- Mar 6, 2018
Best bets for the WGC-FedEx St. Jude InvitationalESPN PLUS ($ MATERIAL)
The PGA Tour heads to Tennessee this week for the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. Justin Thomas won this event last season but hasn't been in good form in months.
Which players are the favorites this time around, who offers good odds and what props are worth considering?
Sports betting deputy editor David Bearman and betting analysts Tyler Fulghum and Anita Marks offer their best bets.
Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill unless otherwise noted.
Bets to win
Brooks Koepka (+1200) to win; Top-10 finish (+120)
Bearman: After a few events of seeing very short odds on the favorites (Jon Rahm and Collin Morikawa were both single digits in last two events), we are back to a whole bunch of options at the top of the odds board. Koepka is a slight favorite as of press time and I think justifiably so, for multiple reasons. First, when looking at the others up at the top, even though Morikawa and Schauffele are coming off career-defying wins at the Open and Olympics respectively, you have to wonder about what's left in the tank. Both of them went to England and then Japan and are now flying back to Memphis for this stacked field. I know they aren't flying middle seat in coach, but that's still a lot of travel. Same for defending champion Justin Thomas, who did the same travels, but didn't win overseas. On the other side, Mr. Koepka has not tee'd it up since the Open and is coming off another strong finish at a major as his final round 65 got him a T-6.
In fact, his last five events read like this: T-2 (PGA Champ), MC (Palmetto), T-4 (U.S. Open), T-5 (Travelers), T-6 (Open). He won this event in 2019 and was runner-up last year. Prior to TPC Southwind hosting a WGC event, Koepka had two additional Top 3 finishes at this course during the regular PGA Tour stop. Strokes gained: tee-to-green is going to be the money stat this week as five of the last six champions at this course have finished 1st in that category and the one who didn't, Koepka in 2016 was T-6th. Entering this week, Brooks is 3rd on Tour in this category and 4th overall. Per fantasynational.com, in the last 24 rounds at Southwind, Koepka is 2nd in shots gained total, 3rd off the tee, 5th in ball striking and 6th tee-to-green. He loves the course, has won the event and is playing great right now. Add the fact he hasn't had to criss-cross the globe like the other favorites and this sets up to be a Brooksie week.
Justin Thomas (+1800)Fulghum: JT won this event last season and finished T-12 in 2019. He enters the week ranked 8th in field in SG: APP and specializes in tiny greens and courses with water danger (2nd in field to Collin Morikawa in both). Eight of Thomas' 16 career wins have come at "No-Cut" events.
Daniel Berger (+2200) to win; Top-10 finish (+190)Bearman: With our Koepka pick above, we talked about how Brooks has won this event and also done well at this course before it was a limited field WGC event. Berger has the same qualifications, having finished runner up last year to Thomas and winning the St. Jude event in both 2016 and 2017. He's not as high in the tee-to-green rankings as Koepka, but comes in a respectable 29th and 14th overall. Berger is also 8th in hitting greens, which is important with a Southwind course that has only 4,300 square feet of greens. Berger has consistently fared well in tough fields, going T-7 and T-8 in the last two majors and had a T-9 at TPC Sawgrass and won at Pebble this year, two courses that draw comparisons to TPC Southwind. He led the field tee-to-green in his back-to-back wins in 2016-17 and if he copies that pattern again, a third win here could be in the cards.
Webb Simpson (+3300) to win; Top-10 finish (+275), Top-20 finish (+120)Bearman: Sticking with the same formula of having done well at this course, both as a WGC event and not as a WGC event, we find one of our favorite golfers in Simpson. Webb was runner-up to Koepka in 2019, T-12 last year and also has a T-3 at the St. Jude event in 2014. His tee-to-green (44th) and shots gained total (22nd) are not as good as they usually are as Simpson has been in a mini slump (on his standards) with two missed cuts (at the U.S. Open and Rocket Mortgage) sandwiched between a T-30 at the PGA and T-19 at The Open. However, one thing has stayed the same for Simpson over time -- he leads the Tour in scrambling. I played Simpson as a T-10 and T-20 at The Open a few weeks back for this very reason and he got us a nice +225 return on the T-20. As mentioned above, this course has very small greens, so those that can get up and down and scramble their ways to saved scores will have a chance this week. JT was 6th in scrambling en route to his win 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 of the others, Fitzpatrick did not play this course before it's WGC days, only teeing it up here the last two seasons as a World Golf Championship event. No worries as he finished T-4 and T-6, one of only two players (Koepka) to finish in the top 10 in both events. The 26-year old is looking for his first PGA Tour win, but he does have six European Tour wins on his resume. While he only has one top-10 finish in a major despite high expectations, he does have five top 10s in WGC events, including two here in Memphis and a T-11 earlier this year at the Concession in Florida. He nearly won the Scottish Open (T-2) the week before The Open Championship and has rested since.
Brooks Koepka Top-10 finish (+120), matchup (-120) over Jordan Spieth, matchup (-137) over Justin ThomasMarks: Koepka has won and finished 2nd on this track the last two years. Long hitters have a great advantage to avoid the long rough and he ranks 16th on Tour this season in DD. He also putts extremely well on Bermuda greens.
Webb Simpson Top-20 finish (+120), matchup (-137) over Patrick ReedMarks: Simpson has been inconsistent this season due to a neck issue, but finished in the top 20 in The Open. TPC Southwind plays to his strengths and he has finished T-12 and T-2 in his last two appearances. Webb ranks 21st in DA and 17th in putting this season.
Daniel Berger Top-10 finish (+160)Fulghum: Berger has two wins at TPC Southwind (2016 & 2017 when it was a full-field event) and was T-2 in 2020. In addition, he is in good from with a T-7 at the U.S. Open and an T-8 at The Open Championship. He has a Top-10 finish in seven of his last 14 events played.
Dustin Johnson Top-10 finish (+175)Bearman: Johnson fits the same narrative of having done exceptionally well at the TPC Southwind course (won in 2012 and 2018 and two other top 10s) and also finishing well during its two years as a WGC event (T-12, T-20), but his recent form scares me off. He just isn't playing Dustin Johnson-level golf right now, so I can't take him to win. While he did start The Open Championship 68-65 to get in contention, his 73 on Saturday was all too familiar, as was the missed cut the following week in Minnesota as one of the tournament favorites. 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 course and six WGC wins (2nd to Tiger's 18) are the reasons I am throwing some change on a Top-10 finish. We all know he has the capability to turn it on and his "A" game is as good as any.
Billy Horschel Top-20 finish (+190)Fulghum: Horschel has finished in the Top 25 in each of the two WGC versions of this event and top 10 in five of seven events played at TPC Southwind dating back to 2013. Additionally, he ranks 17th in the field in SG: OTT over last 20 rounds and excels at putting on Bermuda grass greens.
Daniel Berger Top-5 finish (+450), matchup (-137) over Rory McIlroyMarks: Berger has won this event twice, and tied for second here last year. He ranks 8th in GIR, and 27th in putting this season. His iron play has been 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 came into the tournament ranked outside the top 10 in GIR. Morikawa ranks 2nd in GIR this season, and is the hands down the best ball striker on tour. If he could putt better on Bermuda greens I would pick 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 not adding up with his game right now. Since storming to a win at Sawgrass back in March, JT has zero top 10s and only two Top-20s in 10 PGA Tour events. His putting has really let him down as he is 212th on Tour in putting strokes gained since his win in mid-March. Add the fact that he is one of those that went England-Japan-Memphis in the last two weeks and I am fine laying the 37 cents with someone I think is going to win this week.