Beginning last September in Wine Country, the PGA TOUR regular season concluded last week on Tobacco Road. Only the top 70 players from the season-long-FedExCup standings, who survived the previous 44 events, were presented with a ticket to win the FedExCup Championship.
For the second consecutive season, the FedExCup Playoffs will begin at TPC Southwind in Memphis. The design from Ron Prichard has hosted an event since its inception on the PGA TOUR in 1989. The club has hosted three World Golf Championship events and the first event of the FedExCup Playoffs in the last four seasons.
Playing to Par-70, the design has never stretched over 7,300 yards. Tipping at 7,243 yards, TPC Southwind has 11 water penalty areas and 419 Bermudagrass rough off the tee to provide the defense. Into the greens, some of the smallest on TOUR at 4,200 square feet on average, the Champion Bermuda provides the perfect surfaces to hole birdie putts and save pars from off the green. This year, there isn’t a pesky 36-hole cut to worry about. Everyone will have four rounds to attempt to advance to the BMW Championship next week in Chicago at Olympia Fields.
Top of the Board
Wash. Rinse. Repeat. If Scottie Scheffler (11/2) is in the field, he’s on the top of the heap. Check the stats below for more proof. With solo fourteenth as his best result, this is hardly his happy hunting ground. With difficult driving conditions and small targets for approach shots, this layout SHOULD fit him perfectly. Well-rested after three weeks off, I’ll be interested to see how quickly he knocks off the rust.
Runner-up at the Open Championship, Jon Rahm (8/1) has spent the last two weeks chasing his kids around. Posting top-10 paydays in two of his previous three visits, including T5 last year, he will have 72 holes to play himself back into shape. The stakes for the players at the top of the Bet365.com board are minimal. The studs have earned their place in the final at East Lake two weeks from now.
Rory McIlroy (9/1) completes the typical troika atop the board in the most important events on TOUR. Like his fellow stars above, he’s never lifted the trophy at FedExCup Playoffs, WGC-FESJI, or FedEx St. Jude Classic played on this layout. Leading by one after 54 holes in 2019, McIlroy settled for T4 after closing with 71. It would be daft to suggest he cannot win this week, but his focus will be on winning the FedExCup Playoffs for the fourth time at East Lake, two weeks from Sunday.
Patrick Cantlay (16/1) has confounded gamers recently, but this is his time of year. The last two seasons he’s perked up on the East Coast, winning the BMW Championship in Delaware and Maryland. His success here has been limited to T12 on his debut, while his last three haven’t been inside T20. Saving a win ticket for next week in Chicago, on his preferred Bentgrass, will be my angle.
If there’s a limited-field, no-cut event, the first name that jumps off the page is Xander Schauffele (18/1). Winning at East Lake in his first attempt at the FedExCup Playoffs in 2017, he served notice. The following season he added two more wins in fields with fewer than 80 players. Sitting No. 16 in the FedExCup standings, he’s hit the top 25 in 10 of his last 11 worldwide starts.
Viktor Hovland (18/1) ripped late spring to shreds with top-10 paydays at the first two major championships of the season before finally breaking through at the Memorial Tournament. Navigating a Jack Nicklaus design where the winning total was eight-under-par, the Norwegian won in a playoff to pick up his first win in the continental United States. His last four starts have collected T29 or better, with the best paycheck cashing T13. Making his fourth start in Memphis, his T20 payday was the best of his three visits.
Angles This Week
A few titbits jumped off the page this week.
The last two winners on this property won for the first time on TOUR. Nobody had ever won in their first FedExCup Playoff event before Will Zalatoris (not entered; injured) did it last year. (Camilo Villegas won the final two events in 2008, but not the first one.) Of the 70 players in this week’s field, only Harris English has won before at TPC Southwind – and that was back in 2013.
The last two events on the property have resulted in playoffs. Last year a total of 15 under was necessary to play extra holes. It took 16 under to win the 2021 edition. Par is a solid score, but the last three editions have produced 30 players posting 10 under or better.
Not surprisingly, the scoring average has remained sub-70 since the field was reduced to WGC status followed by the top 125 in the FedExCup last season. The elite players, and fewer of them, will not produce scores which, will inflate the scoring average. With the pressure and prestige of cashing in a FedExCup event or WGC opportunity, each shot will be more measured, especially with the prize pools and status awaiting the top finishers.
The bubble entering FedExCup Playoffs Event 1:
45. J.T. Poston
46. Tom Hoge
47. Mackenzie Hughes
48. Cameron Young
49. Lucas Glover
50. Nick Hardy
51. Alex Smalley
52. Thomas Detry
53. Taylor Montgomery
54. Davis Riley
55. Brandon Wu
The winner takes home $3.6 million of the $20 million purse, plus 2,000 FedExCup points.
Others to Consider:
Sam Burns (30/1): The Louisiana native just needs to follow the river upstream to find another track where he’s played well. With five wins to his name, four have come on Bermudagrass greens, including his WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club earlier this year. Heat, humidity, and slick Bermuda should have his full attention this week. After losing a playoff in 2021 and cashing T20 last year, I know it has mine.
Matt Fitzpatrick (35/1): The Englishman has gone off the boil recently. With three top-10 paydays from four starts in the home of the blues, I’m hoping the tight fairways and small greens perk him back to life. One of only two players who entered this week with three top-10 results, I’ll back him to add to his total.
Byeong-Hun An (55/1): Hitting the podium in two of his last three events, the Korean will look to add to the list of first-time winners on this track. Playing from the final group in 2020, his final round 73 dropped him back to T12. Matching his current form with a taste of blood makes for a more than decent chance this week.
SG: Tee to Green
With tight driving conditions, small targets on approach, and water in play on 11 of 18 holes, getting from Point A to Point B this week will be the focus. Only 22 acres of fairway include just 25 yards, on average, for the landing areas. Navigating approach shots to Champion Bermuda greens measuring just over 4,200 square feet on average will be rewarded by keeping the ball on the proper level. The previous six winners have all ranked sixth or better in this category, with four of the winners leading the field.
|T8||Tom Kim, Aaron Rai|
|T8||Thomas Detry, Brian Harman|
With 15 under the average winning score, circles are necessary on the card. The scoring average for the event the last four seasons has been under 70. Navigating the twelve Par-4 holes is required. Taking advantage of putting the ball in the fairway is the first step. Then, it’s time to dial in the wedges and roll in putts on the perfect Champion Bermuda greens. Since 2019, the players to hold the trophy at the end of play on Sunday have ranked first, second or third in this category.
Andrew Putnam (125/1): A pair of top-10 finishes includes a Sunday playing from the final group. Cashed seven straight entering this week.
Cam Davis (80/1): I love momentum. The Aussie needed a T7-T10 regular season finish to qualify. No reason to pack up and go home now!
Lee Hodges (90/1): Life changed with his dominant victory two weeks ago at the 3M Open in Minnesota. Playing his first FedExCup Playoffs last season, he opened and closed with 65 in Memphis and shared 13th-place.
The Alabama native will the humidity and Bermuda!