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Scott Shapiro's WGC-St. Jude preview

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July 28th, 2020

Most of the world’s top-ranked golfers took last week off after the Memorial, but 45 of the top 50 players in the world rankings are set to tee it off Thursday at the WGC-St. Jude Invitational. The event is at TPC Southwind, which for 30 years played host to the St. Jude Classic but last year was elevated to a World Golf Classic event to replace the WGC-Bridgestone.

The Memphis-area course is a par 70, has Bermuda greens, and challenges players with a slew of water hazards along the way. Distance off the tee has not been a key statistic at most events since the PGA returned to play. But this week, going long will be advantageous, and driving accuracy and putting will be key. I will lean on golfers that rank well in both driving distance and driving accuracy, have strong approach games, and can score on long par 4s (400-500 yards) and par 5s.

Brooks Koepka won the St. Jude in its first year as a WGC event, and his buddy Dustin Johnson ran away with it in its final year as the St. Jude Classic in 2018. Hot swinging Daniel Berger won it in 2016 and 2017. All three are among the 78-golfer field this week.

Koepka struck the ball well last week in Minnesota, but could not make a putt. Johnson had his third poor round in a row and withdrew after Thursday. Berger had the week off. All three are listed at between +2500 and +2800 in BetAmerica’s outright market and are not without a chance, but I prefer others.

WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational 2020 - Winner

Thu, July 30 2020, 12:00 PM

Jon Rahm

+1000

Rory McIlroy

+1100

Justin Thomas

+1200

Bryson DeChambeau

+1200

Patrick Cantlay

+1800

Xander Schauffele

+1800

Webb Simpson

+2000

Tyrrell Hatton

+2500

Collin Morikawa

+2500

Viktor Hovland

+2500

With a compact field and the likelihood that a top-tier golfer hoists the trophy I will keep my betting card to just two this week in Memphis.

Bryson Dechambeau (+1200)

DeChambeau missed the cut at Muirfield, with a quintuple-bogey on the par 5 15th hole in the second round, but that does not take away from his strong play since the PGA returned to action in June. Before the Memorial, the 26-year-old finished in the Top 10 in five consecutive tournaments, including a win at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in the first week of July. He has been the best player on tour over the last seven weeks.

The California native ranks first in the field in driving distance over the last 24 rounds, first in birdies or better gained, first in scoring on par 4s of 400-500 yards, and putts better than field average on Bermuda greens. As long as he avoids a massive number, like he did two weeks ago, he will be tough to beat.

Paul Casey (+9000)

A quick look at Casey's recent efforts would suggest he is out of form, but that is not the case, despite back-to-back missed cuts at Memorial and the 3M Open.

In Ohio, Casey played well, but an unfortunate 8 on the par 3 12th hole led to his demise. At TPC Twin Cities, the elite ball striker gained more than three strokes from tee-to-green through 36 holes, but lost a near impossible six strokes putting in just two rounds. He is far from great on the greens, but no one is that bad.

Casey will have to make more putts, but he is set up to have success in Memphis, given his ability to gain strokes off the tee. He is the only player in the field to rank in the top 10 in both driving distance and driving accuracy over the last 24 rounds.

I am not sure if he is playing well enough to beat this loaded group at TPC Southwind, but his price is too large to not make at least a small wager in the outright market. My biggest plays on him, though, will be in the top 10 and top 20 markets, where he offers solid value.

Good luck in Tennessee! See you next week for the PGA Championship!

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