TPC Southwind is slowly drying out as fierce thunderstorms blew through the Memphis area on Tuesday. While players were able to take advantage of the soft conditions in the first round, Friday was a different story as the typically firm and fast conditions of the course began to bite back.
While the playing conditions may have changed, the man who was up to the task remained the same. Overnight leader J.J. Spaun will sleep on the lead once again, as the Texas Open winner will head into the weekend at 11 under and a one-stroke lead over Sepp Straka and Troy Merritt. Spaun backed up his scorching round of 8-under 62 to kick off the St. Jude Championship with a 3-under 67 Friday afternoon to maintain his edge over the field.
Straka was the man to climb the leaderboard in the morning hours of the second round, as he followed up an opening 6-under 64 with a second-round 66. A winner at the Honda Classic earlier this season, the former Georgia Bulldog has since struggled to find such quality and arrived in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, having missed the cut in his last six tournaments.
Behind the three men in double-digits under par are some of the hottest players in the world. Tony Finau sits at 8 under and looks to become the first man since Dustin Johnson in 2017 to win in three straight starts. Also sitting at 8 under is the Champion Golfer of the Year Cameron Smith, who will look to avenge his 72nd-hole disappointment at TPC Southwind from a year ago.
1. J.J. Spaun (-11)
Some may believe the true lead of this tournament resides with those at 8 under, but Spaun should have some staying power on this leaderboard. Collecting his first career victory at TPC San Antonio in the spring, the Los Angeles native displayed serious resolve down the stretch and throughout his tenure on the PGA Tour.
He has gotten around TPC Southwind in a relatively stress-free fashion up to this point as well. Carding 13 birdies against just two bogeys, he has been able to limit the damage and understands when missing a fairway that par is a good score. Sitting fifth in strokes gained tee to green and fourth in strokes gained putting, it is no wonder he finds himself at the top of the leaderboard and in contention for his second trophy of the season.
T2. Sepp Straka, Troy Merritt (-10)
4. Denny McCarthy (-9)
T5. Brian Harman, Tony Finau, Cameron Smith, Ryan Palmer (-8)
Technically, Finau is the defending champion, as he broke a five-year hiatus from the winner's circle with a victory at The Northern Trust, but let's change gears. Another player to have made headlines recently is Smith, who is rumored -- to put it lightly -- to be heading to the LIV Golf Series following the completion of the FedEx Cup Playoffs.
The Australian has been terrific in 2022 as he dueled Jon Rahm at the Tournament of Champions, grabbed the largest purse of the season at the Players Championship and captured the Claret Jug at St. Andrews. Smith will enter the weekend as the betting favorite as he catapulted himself to the first page of the leaderboard courtesy of an eagle on the par-5 16th. Having already collected just shy of $10 million in the regular season, he has now positioned himself to potentially triple that total with a strong postseason run.
Scheffler, McIlroy lowlight those sent packing early
Beginning the week with more than a 1,000-point edge in the FedEx Cup, Scottie Scheffler is in danger of relinquishing the top spot in the standings. In possession of the lead for more than 20 weeks, the world No. 1 may see a different number next to his name at the BMW Championship after missing the cut at TPC Southwind.
Last season saw Collin Morikawa enter the postseason as the top man, only for him to fall to 28th by the time the Tour Championship culminated. At the very worst, Scheffler will only drop to No. 2, and he may avoid such movement as his misstep was not the only one.
Fresh off a two-week break from golf, Rory McIlroy showed considerable rust around TPC Southwind. Signing for rounds of 70-69, the man who entered the week sixth in the FedEx Cup standings ultimately missed the cut by a single stroke and will have his work cut out for him next week if he is to enter the Tour Championship within reach of the leader.
The good news for McIlroy is world No. 1 and FedEx Cup regular-season leader Scheffler is not in a position to extend his lead. With potentially a new man atop the standings, the world No. 3 can take solace in his history at East Lake, where he has raised the FedEx Cup twice before.
In total, six players inside the top 20 of the FedEx Cup standings will not be around for the weekend, as Hideki Matsuyama (No. 11), Jordan Spieth (No. 15), Tom Hoge (No. 17) and Billy Horschel (No. 18) will head to Wilmington earlier than expected.
Biggest FedEx Cup movers from Friday
|Name||Current FedEx Cup Ranking||Projected FedEx Cup Ranking||Would Make BMW Championship?|
2022 St. Jude Championship updated odds and picks
- Cameron Smith: 23/4
- Tony Finau: 13/2
- J.J. Spaun: 17/2
- Troy Merritt: 10-1
- Denny McCarthy: 14-1
- Justin Thomas: 14-1
- Matt Fitzpatrick: 14-1
- Sepp Straka: 16-1
- Will Zalatoris: 18-1
- Sam Burns: 20-1
- Brian Harman: 20-1
With 26 players within five strokes of the lead, this remains anyone's ballgame with 36 holes to be played. We saw last year with Bryson DeChambeau and Harris English that TPC Southwind can be a difficult golf course to close on, as the water hazards tend to get ever so slightly bigger when the pressure is on. Factor in the FedEx Cup Playoffs and this should be ramped up a touch. Because of this, it may be prudent to search among those names at 5 under -- or maybe even 4 under.
Jon Rahm is the obvious name, as he is one of those at 4 under and listed at 40-1. Ranking seventh in strokes gained tee to green, the Spaniard has been unable to get things rolling on the greens and has a trio of three putts to his name already. The putter has been an issue all season, but it could be worth an investment. If not Rahm, Rickie Fowler is still a name which is still intriguing at 300-1. He is a long shot for a reason, but his off-the-tee numbers have been incredible and his approach statistics are negatively skewed by two iron shots that found the water on Friday. Everything else looks good in his game, and he has shown a liking for TPC Southwind in the past.