WGC FedEx St Jude Invitational Preview, Picks & Analysis
Brooks Koepka defends his WGC FedEx St Jude Invitational title at TPC Southwind, Memphis, desperately hoping to rediscover the form that took him to the top of the world rankings. Ahead of the 3M Championship, the four-time major champion found himself lying in 156th place in the FedEx Cup standings, with his world ranking having fallen to sixth.
This team last year he looked well nigh unbeatable but he has struggled horribly since sustaining a knee injury. And since the restart he has been unrecognisable, finishing 32nd at the Charles Schwab Challenge, tied for seventh at the RBC Heritage, missing the cut at the Workday Charity Open and ending the week at the Memorial Tournament in a tie for 62nd place after a miserable final round of 80.
The 30-year-old insists that he is fully fit and claimed that his game was close at Harbour Town following a session with his coach, Butch Harmon. But the evidence suggests otherwise and he missed the cut at the 3M Open last week. Last year he outplayed Rory McIlroy on his way to what was his first WGC title. This will be his sixth appearance at TPC Southwind, where he has also finished second and third, and he will be hoping to draw on those good memories as he seeks to arrest his alarming slump.
He will be joined by a world-class field that also includes Collin Morikawa, Bryson DeChambeau, Webb Simpson, Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Daniel Berger. Once again, the action will be played out without fans. Somewhat surprisingly, Tiger Woods has chosen to sit this one out, meaning he has still only played once since the action resumed and will be seriously undercooked for next month’s US PGA Championship.
Koepka is not the only one with problems. Before the shutdown, Rory McIlroy had played in seven events, winning one and finishing no worse than a tie for fifth in the six others. It has been a very different story since the restart. In four events his best finish has been a tie for 11th place at the Travelers Championship.
He was in perfect position to win the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial after 36 holes but had a miserable weekend, and also struggled at Harbour Town, after which he bemoaned the difficulty of the course.
And after the Travelers he announced that he was going to put his clubs away for a couple of weeks. Well, that didn’t work out too well either as he battled his swing in the Memorial, closing out the week with a 78 as he finished in a tie for 32nd place. Worse than that, Jon Rahm’s victory meant that the Spaniard displaced McIlroy at the top of the rankings.
The Northern Irishman has always been a streaky player. When he is good he is brilliant. But when he is not on top of game he sometimes gives the impression that he would rather be anywhere else but on a golf course. It is to be hoped that he quickly finds the missing link because, at his best, he still remains the most exciting talent in the game.
Morikawa, who defeated Justin Thomas in a thrilling three-hole playoff at the Workday Charity Open for his second career PGA Tour victory, is set to make his first career start in Memphis. The 23-year-old moved to 13th in the world rankings after that victory and has rapidly become one of the most consistent players on the PGA Tour.
DeChambeau, whose transformation has been the major talking point in golf, will be looking to put a disappointing performance at the Memorial behind him as quickly as possible. Dustin Johnson will be one to keep an eye on this week. His victory at the Travelers was his 21st on the PGA Tour and marked the 13th season in a row that he had recorded at least one win. He has also won twice here, in 2012 and 2016. And he has a pretty impressive record in the WGC events.
It will also be fascinating to see how Rahm copes with the extra scrutiny that comes with being the world’s top-ranked golfer. His talent has never been in doubt, but his temperament is a different matter altogether and he needs to be aware that his every move and utterance will now be closely monitored.
It was won in 2015 by Shane Lowry, in 2016 by Dustin Johnson, in 2017 by Hideki Matsuyama, in 2018 by Justin Thomas and last year by Brooks Koepka.
Jon Rahm. Flying high
Bryson DeChambeau. Eager to prove Muirfield Village was a blip
Dustin Johnson. Adores this course
Jon Rahm. Oozing confidence
Bryson DeChambeau. This is a bomber’s paradise - and he is the big bomber
Dustin Johnson. Back to his best
Collin Morikawa. Incredibly consistent
Rickie Fowler. Time for a big week
Justin Thomas. Still smarting from loss to Morikawa
Jordan Spieth. I am keeping the faith
Webb Simpson. Hugely underrated
Tommy Fleetwood. Shaking off the ring rust
Brooks Koepka. Looking to draw on some great memories
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