Like a high-profile horse race, with the field jockeying for position coming down the stretch, this week’s WGC-FedEx St. Jude Classic should have all the fittings of a photo finish.
At stake is a PGA Tour title, 500 FedEx Cup points, a two-year exemption, a hefty paycheck of around $1.8 million and, most important, momentum heading into the FedEx Cup playoffs in just two weeks.
No pressure, right?
This is a limited field by invitation only. If you’re in the top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings, come on down…you’re in. And this year’s event has drawn 48 of the top 50. The rest of the field, which will be right around 75 players, consists of those just outside the top 50 or winners of events this year who are still not ranked in the top 50.
Elite field? You bet. Impressive players? Absolutely. A lot on the line? Most definitely.
|BetMGM||Odds To Win|
Picking A Favorite No Easy Task
Bettors can go down 40 or 50 spots in the odds chart on the BetMGM site this week and make a great case why any one of those golfers has a chance to win. It’s an impressive list of players and everyone’s got their eyes on finishing the 2020-2021 wraparound season strong.
A win does just that.
With all of that in mind, who needs or wants this victory the most? Who will benefit the most from a victory from a career standpoint? And, most importantly, who just flat-out needs a victory at this point and time of his career?
A Challenge To Pinpoint A Favorite In Elite Field
While Brooks Koepka at +1000 is the favorite this week, the history of this tournament will have a lot to say about who hoists the trophy and that oversize check.
All of the talk will be centered around the big boys with the names of Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Collin Morikawa, etc., in the headlines.
That’s all well and good because they have earned a spot in the tournament with their play. As has everyone else in the field. But let’s not go handing out the trophy to one of the favorites just yet.
And remember, if players teed it up in the Olympics it’s going to be tough to come into this event fresh and ready to go.
We’ve got a longshot who just might spoil the celebration those top-10 or so players might be planning.
One Foreign Golfer Really Stands Out
He’s not on everyone’s list of favorites at all. In fact, give bettors 10 or so choices and very few would pick him.
We’re going to.
Matthew Fitzpatrick, at +3300, has been lurking all year. In fact, he’s got six top-20 finishes in the 2021 calendar year. He’s ranked No. 21 in the world and is currently 57th in the FedEx Cup race. A win here, which would be his first on the PGA Tour, would vault him into the all-important top-30 category in the FedEx race and all but ensure he is around for all three of the playoff tournaments.
And he’s got good vibes when it comes to this event. He’s played in it the past two years with a T-4 in 2019 and a T-6 in 2020.
Don’t be fooled by the odds. He’s likely to be a factor before it’s all said and done.
But At Least One Favorite Deserves A Look
Overlooking the defending champ, Justin Thomas at +1800, is not a good idea.
Thomas won last year’s event by three strokes. In the group right behind was a weird foursome: Koepka, Xander Schauffele, Daniel Berger, and Phil Mickelson.
That’s quite the eclectic group to try and figure out. If it wasn’t for Thomas, it would have been an outstanding final round.
But Thomas put up a final round 65 (six birdies and a lone bogey) so he didn’t waver in the least. And he usually doesn’t.
Look for that same type of effort in 2021…except, we do have a little dilemma to think about.
In the 2020-2021 wraparound season, no defending champion from the previous year has repeated.
That’s the bad news. The good news is Thomas is definitely one of those who has defended a title in the past as he won the 2016 and 2017 CIMB Classic.
He has two WGC crowns in his 14 PGA Tour titles so he’s comfortable going up against the best of the best.
Like we said, count him out at your own risk.
It’s Time For This Guy To Step Up
While it’s tough to call anyone in this elite field a longshot, Paul Casey at +3500 kind of fits in that mold.
After all, he hasn’t won in more than two years (he won back-to-back Valspar titles in 2018 and 2019) but he’s still ranked 22nd in the world. That makes him not only dangerous but also possessing a never-say-die mentality. He always seems to be in the picture come Sunday. He’s just having trouble sealing the deal.
He had an impressive showing in the Olympics going into the seven-man playoff for the bronze medal and if he can overcome the jetlag, watch out.