The PGA Tour leaves for Tennessee this week for the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. Justin Thomas won this event last season but has not been in good shape for months.
Which players are the favorites this time around, who offers good chances and which props are worth considering?
David Bearman, deputy editor of sports betting, and betting analysts Tyler Fulghum and Anita Marks present their best bets.
Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill, unless otherwise stated.
Betting to win
Brooks Koepka (+1200) to win; Top 10 Finish (+120)
Bearman: After a few opportunities to see a very short chance on the favorites (Jon Rahm and Collin Morikawa were both single digits in the last two occasions), we are back to a whole bunch of options at the top of the board. Koepka is a slight favorite at press time, and I think rightly for several reasons. If you first look at the others at the top, even though Morikawa and Schauffele achieved a career-challenging victory at the Open and the Olympics respectively, you have to wonder what’s left in the tank. Both are to England and then Japan and now fly back to Memphis for this staple field. I know they do not ride the middle seat in the bus, but it is still a lot of travel. The same goes for defending champion Justin Thomas, who undertook the same trips but did not win overseas. On the other hand, Mr. Koepka has not started since the Open, and he still got a strong finish at a major, as his last round 65 earned him a T-6.
In fact, his last five events read as follows: T-2 (PGA Champion), MC (Palmetto), T-4 (US Open), T-5 (Travelers), T-6 (Open). He won this event in 2019 and was runner-up last year. Before TPC Southwind hosted a WGC event, Koepka achieved two additional Top 3 finishes at this track during the regular PGA Tour stop. Strokes gained: tea-to-green becomes the money state this week, as five of the last six champions on this track finished 1st in the category and the one who did not, Koepka in 2016 was T-6th. Brooks is in 3rd place in the category this week and 4th overall. Per fantasynational.com, in the last 24 rounds at Southwind, Koepka is 2nd overall, 3rd from the tee, 5th in ball attack and 6th tee-to-green. He loves the track, has won the event and is currently playing excellently. Add that he does not have to cross like the other favorites all over the world, and it becomes a Brooksie week.
Justin Thomas (+1800)
Fulghum: JT won this event last season and finished T-12 in 2019. He enters the week in 8th place in the field: SG: APP and specializes in small greens and courses with water hazard (2nd in the field for Collin Morikawa in both) . Eight of Thomas’ 16 career victories came at ‘No-Cut’ events.
Daniel Berger (+2200) to win; Top 10 Finish (+190)
Bearman: With our Koepka selection above, we talked about how Brooks won this event and also did well during this course before it was a limited field WGC event. Berger has the same qualifications, after finishing second last year for Thomas and the St. Jude event won in 2016 and 2017. overall. Berger is also the 8th in the greens, which is important with a Southwind track that has only 4,300 square feet of greens. Berger has consistently performed well in difficult areas, with T-7 and T-8 in the last two majors, and he had a T-9 at TPC Sawgrass and won at Pebble this year, two courses that draw comparisons with TPC Southwind . He led the battlefield in the consecutive victories in 2016-’17, and if he copies the pattern again, a third victory could lie in the cards here.
Webb Simpson (+3300) to win; Top 10 Finish (+275), Top 20 Finish (+120)
Bearman: We stick to the same formula that we did well during this course, both as a WGC event and not as a WGC event, and we find one of our favorite golfers in Simpson. Webb was the runner-up of Koepka in 2019, T-12 last year, and also won a T-3 at the St. Jude meeting in 2014. His tee-to-green (44th) and total shots (22nd) are not as good as usual as Simpson was in a small slump (by his standards) with two missed cuts (at the US Open and Rocket Mortgage) between a T-30 at the PGA and T-19 at The Open. One thing, however, remained the same for Simpson over time – he leads the tour in a scramble. I played Simpson as T-10 and T-20 at The Open a few weeks back for this reason, and he got a good +225 return on the T-20. As mentioned above, this track has very small greens, so those who can get up and down and walk their way to saved counts will get a chance this week. JT was 6th on his way to his victory last year and Koepka led the field in 2019.
Matt Fitzpatrick (+3300) to win; Top-20 Finish (+110), Top English Player (+333)
Bearman: Unlike most others, Fitzpatrick did not play this course before the WGC days, but only attended it as a World Golf Championship for the past two seasons. Do not worry, because he finishes T-4 and T-6, one of only two players (Koepka) who finishes in the top-10 in both events. The 26-year-old is looking for his first PGA victory, but he does have six European tournaments on his CV. Although he achieved only one top-10 in a major despite high expectations, he did make five top-10s in WGC events, including two here in Memphis and a T-11 earlier this year during the Florida Concession. He won the Scottish Open (T-2) almost the week before the Open Championship and has rested ever since.
Brooks Koepka Top-10 finishes (+120), match (-120) over Jordan Spieth, match (-137) over Justin Thomas
Marks: Koepka has won the past two years and finished 2nd on the track. Long strokes have a big advantage to avoid the long shift, and he is the 16th on Tour this season in DD. He also sits very well with Bermuda greens.
Webb Simpson Top-20 Finish (+120), Match (-137) over Patrick Reed
Marks: Simpson was inconsistent this season due to a neck problem, but finished in the top 20 in The Open. TPC Southwind plays his strongest and he has completed T-12 and T-2 in his last two games. Webb ranks 21st in the DA and 17th in the hole this season.
Daniel Berger Top-10 Finish (+160)
Fulghum: Berger has two wins at TPC Southwind (2016 and 2017 when it was a full-field event) and was T-2 in 2020. In addition, he has a good result of a T-7 at the US Open and a T-8 at the Open Championship. He has topped a Top 10 spot in seven of his last 14 events.
Dustin Johnson Top 10 Finishes (+175)
Bearman: Johnson fits the same story that he performed exceptionally well on the TPC Southwind track (won in 2012 and 2018 and two other top-10s) and also finished well during his two years as a WGC event (T-12, T-20), but his recent form scares me. He’s not currently playing golf at Dustin Johnson level, so I can not beat him to win. While he did start the open championship 68-65 to come into contention, his 73 was all too familiar on Saturday, just like the missed track the following week in Minnesota as one of the favorites in the tournament. The T-8 in England and T-10 at the Palmetto (as the favorite in his home state) are his only top-10s since February. His familiarity with the track and six WGC wins (2nd against Tiger’s 18) are the reasons why I make some changes to a Top-10 finish. We all know he has the ability to turn it on, and his A game is as good as any.
Billy Horschel Top 20 Finish (+190)
Fulghum: Horschel finished in the top 25 in each of the two WGC versions of this event and the top 10 in five of seven events played at TPC Southwind, dating back to 2013. In addition, he ranks 17th in the field in SG : OTT in the last 20 rounds and excels in attracting Bermuda lawns.
Daniel Berger Top-5 finish (+450), match (-137) over Rory Mcilroy
Marks: Berger won this event twice and ended in a draw here last year. He ranks 8th in GIR, and 27th in the hole this season. His iron game was on point and with his success on this track, a Top-5 finish should be a walk in the fairway!
Collin Morikawa (-155 DK) over Rory McIlroy, top-5 finish (+275)
Marks: In the last 11 years, only one winner has entered the tournament which was outside the top 10 in GIR. Morikawa ranks second in GIR this season, and is definitely the best ball attacker on tour. If he could have sat better on Bermuda greens, I would have picked him to win.
Brooks Koepka (-137) over Justin Thomas
Bearman: I gave all the reasons above that I like Brooks this week. As for Thomas, there is something that does not fit with his game. Since winning a win at Sawgrass in March, JT has had zero top-10s and only two top-20s in 10 PGA tournaments. His poll really let him down, as he is 212nd on Tour in the strokes he has scored since his victory in mid-March. Add that he’s one of those who’s gone to England-Japan-Memphis in the last two weeks, and I did well to lay the 37 cents with someone I think is going to win this week.