Original article published 17 October 2022
The FedExCup Playoffs have arrived giving us a three-week rush towards the lucrative season-long title on the PGA Tour.
It all begins at the FedEx St. Jude championship, a new slot for TPC Southwind in Memphis that has hosted a PGA Tour event in different facades since 1989.
The course plays as a par-70 at 7,243 yards with Champion Bermuda putting surfaces, two Par-5s and tight Zoysia fairways. Add 75 bunkers, 11 water penalty areas on 11 holes plus 2.5 inches of Bermuda rough catching errant shots and some of the smallest greens on the PGA Tour and we’ve got a challenge ahead.
When we look at some of the 72-hole tournament match ups this week we need to break down the key stats once again as we look to rebound from our 1/3 week last week!
Given TPC Southwind has seen the most balls in the water on the PGA Tour since 2003 at 5,989 (next comes TPC Sawgrass with 4,809), accuracy becomes quite significant as does avoiding big numbers.
The last three winners have made six or less bogeys for the week so let’s dive into Bogey Avoidance.
Before last season seven of the last nine winners in Memphis led the field in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green. The 2021 winner, Abraham Ancer, was fourth last season.
As is the case most weeks, Strokes Gained: Approach the Green is also important. The only winners in the last six finishing outside the top 10 in this category were 11th and 12th. Players who can hit the smaller greens will be rewarded.
With 10 Par-4 holes on the card the last four winners have slotted T3-T2-1-1 in Par-4 Scoring. With six of these par-4s coming in the 450–500-yard slot we can further bite down on these numbers.
Thomas is a former champion at TPC Southwind and a former FedExCup champion showing an aptitude at both the occasion and the course. He enters this post-season seeded eighth after a regular season with nine top 10s, including victory in the PGA championship.
Scheffler boasts four wins, including the Masters, and enters the Playoffs as the number one seed. His history at TPC Southwind includes two top 15s in his last two starts.
“I've played this course a bunch of times now, this will be my fourth tournament that I've played here. It's a really good golf course, you've got to hit good shots, hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens,” Scheffler said from Memphis.
“It's one of those golf courses, if you're playing really good golf, you can score really well and shoot some low scores, but when you start hitting the ball offline and you start missing fairways and not putting the ball in the right spots, you can get in trouble in a hurry. It's a really good separating golf course and I think the guys that are playing well are going to score well and the guys that aren't are not going to score well.”
Key Stat Ranks (PGA Tour)
Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green: Thomas 3rd, Scheffler 8th
Strokes Gained: Approach: Thomas 5th, Scheffler 6th
Bogey Avoidance: Thomas 10th, Scheffler 16th
Par 4 Scoring: Thomas 1st, Scheffler 3rd
Par 4 450-500 yards: Thomas 3rd, Scheffler 27th
This looks like the opportunity of the week! While Scheffler has had the better season by some distance, the Playoffs set up brilliantly for Thomas. He’s won at TPC Southwind before and he is likely to be the only player with some quality experience at Wilmington Country Club from his Palmer Cup days. He’s also won at East Lake. We smell an upset.
Finau comes into the Playoffs on a serious heater having won in back-to-back starts before having a well-earned week off. There is a trend of thought he will continue on his run of form but if you are looking for an opportunity at longer odds this could be your chance.
Finau has failed to finish in the top 25 in four previous trips to TPC Southwind and by his own admission is not a huge fan of the Bermuda greens.
“It's a great golf course. Not the grass I prefer, bermuda… growing up in Utah, we don't deal with bermuda, but it's a golf course I have had some nice rounds on,” Finau said.
“I haven't been able to put together four good rounds here, but we're looking to change that this week. You have got to keep the ball in front of, you got to hit the fairway, you're going to get some crazy lies out of the rough, so keeping the ball in the fairways at a premium and it's something that I've done a great job of over the last couple events and if I continue that, then I'll play well this week.”
Young is in the midst of what could easily be an Arnold Palmer Award-winning season as Rookie of the Year. He enters the Playoffs seeded ninth despite missing out narrowly on many victories. Instead, he’s settled for five second-place finishes and two thirds. There is no history for Young at TPC Southwind so leaning on him is a risk – but The Open runner-up has shown the big stage doesn’t worry him.
Key Stat Ranks (PGA Tour)
Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green: Finau 5th, Young 17th
Strokes Gained: Approach: Finau 9th, Young 100th
Bogey Avoidance: Finau 3rd, Young 87th
Par 4 Scoring: Finau 3rd, Young 3rd
Par 4 450-500 yards: Finau 1st, Young 15th
The numbers and form lean to Finau but with his Bermuda woes front of mind you can certainly be forgiven for taking a punt on Young.
It doesn’t feel that long ago that we were lauding the young superstar out of South Korea named Sungjae Im and now his countryman Joohyung “Tom” Kim has made a name for himself as the next wave.
This is an incredible matchup between two likely teammates in the upcoming Presidents Cup. Im has finished second in his last two starts while one of those men to beat him was none other than Kim in last week’s Wyndham Championship.
Kim is riding a wave of momentum after the win that he fashioned despite starting with a quadruple bogey – and blowing out into significant triple figures in the process – but can he keep it going on another new track?
“It's a good track. You need to hit good golf shots to get some birdies so I'm definitely looking forward to my first-ever Playoffs event,” Kim said.
“I still can't really wrap my head around of just what happened. It's been a crazy month. Start of July I was planning on trying to get my card through Korn Ferry Finals and now one month later I'm a PGA Tour winner, so it's pretty crazy. I thought I was going to get an off week this week, but I'm pumped to be here and it's absolutely incredible.”
Key Stat Ranks (PGA Tour)
Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green: Im 10th, Kim 32nd*
Strokes Gained: Approach: Im 52nd, Kim 21st*
Bogey Avoidance: Im 1st, Kim 15th*
Par 4 Scoring: Im 3rd, Kim 2nd*
Par 4 450-500 yards: Im 19th, Kim 96th*
As good as the Kim victory last week was the word is Im is motivated to rebound from his two near misses and remind South Korea – and all Tour fans – that he remains the country’s top player.
*Kim has not met the minimum number of rounds requirement to be officially ranked. The rank indicated is the position he would be ranked if the minimum had been met.
The Open champion returns to competition for the first time since his St. Andrews triumph, the third victory the Australian produced this season to move into the second seed spot for the Playoffs.
Smith has form at TPC Southwind with a T5 last year that could have easily been victory if not for a risky attempted recovery shot from the trees on the 72nd hole that ricocheted out of bounds. Now he intends to atone.
“Looking back at it, I may have played the last hole a little bit differently, but I think it's made me grow as a golfer and I've gone on to do some pretty good things since then, so I think it's in a way almost benefited me,” Smith said of the moment.
“I had a couple of good rest weeks back home in Jacksonville, a few-nights celebration and we had a really fun time. (But) the last week and a half has all been about prep. My trainer came in from Australia, he tried to get me back into shape before this big three weeks.
“This is as comfortable as I've felt with the driver and this has always been a course where I feel as though I've driven the ball pretty good, so I'm looking forward to seeing how that goes. Also, the putting surfaces, they're so true here… and into the greens the targets look so small and I love how precise you have to be. This golf course is a course that I love. I've got a pretty decent record around here, really suits my eye. I love the grasses and I can't wait to get the week started.”
Cantlay is the defending FedExCup champion who has finishes of T3-T14-T13-T4-T8-T2 since The Memorial Tournament and while his only win this season is a team effort at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, he appears primed for another Playoff push. The American has two top 25s from his three starts at TPC Southwind.
Key Stat Ranks (PGA Tour)
Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green: Smith 24th, Cantlay 19th
Strokes Gained: Approach: Smith 3rd, Cantlay 50th
Bogey Avoidance: Smith 29th, Cantlay 23rd
Par 4 Scoring: Smith 3rd, Cantlay 3rd
Par 4 450-500 yards: Smith 97th, Cantlay 69th
While Cantlay is ahead in three of the five stats his advantage is minimal in those. Smith’s approach play – and his dynamite putting – give him an edge if he can juggle other outside noise going on.
The U.S. Open champion Fitzpatrick ranks first in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and has a T4 (2019) and T6 (2020) prior at TPC Southwind.
But don’t count Lowry out too fast. The Irishman has top 30s (one top 10) in his three previous trips to Memphis and could also be a Playoffs wildcard.
Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green: Fitzpatrick 1st, Lowry 21st
Strokes Gained: Approach: Fitzpatrick 19th, Lowry 10th
Bogey Avoidance: Fitzpatrick 12th, Lowry 5th
Par 4 Scoring: Fitzpatrick 24th, Lowry 24th
Par 4 450-500 yards: Fitzpatrick 115th, Lowry 2nd
The stats give Lowry an edge here despite Fitzpatrick’s strong history in Memphis. But if Lowry is to pull off a juicy upset, he will need to make his move on the longer par-4s where he’s shown tremendous aptitude all season long.
Collin Morikawa 5/6 vs. Viktor Hovland 5/6
Aaron Wise 10/11 vs. Russell Henley 4/5
Will Zalatoris 8/11 vs. Jordan Spieth 1/1
Xander Schauffele 5/6 vs. Jon Rahm 5/6
Tyrrell Hatton 4/5 vs. Corey Conners 10/11
Max Homa 10/11 vs. Joaquin Niemann 4/5