, forcing players to be as accurate as possible with their tee shots and approach shots. Putting is a mere afterthought at TPC Southwind, with small champion Bermuda greens creating a smooth and ideal surface. The challenge lies within navigating the fairways and approach shots, which often present water hazards or lengthy dogleg fairways. With that said, here are a few ideal players to insert into lineups this week based on their skill set and familiarity with TPC Southwind.
Relevant Betting Stats
- Greens in Regulation percentage
- Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green
- Driving Accuracy percentage
- Sand save percentage
- Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee
Recommended Plays: DraftKings
Rory McIlroy ($10,000)
Rory McIlroy certainly hasn’t had his best season on the PGA Tour but he has looked strong as of late, finishing T4 (-15) at the Olympic Games last weekend after failing to win the seven-man playoff to stand atop the bronze medal podium. He also placed T7 (-1) at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in late June, which means he’s finished within the top ten twice in his last three tournaments. McIlroy becomes even more enticing when looking at his T4 (-11) finish at TPC Southwind back in 2019 during its first year hosting the tournament as a World Golf Championships-styled event. The 32-year old Irishman ranks eighth in strokes gained off-the-tee (.636) and 11th in strokes gained tee-to-green (1.293), meaning his game fits perfectly with the demands of TPC Southwind. Roster McIlroy and reap the rewards in your fantasy lineups this weekend.
Viktor Hovland ($9,700)
Viktor Hovland has been doing well the entire PGA Tour season but had dropped off a bit until two recent top 15 finishes at The Open Championship (T12/-6) and the Olympic Men’s Golf Competition (T14/-12) that saw the 23-year old Norweigan return to form. Hovland is among the best in strokes gained off-the-tee (.701), ranking sixth in that statistical category and also ninth-best in strokes gained from tee-to-green (1.355). He’s also a birdie machine, averaging 4.37 birdies per round, which is a fantasy goldmine due to birdies being valued three times higher than bogeys. I like Hovland to potentially break into the top ten at TPC Southwind this weekend due to elite iron play off-the-tee and from tee to green, overcoming the numerous water and sand hazards littered throughout the course.
Dustin Johnson ($10,200)
One of the more successful and experienced golfers entering this weekend’s WGC-FedEx St. Jude’s Invitational at TPC Southwind is 37-year old American, Dustin Johnson. He’s had a rough season for the most part but TPC Southwind has been kind to him in the past, where he won the FedEx St. Jude Classic twice, including its last year in 2018, prior to it becoming a host for the World Golf Championships. Johnson’s driver has been terrible, as he has averaged a lowly 58.54 percent with his driving accuracy, ranking 133rd on Tour. His long frame generates plenty of power behind each swing, which is why he can reach greens in regulation 67.24 percent of the time. He has not participated in a tournament since getting cut at the 3M Open a couple of weeks ago but will not have to deal with the potential of missing it again at TPC Southwind this weekend, allowing him to be more comfortable and take more risks early on. I like Johnson, especially when looking at the 4.10 birdies he averages per round.
Recommended Plays: FanDuel
Collin Morikawa ($12,000)
I cannot quit rostering Collin Morikawa. The 24-year old has enjoyed a breakout campaign in just his third year as a professional, narrowly missing the podium at the Tokyo Olympic Games this past weekend. He is ranked first in the FedEx Cup rankings and is first in multiple strokes gained categories, including tee-to-green, approaching the green, and average birdies (4.48) per round. He’s valued appropriately due to these phenomenal statistics. Factor in the motivation he will have after losing in the seven-man playoff to earn bronze at Kasumigaseki last weekend and you’ve got a player with a massive floor and an even higher ceiling. Don’t overthink rostering the best golfer on the PGA Tour.
Shane Lowry ($9,400)
Shane Lowry has improved his play significantly from a year ago on Tour this season but remains primarily as a salary-saving play in lineups. The 34-year old Irishman is among the worst putters but that is something that can be ignored when playing at TPC Southwind, where Lowry finished T6 (-9) in 2020. He ranks 21st in strokes gained tee-to-green (1.008) and around-the-green (.337) and is able to hit his greens in regulation (67.88%) fairly often, ranking 45th. He’s unlikely to finish inside the top five but a top 20 finish is more than likely in the range of outcomes, particularly with such a strong showing at TPC Southwind last year. Take advantage of Lowry’s salary and skill set built for dominating the zoysia fairways, as he should land numerous precise shots on some of the greens placed in difficult locations, creating more birdie opportunities than others who lack a strong iron game.
Jordan Spieth ($11,700)
Jordan Spieth ranks second according to the FedEx Cup and his numbers certainly justify it on Tour this season. The 28-year old Texan native averages 4.28 birdies per round, eighth-best amongst all golfers, and ranks within the top 20 in strokes gained tee-to-green, strokes gained approaching the green, and strokes gained around the green. His finesse is nearly unmatched but he does tend to have difficulty with hitting greens in regulation (65.28%/118th) and has really struggled with his driver accuracy, averaging just a 54.29 percent accuracy. This points to Spieth’s incredible scrambling ability, which can be defined as the percentage of times a player misses a green in regulation but still makes par or better. Coming off of a second-place finish at The Open Championship (-13), Spieth is worth the premium salary and should be atop the leaderboards throughout the duration of the 2021 WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.
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