The 2020 Tokyo Olympics competition has now come and gone, and the playoffs are just around the corner. This week, though, the best in the world will tee it up one last time this regular season in Memphis at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. Last year's tournament was thrilling as Justin Thomas closed in a frenzy to clip Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson. With the quality of field present -- J.T. is defending his title, Xander Schauffele is trying to back up his gold medal and Collin Morikawa is trying to add to his summer haul -- this year's iteration should be just as fun to follow.
Let's take a closer look at this week's contest with odds provided via Caesars Sportsbook.
Event: WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational | Dates: Aug. 5-8
Location: TPC Southwind -- Memphis, Tennessee
Par: 70 | Purse: $10.5 million
Three things to know
1. Ball-strikers: It is reductive and possibly even repetitive to tout ball-strikers at a high-level golf event, but as Ben Coley pointed out here, eight of the last 10 winners here led the week in strokes gained from tee to green. Furthermore, the greens at TPC Southwind (at 4,300 square feet) are some of the smallest on the PGA Tour. This favors the most precise iron players as well as those most adept at getting up and down from potentially problematic points on this golf course.
2. Ryder run: This is the stretch run for Ryder Cup qualifying for both sides as Whistling Straits looms just under two months away. On the PGA Tour side, most of the golfers in contention for the six automatic qualifying positions have just three or four tournaments left (including this week's). Here's a look at everyone outside of qualifying who can assure themselves a spot on the team with a nice last month.
7. Jordan Spieth
8. Patrick Reed
9. Harris English
10. Patrick Cantlay
11. Daniel Berger
12. Tony Finau
13. Webb Simpson
14. Scottie Scheffler
15. Jason Kokrak
16. Billy Horschel
17. Phil Mickelson
18. Max Homa
Most (if not all) of the players inside the top 10 on this list will be captain's picks, but the last few spots are probably up for grabs. If somebody from outside the top 12 or so wins this week, that's almost certainly going to get them on the team. There's a lot at stake, even outside the money, the tournament title and the points this weekend in Memphis.
3. Xander's golden tour: For just the second time in the last 100 years, there is a men's golf gold medalist. Schauffele arrived in Memphis with the disc around his neck in triumph, and my interest is piqued about whether this will lead to him asserting his will on more tournaments in the future. That may or may not happen this week in Memphis, but expectations are only growing for him.
Grading the field
Other than Rahm, there's not much missing from this field. This summer has featured feast and famine. With the way the schedule breaks, you normally get two pretty lean weeks followed by a mammoth field and repeat the process throughout. That should change in two weeks when the FedEx Cup Playoffs start with The Northern Trust as we get all the best full-time hitters until the Tour Championship. Grade: A+
2021 WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational picks
|Winner (12-1): Koepka has quietly (?) put together a pretty insane summer starting with the PGA Championship in May. In that stretch, he has a T2, MC, T4, T5 and T6 and finished in the top six in six of his last 10 starts. He also has a win on this course and comes in after a nice little break following the Open Championship. Oh, and he ranks No. 5 in this field in strokes gained from tee to green over the last two months.|
|Top 10 (+240): Cantlay's numbers are better than everyone else's numbers this summer, even if the results haven't been there consistently. He does have three top 15s in his last four outings (including at a major championship), and these small greens should fit his iron play nicely. He's the only player in this field gaining at least .5 strokes per round in every strokes-gained category.|
|Sleeper (55-1): We need to discuss Sergio Garcia. I'm not sure anyone in the world is hitting it better, and I'm not sure anyone in the world (not named Hideki Matsuyama) is putting it worse. He flushed it at the 3M Open but didn't contend because he made nothing. That has to flip at some point. Only Xander Schauffele has a better strokes gained approach number since the beginning of June.|