The WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational is the first World Golf Championship since the WGC-Mexico Championship in February
A World Golf Championship being held the week before a major championship is nothing new. For years, Tiger Woods used to dominate the WGC-Bridgestone at Firestone the week before teeing it up at the PGA Championship.
We’re in a similar scenario schedule-wise now as the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, originally scheduled for July 2-5 squarely in between what would have been the U.S. Open and Open Championship, is now the precursor to the PGA Championship coming up in the Bay Area at TPC Harding Park.
The top eight in the Official World Golf Rankings are all in Memphis this week, as well as 17 of the top 20. No. 9 Adam Scott, No. 15 Tiger Woods and No. 17 Justin Rose are notable absences, as well as No. 33 Francesco Molinari.
Internationals Scott and Molinari are expected to make their first starts since early 2020 next week at the PGA Championship.
There are multiple ways to qualify for a WGC, one being in the Official World Golf Ranking top 50 by a predetermined deadline. This year, the WGC-St. Jude was granted a one-time exemption by the PGA Tour to allow it to fill the field of 78 players in order of OWGR ranking past the top 50.
A $10.5 million purse is on the line with a healthy $1.745 million going to the winner.
The venue is TPC Southwind, which has hosted a PGA Tour event since 1988. From 1988-2018, it hosted the FedEx St. Jude Classic, which was usually held the week prior to the U.S. Open.
In 2019, it replaced Firestone as a summer WGC venue. Brooks Koepka outdueled Rory McIlroy to win the event held July 25-28.
In play is a 7,237-yard par-70 opened in 1988. It was designed by Ron Prichard with consultation from pro players Hubert Green and Fuzzy Zoeller.
The fairways are zoyzia grass and greens are Bermuda.
This course ranked tougher than average on the schedule when it hosted average to weak fields, but I envision a WGC caliber field to have more success here.
The fairways and greens are relatively small, but there are still plenty of opportunities for top players to use their length as an advantage.
Seven par-4s measure 450+ yards on the scorecard. The rough is fairly playable for today’s powerful generation.
Koepka averaged nearly 310 yards off the tee in 2019 and was able to pull away from shorter hitters chasing in the top five.
Strokes gained approach, proximity from the rough and scrambling are a few key stats to watch this week.
The early weather forecast in Tennessee this week looks like it could be rainy and sticky with temperatures in the 70s and 80s. That’s good news for bombers.
We’re oh so close to the long-awaited first major championship of the year next week at TPC Harding Park. For now, it’s time to get locked into the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational and use it as a barometer for who could be peaking at the right time.