What a week we had at Royal Portrush!
It was a fantastic tournament on a fabulous golf course and after the disappointment for the locals of Rory’s missed cut early in the week, everything came good for the home crowd over the weekend as Paddy Power’s very own ambassador Shane Lowry took home the Claret Jug.
It was a magnificent performance from Shane, and one all of us watching will remember for a very long time.
So, with this year’s majors in the rear-view mirror we move on to another great event, The WGC-Fedex St Jude, which replaces the WGC Bridgestone Invitational on the calendar.
The host venue, TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee, which used to host the Fedex St Jude regular tour stop, is a par 70 measuring 7244 yards.
Recognised historically as one of the toughest par 70 layouts the players compete on all year, accurate iron play and scrambling around the greens is the key to success.
As the event is a WGC, with all players playing all four rounds, we have a stellar line-up on display of 64 players, with only four of the world’s top 50, Woods, Molinari, Fowler and Wiesberger choosing not to make the trip.
While many of the big names in attendance have not been regular visitors to TPC Southwind over the years, market leader Dustin Johnson is a two-time champion of the old PGA Tour stop here, most recently last year, and from that point of view it is understandable that he sits sit marginally at the top of the market.
The case is strengthened further in theory for DJ by the fact that he collects WGC’s for fun and also won the week after the Open in Canada last year. The bottom line though is that DJ’s form has been very ordinary of late, with no finish better than 20th in his last four starts, and that is enough to put me off.
Brooks Koepka, who sits just behind DJ in the market, is another who has been here many times over recent years. But, while he must surely start to pick up other events outside of majors more regularly at some point, so much of his focus goes into peaking for the biggest four events that I am reluctant to chance him this week.
With so much uncertainty as to how Rory will react to last weeks missed cut, I shall start this week’s team with a player who sits a few ticks behind the big three at the top of the market, Justin Thomas (14/1).
JT it must be said has never played TPC Southwind on the PGA Tour before and while this perhaps could be of slight concern, I am more struck by how well he has hit the ball tee to green of late. Now that he returns to the same type of Bermuda greens that he won The PGA Championship on, I am confident that the missing ingredient, his putter, will cooperate on a course which looks perfect for his long game.
Prior to missing the cut in the Open, Scott had posted three top-ten finishes on the bounce and he is another who’s long game should be perfect for this venue – something which is backed up by his 10th place finish here a couple of years ago.
Reed, meanwhile, has also played some great stuff of late, including finishing 10th at Portrush and he comes to life on Bermuda greens with four PGA Tour wins on this surface.
Going further down the list and another who appeals is Brandt Snedeker at 70/1.
While some may feel slightly jaded this week after a long week in Portrush, Sneds who hails from Tennessee, should lack no motivation to produce a big week in front of his home fans and with two top tens here over the years, and some very strong play over recent weeks, he looks primed to go well.
Finally, I shall finish my team with Billy Horschel (55/1). Billy is another who has produced strong results through the summer, loves the Bermuda and with four top tens at TPC Southwind in his last five visits he is sure to be relishing a return trip.
To win: Justin Thomas 14/1
Each-way chances: Adam Scott 28/1, Patrick Reed 35/1, Billy Horschel 55/1, Brandt Snedeker 70/1.
* All odds correct at time of posting.